Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

New answers to an old question: the EU’s influence in member states

This blog’s most popular post ever remains one from June 2009 on the percentage of laws that come from the EU. It’s won me an award and been quoted in numerous follow-up studies, including one by the House of Commons Library, which was nice.

Now a new German study has revisited this topic, focusing on Germany, the UK, Denmark, France, Austria and Finland. Its onclusions can be found in more detail here. Short version:

The UK – 15.5% (in line with my 10-20% estimate)
Denmark – 14%
Austria – 10.6%
France – between 3% and 26%
Finland – between 1% and 24%
Germany – 39.1%

But note the qualifiers – all of which are points I’ve made in the past (both in the post linked above and nmerous follow-ups), but which are very neatly summarized here (emphasis mine):

“Do these numbers tell us that the impact of European policy making is by and large minimal, while at the same time there are some interesting variations between member states? No – in fact, these figures can tell us very little about the impact of EU-policy-making.

“First, looking at overall numbers on all policy fields make little sense…

“Second, one has to be aware that all such studies in this area are based on two assumptions: first that a policy is shaped to a relevant degree by legislation (this is the case in most policy fields except for external relations and defense); second that a European impact can be identified in this legislation…

“Third, the low values that most studies show about do not indicate a low level of European level influence but are the result of a rather parsimonious measurement of Europeanization. For these studies a Europeanized piece of national legislation is a law that serves to implement a European directive. Apart for the many problems involved in identifying such legal acts this is a much too narrow a way…

“Fourth, the identification of a European impact is based on a purely formal argument (if a national legal act serves to implement a directive, it will most probably be influenced by it) while the causal impact as such is not certain. What is more, we can say nothing on the intensity of this impact. We cannot tell if a notational law is influenced by a directive only at the surface, or if it introduces a completely new policy due to the directive.

“Finally, the focus of the research tends to reduce the complexity of multi-level politics and to bias the results. The question of Europeanization research is on the domestic impact in Europe, and the focus is on the Member States and how they are influenced, which tends to make us see Member States as victims of EU-policy-making while widely neglecting that without the activity of the same Member States on the European level there would be no European policy at all.”

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