IES Research Projects

Co-ordination and accountability in function of European policy-making: A case study of the EU energy policy

As a part of the GOA project “Politics beyond the state. Representation, coordination and accountability in multi-layered settings”, the current PhD project is an empirical exploration and at the same time theoretically inspired assessment of co-ordination practices and accountability mechanisms in the member states in function of multi-level policy-making. The transfer of power to the supranational system of EU has posed numerous challenges to national administrations. As a reaction to these changes, national authorities have developed horizontal and vertical co-ordination mechanisms to cope with the increasing interdependence of policy problems requiring coherent approaches and complex solutions (Kassim 2001; Sepos 2005; Dimitrova/Toshkov 2007).

The question whether and in what way the executive and the parliamentary branch have adapted to the multi-level character of governance is still not fully investigated. Moreover, less information is available about the role of non-elected officials in the system of committees that acts as the main vehicle of coordination at the different policy levels. The transfer of competencies to the executive branch has also raised questions about how the exercise of power by unelected officials is being controlled. The lack of appropriate control mechanisms at national and European level has provoked concerns about accountability deficits of European decision-making (Bovens 2007). At the same time, traditional accountability concepts and mechanisms, which are applicable in a national context, do not match the evolving multi-level character of EU politics. The empirical investigation of the PhD project will first establish where and how coordination takes place. The examination of coordination practices in three selected member states (Germany, UK and Italy) in function of European policy-making will be followed by a systematic inquiry into the extent of parliamentary and civil society involvement in the different coordination systems. In order to provide a contextualized analysis and explore the dynamics of co-ordination and accountability, the empirical research will concentrate on one policy area – the internal dimension of the EU energy policy.

The study will examine one of the major pieces of legislation in the field of energy policy – the third internal energy market package (2009), which is seen as a milestone on the way to a competitive internal energy market. The package has been a subject of long and contentious negotiations between the Commission, the Parliament and the different Member Sates. In order to grasp the coordination dynamic from a multi-level governance perspective, the selected legislation will be analysed throughout the different stages of policy-making in the three member states.