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The Politics of Europeanization$

Kevin Featherstone and Claudio M. Radaelli

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780199252091

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199252092.001.0001

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The Impact of the European Union on Environmental Policies

The Impact of the European Union on Environmental Policies

(p.203) 9 The Impact of the European Union on Environmental Policies
The Politics of Europeanization

Markus Haverland

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Focusing on environmental policies, this chapter aims to contribute to the debate on the politics of Europeanization by presenting the conceptual and theoretical state of the art of research into this specific sector of potential European Union (EU) impact on domestic political systems. The chapter first provides some background information on the essential properties of environmental policy and on the development of EU environmental policy; this is done to explicate the defining characteristics of this sector vis-é-vis other sectors. Next, three recent comparative case studies on the determinants of national adaptation to EU environmental policy requirements are reviewed; these are theoretically informed by either sociological institutionalism or rational choice institutionalism, and arrive at different and partially competing explanations for the variation in national adaptation to European environmental policies. Despite disagreement about the relative importance of the factors and mechanisms of Europeanization, the results of the comparative case studies offer elements for a theory about the conditions of policy adaptation and, by implication, about convergence. Building upon these findings, elements are suggested for a future research agenda based on theoretically informed comparative case studies that gradually include new policy sectors and countries; in addition, the use of counterfactual arguments is proposed to isolate the causal impact of the European Union.

Keywords:   case studies, convergence, environmental policies, European Union, Europeanization, national adaptation, policy adaptation, rational choice institutionalism, research, sociological institutionalism


Focusing on environmental policies, this chapter aims to contribute to the debate on the politics of Europeanization by presenting the conceptual and theoretical state of the art of research into this specific sector of potential EU impact on domestic political systems. As environmental policy can be regarded as one of the best‐researched fields of the domestic impact of the European Union, this focus on environmental policy will yield some more general lessons for the theory and analysis of Europeanization. This chapter employs a minimalist notion of Europeanization: Europeanization is defined as national responses to European integration, or, more precisely, as national adaptation to European Union policies (see Featherstone, this volume). As this chapter is sector‐oriented, national adaptation is confined to sector‐specific policies rather than domestic political structures and structures of representation and cleavages more generally (see Börzel and Risse, this volume; Radaelli, Figure 2.1, this volume).

The chapter first provides some background information on the essential properties of environmental policy and on the development of EU environmental policy. This is done to explicate the defining characteristics of this sector vis‐à‐vis other sectors.

The chapter then reviews three recent theoretically informed comparative case studies on the determinants of national adaptation to EU environmental policy requirements (Knill 1998; Börzel 2000; Haverland 2000). These studies (p.204) are informed by either sociological institutionalism or rational choice institutionalism (see Börzel and Risse, this volume; Hall and Taylor 1996). They arrive at different and partially competing explanations for the variation in national adaptation to European environmental policies. Despite disagreement about the relative importance of the factors and mechanisms of Europeanization, the results of the comparative case studies offer elements for a theory about the conditions of policy adaptation and, by implication, about convergence. Building upon these findings the chapter suggests elements for a future research agenda. I advocate a research strategy that is based on theoretically informed comparative case studies that gradually include new policy sectors and countries. In addition, I propose to use counterfactual arguments to isolate the causal impact of the European Union. Such a strategy has the potential to ultimately address not only sector‐specific policy change, but also broader issues such as domestic institutional change and the changing structures of representation and cleavages.

European Environmental Policy

What are the defining properties of environmental policy in comparison to other policy sectors? Environmental policies typically aim at regulating the use of energy and natural resources, or the environmentally harmful emissions from consumptive and productive behaviour or both. Environmental policy is regulatory rather than redistributive; it usually employs either substantive or procedural standards for potentially harmful activities and products; and it focuses either on specific environmental media such as water, air, or soil, or it assumes a more integrated form, across media (Turner et al. 1994).

Radaelli (this volume) has advanced three generic policy characteristics that affect the likelihood of Europeanization. Depending on the characteristics in question, environmental policy is a moderately likely case, a most likely case, or a least likely case. Radaelli argues, for instance, that Europeanization is more likely in policy areas where pro‐European technocrats can be isolated from pressure groups and public opinion. In this respect environmental policy is a moderately likely case. To some extent, setting environmental standards is a technocratic process, typically involving experts such as scientists, civil engineers, and economists. Yet a large number of actors from different branches and levels of government are typically affected and involved, as are environmental NGOs and a multitude of business interests. The latter include, for instance, polluter interests versus environmental technology interests (Haverland 1999). With regard to the second characteristic advanced by Radaelli, the relative importance of policy formulation versus implementation for success of the policy, environmental policy is clearly a policy sector for which implementation is very important. Policy effectiveness depends largely (p.205) on the cooperation between the implementation agencies and the target groups (Jordan 1999; Knill and Lenschow 1999). This dependence may make Europeanization comparatively unlikely. In terms of Radaelli's third characteristic, policy discourse, however, Europeanization is quite likely. Economists and other experts have argued convincingly in favour of the centralization of policy making. As environmental policy is aimed at correcting market failure and providing common goods, centralization of decision making at the EU level will help to mitigate external effects and free riding behaviour (see Turner et al. 1994). Moreover, it is widely believed that most environmental problems extend across national frontiers and therefore transcend the problem‐solving capacity of individual nation states. Accordingly, Eurobarometer surveys consistently document that most citizens in most EU countries believe that environmental issues should be decided at EU level rather than at national level (see, for instance, European Commission 2001).

How has environmental policy evolved? Until three decades ago, environmental policy was primarily adopted at local level and focused on safeguarding public health and personal well‐being. National environmental protection policies grew in importance from the late 1960s on, gradually broadening the scope of protection to the environment in a more comprehensive ecological sense. It was not until the Single European Act (1986) that environmental protection was formally recognized as a competence of the then European Community. However, the treaty provisions concerning environmental protection merely formalized legislative activities that had been well under way for some time already. The legislation had been based upon a creative reading of either of both Article 100 and 235 of the Treaty of Rome (McCormick 1999a: 195). The Treaties of Maastricht (1992) and Amsterdam (1997) refined the primary legal base for environmental policy. The overall goal was defined as sustainable growth (Maastricht) and, later, as sustainable development (Amsterdam). The principles of precaution and subsidiarity have been increasingly emphasized, and most measures are now subject to the codecision procedure, which provides the European Parliament with a veto in policy making (for overviews on EU environmental policy, see McCormick 1999b; Weale et al. 2000).

The first European environmental protection policy was adopted as far back as 1967. And from the mid‐1970s to the mid‐1990s, a continuous stream of legislation was produced at the rate of about eight major legislative items per year on average. Thereafter, legislative activity was mainly concerned with amending existing legislation rather than creating new laws (Jordan et al. 1999).1 (p.206) Environmental policy belongs to the group of sectors in which formal competencies are now roughly equally distributed between the European Union and its member states. Other examples of this category of policy sectors include ‘competition’ and ‘health and safety’ at work (Schmitter 1996; see Schmidt 1999).2

EU regulations and directives stipulate requirements that the member states must implement. EU environmental policies are examples of positive integration rather than negative integration, because the EU describes a model instead of dismantling national barriers to trade or obstacles to competition (see Scharpf 1999: 45).

In the case of positive integration, the degree of adaptation depends on the extent to which European requirements are implemented and enforced; in the case of negative integration the degree of Europeanization depends on the dynamics of regulatory competition. Moreover, Europeanization of national domestic environmental policy, if it happens, follows the vertical mechanism of coercion rather than the horizontal mechanisms of mimetism, framing, or normative pressure (Radaelli 1997; Knill and Lehmkuhl 1999; Radaelli, this volume).

Now that it has become widely accepted that European law is superior to national law, the legitimacy of coercion has increased. The pressure to implement and enforce European legislation has further been strengthened over the years by European Court of Justice case law. For instance, the European Court of Justice has ruled that European directives must come into full effect and that member states are held liable if the desired results are not achieved. Moreover, much EU legislation confers rights on individuals, who can rely on these rights in national courts, the so‐called Direct Effect. The European Court of Justice has ruled that in such cases member states could be held liable if individuals suffer damage because of inaccurate implementation (see Prechal 1995).

Although the mechanism of coercion is dominant, ‘horizontal’ Europeanization via policy learning, or, in the words of Radaelli, the diffusion of ideas and discourses about the notion of ‘good policy’, is also present (Radaelli, this volume). Both the properties of the ‘environmental protection’ sector and also the characteristics of the European decision‐making process are conducive to learning about policies. Environmental policy is still a relatively new policy field with plenty of scope for innovation and experimentation in regard to standards, policy instruments, and regulatory structures. Moreover, as it regulates the allocation of goods and activities rather than their distribution, (p.207) public and private actors have an incentive to search for alternatives and modifications that increase the efficiency of allocation, in other words to create win–win situations.

The EU decision‐making structure and procedures are also conducive to policy learning. The development of regulation typically takes place in issue‐specific subsystems. Expertise plays an important role in these subsystems and issues are frequently depoliticized. Depoliticization and the emphasis on expertise may facilitate the diffusion of ideas and lessons learned from experience elsewhere. Certain features of the EU decision‐making procedures facilitate policy learning further. To give just two examples: first, under the conditions of majority voting, member states try to build either passing or blocking coalitions. They generally do so after all kinds of options suggested by member states or the Commission have been exhaustively explored, and careful studies of existing national programmes. Second, member states have to notify any draft law that might actually or potentially restrict intra‐EU free trade in goods. There is an EU committee that discusses in depth these hundreds of notifications of national laws, decrees, etc. and comes up with comments or detailed opinions, or both. ‘Nowhere in the world is there such an intense, routine‐based process of understanding one another's regulations. Learning is likely to be considerable here’ (Pelkmans 1997: 4).

The Determinants of National Adaptation to European Environmental Policy: A Review of Recent Studies

If European regulations and directives deviate from national environmental policies these national environmental policies must be adapted. Since the mid‐1980s, studies on the implementation of European policies have gradually increased in number and in theoretical and methodological sophistication. Whereas most of the early work comprised descriptive single case studies, some recent examples are theoretically more advanced and are based on cross‐national or cross‐issue comparisons or actually combine both perspectives.3 As reviewing such studies offers the prospects of accumulating knowledge and developing theories, I propose to compare three recent studies (Knill 1998; Börzel 2000; Haverland 2000).4

The studies under review follow an intensive research design, focusing on a few countries and one or a few directives. Together they cover six environmental directives and one Council regulation: in chronological order of (p.208) adoption these are the Drinking Water Directive (80/788/EEC), the Directive on Air Pollution of Industrial Plants (84/366/EEC), the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (85/337/EEC), the Large Combustion Plant (LCP) Directive (88/609 EEC), the Access to Information (AI) Directive (90/313/EEC), the Environmental Management and Audit System (EMAS) Regulation (Regulation EEC, No. 1836/93), and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC).

Although relatively small in number, these policies are sufficiently diverse to represent an appropriate sample of EU environmental policy over the last three decades. The Drinking Water Directive, the LCP Directive, and the Industrial Plant Directive stipulate substantive standards for specific environmental media, whereas the AI Directive, the EIA Directive, and the EMAS Regulation provide procedural standards and follow an integrative, across media, approach. The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive entails both procedural and substantive standards. In addition, it is also an example of product regulation.

The countries under investigation include the environmental front runners the Netherlands and Germany, the somewhat more reluctant United Kingdom and France, and the alleged environmental laggard Spain (see Andersen and Liefferink 1997; Börzel 2000).5 As will be elaborated below, these countries also vary significantly in their policies and regulatory styles, hence for any European policy adopted they display, to a varying degree, pressure to adapt.

The comparative case studies reviewed emphasize different determinants for the adaptation of national policy to European integration. At the same time, each study presents solid empirical evidence for its theoretical claim. This puzzle is attributable to the studies' focus on somewhat dissimilar cases. Having demonstrated their explanatory strength for particular cases, the determinant can serve as building blocks for a general theory on national policy adaptation to the European Union. Future research is needed to show the relative importance of the determinants identified in these studies and the interaction between them (see final section).

The Impact of National Administrations

The first systematic comparative case studies concentrated on national public administrations, the main agents involved in the implementation of European policies. These studies depart implicitly or explicitly from an institutional perspective developed by the sociological branch of neoinstitutionalism. This approach assumes that actor behaviour is guided by standard operating procedures, based upon the logic of appropriateness, rather than that such behaviour is guided strategically—that is, based upon the logic of consequentialism (p.209) (March and Olsen 1984; Hall and Taylor 1996; see Börzel and Risse, this volume). Accordingly, the aforementioned authors emphasize the stickiness of national administrative structures and practices in situations of environmental change. The general idea is that implementation and national adaptation are made more difficult, if not impossible, if European policies and their administrative implications differ significantly from national arrangements and standard operating procedures.

Knill (1998) (see Knill and Lenschow 1998) presents a particular systematic, theoretically informed, and empirically rich study in this respect. Essential to his argument is the concept of pressure to adapt, which is defined as the degree of institutional incompatibility between national structures and practices and EU requirements (see Börzel and Risse, this volume; Radaelli, this volume). Institutional compatibility is inferred from the nature of the EU policy requirements, the degree of embeddedness of those features in national administrative styles and structures, and the national capacity to change these administrative features; in other words, the ‘embeddedness of embeddedness’ (Knill 1998: 24). To give an example: the EIA Directive requires a regulatory style that is based on procedural interventions and great flexibility. This requirement does not fit in the German regulatory style, which is characterized by substantive intervention and legalism. This misfit constitutes the first dimension of incompatibility. Next, the legalistic regulatory style is difficult to change because it is strongly embedded in the German tradition of Rechtsstaat that is based on a superior role of the state vis‐à‐vis society, as well as the binding of the administration to law. The latter limits how much flexibility and discretion implementation that agencies enjoy. This is the second dimension of institutional incompatibility.

In addition, the third dimension of incompatibility is that adaptation is hampered by the low institutional capacity for administrative change. German federalism generates a multitude of institutional veto points, and the likelihood of adaptation is further reduced by legalistic procedures in combination with administrative fragmentation and differentiation.

Knill argues that in cases of high adaptation pressure, implementation of European requirements is likely to be ineffective, since European policies require the core structures and practices of national institutions to change fundamentally. In cases of no or low adaptation pressure, effective implementation is achieved because European requirements are compatible with existing national arrangements. The explanation becomes more complex for cases where EU legislation demands changes within the core of national tradition but does not challenge this core as such. In these instances of moderate pressure, the degree of adaptation is shaped by the preferences and resources of domestic coalitions, mediated by institutional structures such as veto points (Knill 1998: 25).

(p.210) Knill applies the argument to the implementation of the Drinking Water Directive, the AI directive, the EIA directive, and the EMAS regulation in three countries (Germany, France, and United Kingdom). In order to identify the degree of adaptation pressure, he assesses the administrative implications of the directives in terms of the regulatory style (type of intervention and character of interest intermediation) and regulatory structure and confronts them with the prevalent features in the respective member states. The empirical findings are consistent with the theoretical argument.

Germany, for instance, implemented the EMAS Regulation appropriately because it caused only moderate adaptation pressure and was supported by environmental and industrial organizations. The EIA Directive and the AI Directive were implemented ineffectively, however, because there was much pressure to adapt. In these cases the problem was not only the misfit of European requirements with national administrative traditions; in addition, a ‘thick institutional core’ aggravated the adaptation problem, that is, these national administrative traditions were ideologically rooted in paradigms denoting, among others things, the very concept of the state and were also tightly linked to other sectoral and general institutions.

The explanatory framework also serves well for the British case. The EMAS Regulation generated only low adaptation pressure as its self‐regulatory, procedural, and flexible approach fitted the British regulatory style very well. The implementation record for the EIA has been less successful, due to moderate adaptation pressure and a lack of domestic support. The Drinking Water Directive and the AI Directive have been successfully implemented, though they initially generated adaptation pressure. Public sector reforms at the core of public administration that were not wholly related to the European Union, however, reduced adaptation pressure and strengthened domestic actors that supported the directive, such as consumer and environmental groups. These reforms included the privatization of the water industry and administrative changes aiming at increasing public accountability. It was for these reasons that the two directives could be successfully implemented. The occurrence of domestic administrative reforms points to the low degree of embeddedness of British administrative arrangements and the great capacity for institutional change that is the result of the high degree of political centralization in the United Kingdom.

Reluctant Governments Pulled by Domestic Mobilization

The research discussed above concentrated in particular on the impact of national administrations and their traditions on the implementation of European directives. In addition it started out with a neoinstitutionalist theoretical framework. Following the methodological concept of decreasing abstraction, it confined the analysis to institutional factors as long as these (p.211) factors were capable of explaining the observed patterns (see Lindenberg 1991; Mayntz and Scharpf 1995; Knill 1998: 25). Only in cases where institutional factors did not match the empirical observation was the analysis supplemented by actor‐oriented factors such as domestic support.

The paper by Börzel (2000) presents a study that departs from the explicit focus on national administration and the institutional perspective by taking society into account and by employing a more actor‐oriented approach, hence concentrating on domestic mobilization (pull) and supranational actors (push). Like Knill, Börzel too focuses on the Drinking Water Directive, the EIA Directive, and the AI Directive. But, unlike Knill, she includes the Industrial Plant Directive and the LCP Directive rather than the EMAS regulation. Moreover, she compares Germany with Spain, rather than with France and the United Kingdom.6

As in Knill's study, adaptation pressure—the misfit between EU policies and national administrative structures and traditions—is an important obstacle to national adaptation. Börzel translates this institutional feature into her actor‐oriented approach by stating that ‘legal and administrative changes involve high costs, both material and political, which public authorities are little inclined to bear’ (2000: 148). In other words, she assumes rather straightforwardly that the government's willingness to implement European directives depends on the degree of adaptation pressure.

In her framework, however, adaptation pressure is a necessary but never a sufficient condition for non‐compliance.7 Non‐compliance and implementation failure will only occur when there is no domestic mobilization that directly or indirectly, the latter is via the Commission and the Court, succeeds in forcing public authorities to comply despite a policy misfit. Domestic pressure can emanate from political parties, environmental organizations—especially via mass media—and business and industry groups. The domestic ‘pull’ is especially effective when it is combined with a supranational ‘push’, that is the EU Commission starting infringement procedures. Börzel hypothesizes that ‘the higher the pressure for adaptation and the lower the level of domestic mobilization, the more likely is that non‐compliance will occur’ (2000: 148–9). As is the case with Knill's study Börzel's theoretical argument is capable of explaining the variations found. Spain's non‐compliance with the Drinking Water Directive and the Industrial Plant Directive is associated with policy misfit and lack of domestic mobilization. Policy misfit in combination with domestic mobilization, by environmental groups and in some cases also by local municipalities, political parties, and trade unions, led to Spain being more compliant, (p.212) with regard to the LCP Directive, the AI Directive, and the EIA Directive, and to Germany complying with the AI Directive and the EIA Directive. Due to low adaptation pressure, Germany had no problems in complying with the Industrial Plant and the LCP Directive.8

The Importance of Institutional Veto Points

For my own contribution to the debate on national adaptation to European integration, I studied the implementation of the Packaging Waste Directive in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom (Haverland 2000). My paper built upon the work of Knill. Like Börzel's study, however, my paper places less emphasis on adaptation pressure and public administrations and considers domestic mobilization more explicitly. In contrast to Börzel, however, I do not assume that central governments are unwilling to implement directives in the case of a policy misfit (adaptation pressure). Related to this, domestic mobilization can work in two ways: unwilling governments can be pushed to comply with European requirements; but governments willing to change their policies in order to comply with European directives can be blocked by domestic opposition that favours the status quo. This blockage is particularly effective in countries that provide institutional veto points, such as a second chamber of legislation, to domestic oppositions.

Briefly, like other studies, I analysed a case where a European directive caused member states to be exposed to adaptation pressure to a varying degree. The Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (Packaging Directive) challenged the core of the British waste policy and regulatory style. The government was forced to impose—from a national point of view—demanding packaging waste recycling and recovery standards. It was also forced to depart from its traditional regulatory style—broad objectives to be translated into individual obligations by bilateral government–company negotiations—by imposing a scheme on industry that was based on uniform and quantified targets. The Dutch government, however, was only exposed to moderate adaptation pressure. The Directive demanded modifications to the Dutch pragmatic covenant scheme, but did not fundamentally challenge it. Meanwhile, the German policy and regulatory style were faced with comparatively low adaptation pressure, so the ambitious domestic recycling objectives and the administrative arrangements to achieve them could remain intact. Yet, in contrast to Knill's study, I found that the differences in the degree of adaptation pressure cannot explain the pace and degree of adaptation to European requirements. Britain, the country with the biggest misfit between national practice and European requirements, implemented the Packaging Directive comparatively successfully, while Germany had huge problems in implementing even incremental changes.

(p.213) Moreover, unlike in the cases studied by Börzel, I found that the central governments were willing to implement the directive despite policy misfit. Germany had to adapt a provision concerning drink packaging, the so‐called refillable quota. There was considerable domestic mobilization by German retailers and parts of the beverage industry in favour of changing this provision and bringing it into line with the European directive. The German central government was in favour of doing so, especially as environmental issues had become less important in the public perception and new environmental research had questioned the environmental effectiveness of the existing provision. The Netherlands had to introduce legally binding individual obligations in addition to its packaging covenant scheme. Though this was at odds with the flexible target group approach of Dutch environmental policy, central government was actually in favour of doing so, as there was a real danger that the existing covenant would not achieve the targets set, particularly due to the problem of freeriding. A legalistic approach would have helped to tackle this problem more effectively. In both countries the preferences of governments had changed and the European directive provided central executives with the opportunity to put new preferenes into practice; circumventing domestic constraints by invoking the European Union as ‘vincolo esterno’ (Dyson and Featherstone 1996; see Grande 1996). The British willingness to adapt is more surprising. Preferences did not change and no domestic constraints had to be circumvented. What is more, the European directive challenged the core of British waste management policies. The British government accepted substantial changes in the form and substance of its national environmental policies, however, because it assigned overriding importance to the second element of the Packaging Directive: the free movement of goods. The British government had pushed for an EU directive to effectively tackle the trade distortions resulting from the existing German packaging regime. As has been documented elsewhere, in the decision‐making process at the European level, member states strive for unanimous solutions (see Hayes‐Renshow and Wallace 1995; Kerremans 1996). Since a bad solution was preferable to no solution, the United Kingdom had made concessions and had accepted higher standards and a formalization of its environmental policy.

Given the willingness of central governments to implement the Packaging Directive, the explanation of the variation in degree of adaptation must be sought in the domestic groups opposing the implementation of the European directive. In all the aforementioned three countries, there was such opposition. Given the divergent character of the adaptation required, the nature and goals of the opposition varied between the countries. The weakening of the German refillable quota was opposed by environmentalists and by producers of drinks in refillable bottles, who tried to protect their markets against producers who market their drinks in one‐way bottles. The legalistic turn of the Dutch packaging waste policy was initially criticized by almost the entire Dutch industry. (p.214) As the free‐riding problem became more pressing, however, opposition to the mandatory character of the new regulation concentrated on those companies and their associations who did not participate in the covenant scheme. The more ambitious and more legalistic approach needed in the United Kingdom to comply with the Packaging Directive was largely opposed by industry, especially by the more domestically oriented companies that did not suffer from the negative trade effects of the German packaging regulation.

Given that there was domestic opposition by interested groups in all three countries, the variation in implementation record cannot be attributed to opposition alone. This result highlights the importance of the domestic institutional opportunity structure. In Britain, the adaptation generated much political conflict. The important point was, however, that the domestic opposition had no effective veto point at which it could substantially delay the process or modify the outcome of the implementation of the Packaging Directive.9 The institutional structure of the United Kingdom effectively sheltered central government from societal demands. The British packaging regulation was adopted eight months after the official deadline for doing so, but this was nonetheless earlier than the Dutch or the German regulation was adopted. The same holds also for the Netherlands. As in the United Kingdom, the opposition did not control an institutional veto point. But, in contrast to the United Kingdom, the process of adaptation was less adversarial. The problem‐oriented and active approach of Dutch government and industry and the existence of sophisticated machinery of corporatist interest intermediation enabled the central government to reconcile European and domestic demands in a flexible manner and implement the policy properly and not long after the United Kingdom. Germany, however, facing a veto in the Bundesrat, implemented rather late and inappropriately.10 Any attempt of the German government to weaken the refillable quota met with strong resistance by the German Bundesrat. The opposition parties in the Federal parliament controlled the Bundesrat, representing the German states (Länder). These parties, the Social Democrats and the Greens, represented the interests of the groups opposing the adaptation.

Hence, the case study suggests that, institutional veto points tend to shape the timing and quality of implementation regardless of differential gaps in the (p.215) goodness of fit between European requirements and national traditions. In other words, institutional veto points matter not only in situations of moderate adaptation pressure but also in instances of low and high adaptation pressure. Granted, adaptation pressure is important because it can activate domestic opposition, but whether the opposition is successful or not depends on the availability of veto points. This finding corroborates the contention of Börzel and Risse that adaptation pressure is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for Europeanization (see Börzel and Risse, this volume).

Towards a New Research Agenda

The comparative case studies discussed were informed by general political science theories, but their findings driven by the characteristics of the cases. Knill could concentrate on public administrations to make sense of the observed variation of the dependent variable. Likewise, Börzel's assumption of unwilling governments pulled by domestic mobilization did a good job in explaining the variance she found. The existence of willing governments and unwilling opposition in my case study sheds light on how variations in institutional veto points explain the pattern of implementation records. Taken together, the case studies identified four conditions shaping the degree of the European Union's impact on domestic policy, as will be elaborated below.

Misfit/adaptation pressure: In all three studies adaptation pressure was identified as a major obstacle to adaptation. Knill provides the most elaborate conceptualization of adaptation pressure, which he has further refined in a study with Lenschow (Knill and Lenschow 1998). Like Börzel and Risse (this volume), Knill and Lenschow make a difference between policy misfit and institutional misfit. The former refers to policy‐specific regulatory styles and structures, whereas the latter refers to the institutional embeddedness of the national policy, that is, ‘the degree of institutionalization or institutional stability of sectoral administrative arrangements’ (Knill 1998: 5). In contrast to Börzel and Risse, however, Knill and Lenschow further refine institutional misfit, as they make use of Krasner's distinction between the depth and the breadth of institutionalization (Krasner 1988: 74–7). The depth of institutional embeddedness is related to the degree to which policy arrangements are ideologically rooted in paradigms, or, one might add, in core beliefs (Sabatier 1998). Examples are beliefs about the role of the state in society or the function of the legal system. The breadth of institutional embeddedness is constituted by the number and tightness of ‘interand intrainstitutional linkages that need to be broken or rerouted in order to comply with EU legislative requirements’ (Knill and Lenschow 1998: 603).

This conceptualization of misfit goes a long way towards providing the degree of precision of the concept of ‘goodness of fit’ and ‘adaptation pressure’ envisaged by Radaelli (this volume).

(p.216) Government willingness to implement: Börzel's study has explicitly considered government preferences, arguing that in cases of policy misfit governments are reluctant to implement. The case of packaging waste shows, however, that under certain circumstances governments are willing to implement despite adaptation pressure. Preferences may change due to changes in domestic or external conditions, but also due to policy learning. As argued earlier, properties of the ‘sector’ environmental policy, such as its focus on allocation rather than redistribution, as well as characteristics of the European decision‐making structure and procedures favour policy learning.

Domestic mobilization in favour of EU requirements: Knill considers the role of domestic mobilization only for cases of moderate adaptation pressure, whereas Börzel assigns general importance to this factor. She is also most elaborate about actors in and processes of domestic mobilization. Among the actors pulling for adaptation are political parties, environmental organizations, and business and industry lobby groups. Though strong domestic mobilization in favour of adaptation is important when governments are reluctant, when governments are willing, weak domestic mobilization against policy adaptation may be an important condition for adaptation.

Veto points controlled by pro‐EU groups: The emphasis on the interaction of government and society in processes of adaptation points to the importance of the opportunity structure for domestic groups. Institutional veto points are of particular importance in this respect, as those controlling these points have a legal—sometimes even constitutionally guaranteed—right to veto changes of the status quo. These institutional veto points are most decisive where it is likely that the party or party coalition that controls them differs from the one controlling the central government. This is the case, for instance, for incongruent systems of bicameralism, that is, systems of government in which the second chamber is elected according to a different voting method (see Lijphart 1999).

Note that the role of veto points may be more ambiguous than stated by Börzel and Risse (this volume). Whereas they argue that the existence of veto points empowers actors to resist Europeanization, I argue that under certain circumstances veto points may also facilitate Europeanization. I acknowledge that when opposing groups control these veto points, willing governments might face serious obstacles to adaptation. However, when actors supporting Europeanization control the veto points, reluctant governments might be forced to adapt.

The relative importance of these four conditions identified by the comparative case studies reviewed, and the way they interact merit further investigation. The scope of the analysis should be gradually extended to other environmental policies and other European member states. The next step might be to carry out cross‐sectoral comparisons. It is likely that by changing national policies and sectoral regulatory structures the European Union also affects domestic institutional structures and structures of representation and (p.217) cleavages more generally (see Radaelli, Figure 2.1, this volume). Policy‐oriented case studies of the new generation should consider these broader effects.

I advocate continuing with an intensive research design, rather than conducting large ‘n’ studies. The latter typically seek to establish causal relationships by correlating policy inputs with policy outcomes without identifying the relevant causal mechanisms. This is not without problems, as it is important to note that policy development and institutional change towards a European model or more similar systems across EU member states may not be causally related to the European integration process. Domestic or global forces can cause political change. In these instances, the causal relation with European factors is spurious. To give an example outside the environmental policy field: the liberalization of telecommunication is a worldwide phenomenon rather than a European one (Eliassen and Sjovaag 1999). Few would argue that in all member states the European Union is the main cause of national telecommunication liberalization. For a number of countries, the timing, process, and specific design of the regulatory framework might be influenced by European policies, but not liberalization as such. Moreover, convergence might not be the outcome, even if the European Union is causally important. If Europeanization is defined as any response to European integration, the European Union may even cause divergence, as in the case of the Italian transport policy (Héritier et al. 2000). Only a rather intensive study would be able to pinpoint the processes and underlying forces by which policy change came about and to rule out rival explanations (see Radaelli, this volume).

A case study design would also enable governments to be disaggregated in order to arrive at a more differentiated view of the adaptation process (see Featherstone, this volume). Many studies on Europeanization do already differentiate between national and subnational governments. Yet, most studies take central governments as unitary actors. However, research into environmental policy suggests that, by analysing intragovernment conflicts, for instance, between ministries of the environment and those of trade, industry, or transport, a fuller understanding of Europeanization can be achieved.

A supplementary device for this strategy would be to make the counterfactual claim that is implied in Europeanization research explicit and to justify it. Drawing on Fearon, the statement that European integration has resulted in a particular outcome implies that if there had been no European integration, a particular outcome would not have occurred. Making this statement explicit allows researchers to develop the counterfactual scenario in which they can substantiate their view that the European Union has indeed been causally important. One can do so by adding observations and invoking general principles (Fearon 1991: 183; Ned Lebow 2000).11 In my research, for example, I have (p.218) sought to demonstrate that without the European Packaging Directive there would not have been a shift from the Packaging Covenant to generally binding regulation in the Netherlands. To support this view I presented the facts that environmental protection has lost in salience, and that much of industry opposed the regulation, and I argued that in principle policy‐makers do not engage in reforms against business unless the reforms have public legitimacy (Haverland 1999).

In this context I would like to caution against another research strategy that is sometimes advocated as a panacea for isolating the impact of the European Union: comparing EU member states with non‐members. This strategy is based upon two assumptions. The first assumption is that European integration only affects members. Hence, if policies become more similar across members and non‐members alike, then the European Union is not causally important. However, it is likely that the European Union affects non‐members too, for instance, via policy learning and imitation. In this respect, research on non‐member states such as Switzerland and Norway is revealing. Not only do these countries move in similar directions as EU member states, which would intuitively lead to a rejection of the EU‐matters thesis, but also the timing and content of the policy changes are so similar to EU requirements that one is inclined to argue that the European Union matters even more in these countries than in EU member states. Norway, for instance, has been portrayed as a very adaptive non‐member (Sverdrup 1998; see Kux and Sverdrup 2000). The second assumption of the member‐non‐member design is that the countries show enough similarities in all other theoretically relevant conditions, so that variation in the outcome can be unambiguously attributed to the presence/absence of the European Union. It is probably easier to meet the needs of such a most similar system to satisfy than the first assumption. Still one should be careful when choosing non‐members, in particular if choosing countries outside the—geographical—reach of the European Union, to forgo the problems associated with the first assumptions. There are only a few countries that are sufficiently similar—New Zealand and Australia, for instance. Countries from East Asia or Latin America are probably too different to allow one to control for other potentially influential factors.

In short: a counterfactual research design is more promising than comparing actual cases of members and non‐members, as the latter design is based on one implausible assumption and one assumption that restricts the potential candidates to only a few countries. An incremental research strategy based (p.219) on carefully selected intensive comparative case studies, supplemented by counterfactual arguments has the most prospect of ultimately providing theoretically, methodologically, and empirically sophisticated contributions to debate on the Europeanization of the nation state.


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An earlier version of the paper was presented at the Netherlands School of Government research seminar ‘The search for convergence: Assessing the impact of the European Union on the member states’, Leiden, 17–18 May, 2000. I would like to thank the participants of the workshop and also Bertjan Verbeek for their helpful comments, and Joy Burrough, who advised on the English.

(1) It is notoriously difficult to quantify the environmental acquis. Scholars who focus on ‘major’ environmental legislation arrive at some 300 items, while those who employ a broader concept of what constitutes the acquis arrive at 500 or more (see Jordan et al. 1999; McCormick 1999a, 1999).

(2) The free movement of goods, services, capital, and labour, together with external economic relations, agriculture, and, most recently, monetary policy, which were once the domains of the nation‐state, nowadays belong almost exclusively to the competencies of the European Union. The classic domains of the state in which the European Union is gradually becoming more important include home affairs, justice, foreign affairs and defence. Areas such as education, social exclusions, and redistributive social policy do still belong almost exclusively to the domestic domain.

(3) An early example of a systematic and empirically comprehensive comparative study is Siedentopf and Ziller (1988a, b).

(4) Note that this chapter focuses on the adaptation of national environmental policies rather than on national environmental administrations (see for the latter Weale et al. 1996; Jordan 2001).

(5) For the sake of brevity, results for France will not be reported.

(6) Note, however, a case study by Jordan suggests that Börzel's finding also holds for the United Kingdom. Jordan analysed the implementation of the EU coastal bathing water policy in that country (Jordan 1997).

(7) The terms ‘effective implementation’ and ‘compliance’ are used interchangeably.

(8) The implementation of the Drinking Water Directive in Germany is a special case. There was a ‘push’ from the European Commission without domestic mobilization (2000: 150–1).

(9) Veto points refer to all stages in the decision‐making process on which agreement is required for a policy change (Immergut 1992).

(10) This is not to say that European requirements as such can be ultimately rejected at domestic institutional veto points. But in practice, European legislation is mostly ‘packed’ with additional provisions to ensure effective implementation. These provisions are necessary to make directives fit with the domestic (legal) situations or to create specific legislative conditions for application (Streinz and Pechstein 1995). However, such provisions often depend on the assent of other institutional players; most importantly, second chambers of the legislature. If these chambers represent regional actors, the government has a strong incentive to get assent even when this not formally required, because central governments often rely on these actors for the practical implementation of European legislation, for which the central governments nevertheless remain legally responsible and liable. This was the case in Germany.

(11) Counterfactual reasoning should not result in unlimited speculation, however. Based upon earlier work by Tetlock and Belkin, Ned Lebow has developed eight criteria for counterfactual reasoning to become meaningful and relevant. These include, for instance, logical, theoretical, and historical consistency (Ned Lebow 2000: 581–5).