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Multi-level governance in the European Union

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  1. Assessing the claim that the EU represents a move from state-centric to multi-level governance.
    1. The complexity of the EU polity.
    2. Models focusing on the relationship between supranational, national and subnational institutions.
    3. The relevance of the multi-level and state-centric models.
  2. A Europe of the regions?
    1. European integration and the multi-level governance model.
    2. The development of a European regional policy.
    3. Reform of the structural funds.
    4. An unprecedented mobilization of subnational actors at the European level.
  3. The European Union as a polity creating process.
    1. The state-centric model of governance.
    2. The shift in power from national to European level.
  4. Conclusion.

The former French President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, once stated that the European Union was an ?unidentified political object?. This phrase highlights the complexity of the EU polity, which various theories have tried to capture and which has sparked controversy among the students of European integration. Among those theories, two models emerged between the late eighties and the early nineties, focusing on the relationship between supranational, national and subnational institutions, drawing opposite conclusions on the role of these actors in EU policy making. The term ?multi-level governance? was coined by authors such as Gary Marks and Liesbet Hooghe, to describe European integration as ?a polity creating process in which authority and policy-making influence are shared across multiple levels of government ? subnational, national and supranational?. This model points at the dilution of national sovereignty and at the autonomous role of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Court of Justice.

[...] relevance of both models in describing the current state of the European Union and wonder to what extent European integration represents a move from state-centric to multi-level governance. On the one hand, it will be argued here that the state-centric governance theorists' claim that European integration has not challenged the sovereignty of the member states, which remain firmly in the driving seat of EU policy making, is by far too excessive. On the other hand, the multi- level governance model seems to overstate the shift of authority and policy- making influence to the regions. [...]

[...] Case law sustains this interpretation of the EU as an independent polity: in the case Costa v. ENEL (1964), the European Court of Justice asserted the supremacy of EC law over national law, and in the case Parti écologiste les Verts (1986), it said that the Treaty establishing a European Community was a ?constitutional charter?. National jurisdictions across the Union have also asserted, though sometimes reluctantly, as in the French case, the supremacy of EC law and the obligation for national governments to implement European directives. [...]

[...] 341-378 Gary Marks, François Nielsen, Leonard Rau, Jane Solk, ?Competencies, cracks and conflicts: regional mobilization in the European Union?, in Gary Marks, Fritz Scharpf, Philippe Schmitter, Wolfgang Streeck, Governance in the European Union (Sage, 1996), pp. 40-63 John Sutcliffe, 1999 reform of the structural fund regulations: multi- level governance or renationalization??, Journal of European Public Policy (Vol 2000), pp. 290-309 Helen Wallace, institutional setting?, in Helen Wallace, William Wallace, op. cit., pp. 3-37 Gary Marks, Liesbet Hooghe, Kermit Blank, ?European integration from the 1980s: state-centric v. [...]

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