Policy-making in the European Union : a study of the nature of the European Union through the examination of its policy process
This study has discussed the policy process of the European Union in order to illuminate major aspects of the nature of this peculiar and unique political system. The discussion necessarily involves an examination of traditional integration theories, but it concentrates primarily on policy analysis which is based on extensive empirical research and supported by secondaiy literature and theoretical deliberations. The major research for this project was carried out between 1990 and 1994, in the form of mail surveys, interviews, non-participatory observation and scrutiny of documentation and secondary literature. The empirical approach adopted here is regarded as superior to purely theory-based research, because the former provides more insight into the nature of the European Union than the latter. The thesis consists principally of a discussion of the general nature of the policy process in the European Union, but contains also a more detailed case study on food policy-making. The findings in this study confirm that there is a marked gap between formal policy procedures and the way in which policy is actually carried out Consequently, policy-making in the European Union is very varied and dynamic, and cannot be encapsulated into a single static conceptual framework. The gap is explained in terms of the influence of informal factors on policy-making, namely the involvement of private interests, the varied interpretations of the formal provisions which flourish due to Treaty ambiguities and the mediating effects of manifold political and cultural agendas. The actual influence of private interests is difficult to measure, and data are contradictory, but it is nonetheless evident that influence is disproportionately low compared to the extent of consultation and lobbying that characterises policy-making in the European Union. However, as far as broad developments are concerned, business and other economic interests have had significant influence on EU developments - but only if their interests did not diverge too markedly from the political priorities of the most senior European politicians. This finding confirms that, despite many bureaucratic and technocratic elements, the European Union is an intensely political system. Within the realm of politics, national self4nterests remain dominant, even though they are constantly challenged and mediated by other political and non-political concertinos. The predominance of national concerns is however constantly reinforced by the hybrid structures of the European Union. It is argued in the thesis that empirical policy studies must be embedded in a suitable conceptual framework so that they do not result lii purely descriptive exercises. Therefore, considerable attention has been given to constructing such a framework. The latter is based broadly on policy networks analysis but emphasises the problems and limitations of this approach and expands the basic concept in order to take account of the idiosyncrasies of the European Union which is a unique political system.