The Credibility Crisis of Community Regulation

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Abstract

The credibility crisis of Community regulation is symbolized by the recurrent food scares, and even more by official reactions such as the refusal of the German and French governments to abide by the decision of the Commission to lift the ban on exports of British beef. However, the crisis is not new, nor is it limited to food safety. Problems of regulatory credibility in the EC/EU arise at different levels. Some are rooted in the deep structure of the founding treaties, while other problems result from path-dependent aspects of the integration process, from institutional inertia, or from the pursuit of short-term advantages. This article is primarily concerned with the second group of problems, but a short discussion of the more fundamental issues seems useful as a reminder of the limits of what can be achieved by piecemeal institutional engineering. The article addresses two specific threats to credibility: the mismatch between the Community’s highly complex and differentiated regulatory tasks and the available administrative instruments; and the problem of credible commitment caused by the increasing level of politicization and parliamentarization of the Commission. The solution to both sets of problems, it is argued, may be found in a more far-reaching delegation of powers to independent European agencies embedded in transnational networks of national regulators and international organizations. Recent theoretical advances in the area of institutional design and procedural controls suggest that such networks could be made to satisfy all reasonable requirements of subsidiarity, accountability and efficiency.

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