European Governance: Negotiation and Competition in the Shadow of Hierarchy



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    1. Freie Universität Berlin
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    • I thank Thomas Risse, Fritz Scharpf and Drew Scott as well as the two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions on previous versions of this article.

Tanja A. Börzel
Center for European Integration
Freie Universität Berlin
Ihnestr. 22
D-14195 Berlin
Tel +49 (0) 30 838 54830


This article argues that the ‘nature of the EU beast’ is neither unique nor captured by a particular type of governance. Like its Member States, the EU features a combination of different forms of governance that cover the entire range between market and hierarchy. The analysis of this governance mix reveals several characteristics of the EU that have been largely overlooked in the literature. First, the EU relies heavily on hierarchy in the making of its policies. Its supranational institutions allow for the adoption and enforcement of legally binding decisions without the consent of (individual) Member States. Second, network governance, which systematically involves private actors, is hard to find. EU policies are largely formulated and implemented by public actors. Third, political competition has gained importance in European governance. Member States increasingly resort to mutual recognition and the open method of co-ordination where their heterogeneity renders harmonization difficult. The article shows that the EU mainly governs through inter- and transgovernmental negotiations and political competition between states and regions. Both forms of public-actor-based governance operate in the shadow of hierarchy cast by supranational institutions. This governance mix does not render the EU unique but still distinguishes it from both international institutions and national states.