ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Coping with Policy Complexity in the European Union

European Politics
European Union
Institutions
Interest Groups
Decision Making
Policy Implementation
Policy-Making
P015
Steffen Hurka
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Christian Rauh
WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Abstract

Since its inception, the European Union (EU) has been proliferating new policies at a rate unthinkable in earlier periods of time. Today, the volume and complexity of secondary law that permeates Europe not only implies enormous managerial challenges for those in power and their bureaucracies, but also involves significant cognitive burdens for the public. Yet, many interesting aspects surrounding this general pattern of increasing policy complexity in the EU remain underexplored. For example, while the idea that EU policies vary strongly in terms of their complexity is hardly controversial among practitioners and scholars of European Integration, we know only very little about the origins and consequences of the phenomenon, let alone how to measure it properly. This panel therefore addresses the various challenges of analyzing the emergence, evolution and impact of policy complexity in the EU. It thereby focuses on all stages of the policy cycle, encompassing questions of policy formulation, decision-making and implementation. Acquiring a better understanding of how the EU copes with policy complexity is important for normative and theoretical reasons. First, while the EU itself is well aware of the fact that excessive policy complexity has the potential to undermine the perceived legitimacy of the EU – which is reflected in the European Commission’s attempts at “Better Regulation” – it lacks a clear empirical yardstick to assess and evaluate the complexity of its policy proposals. As a result, it is so far entirely unclear until which point policy complexity must be considered a ‘necessary evil’ and at which point it becomes a significant burden for policy designers, decision-makers and implementers. Clarifying these conditions empirically constitutes a core normative task for EU scholarship, as such inquiries could help us determine how political institutions must be designed in order to cope with policy complexity more efficiently. Second, most existing theories of the political process in the EU are based on institutional and political considerations, often bypassing the intricacies of the actual policy content. While exceptions to this general trend certainly exist, EU scholarship still lacks a systematic incorporation of the complexity of policy content into explanations of policy trajectories at the EU level. Accordingly, grasping policy complexity conceptually is a key prerequisite for the development of better theories. In order to address these challenges, the panel investigates policy complexity throughout the policy cycle, adopting a broad perspective on how the EU copes with increasingly complex policy problems. How can we conceptualize and measure the complexity of EU policy proposals and EU law? How is the complexity of EU policies affected at the input stage and how do interest groups and other policy stakeholders influence the complexity of EU policies during consultations? How does policy complexity leave its mark when member states implement EU law? And, finally, how can we improve the comprehensibility of EU policies? The contributions presented in this panel address these and related questions, demonstrating the importance of policy complexity for historic and contemporary political processes in the EU.

Title Details
Economic Governance: A Field of ‘Conflictual Cooperation’? View Paper Details
The Evolution of Policy Complexity in the European Union View Paper Details
Managing and Understanding Complexity in the European Union’s Public Consultations View Paper Details
Cross-Border Healthcare in Europe: Does Network Governance Bridge Healthcare System Differences? View Paper Details
How to Improve Citizen Understanding of European Union Policies? View Paper Details