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Uncovering the Effect of Public Attention to the EU on Transposition of EU Directives.

Open Panel

Abstract

The intensity and direction of public attention towards issues is often influenced by external shocks – such as economic crises, environmental disasters or re-focused political conflict – re-orienting the essence of public discourse. Yet, the cost benefit calculation that national political elites employ to process the inputs from their constituency coalitions in domestic politics bears a distinct mark in multi-level political systems. In particular, the effect of constituency pressures is conditioned by the expectations of national political elites regarding future rewards they will obtain from the EU. In this paper, we primarily seek to examine how national political elites reconcile such shifts in public attention towards EU integration issues with respect to their compliance behavior with EU demands. We formalize the interaction between the pressures of domestic constituency principals, EU principals’ demands and national political agents’ concerns about re-election, drawing on the fundamentals of principal agent modeling to illustrate our argument. The argument proposed here makes primary use of the political elites’ cost- benefit calculus and the notion of opportunity costs to capture the problem of the changing behavior of national governments when responding to different EU demands and changes in support of domestic constituencies over time. We test our argument using compliance with EU Directives as our dependent variable. The preliminary evidence suggests that the flexibility of governments’ response to public opposition becomes significantly smaller when the magnitude of benefits received from the EU increases. The hypothesized trade-offs between domestic re-election concerns and the benefits from the EU thus, have a distinguishable effect on the extent to which governments will respond to constituency pressures.