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Beyond the Regulatory State: Rethinking the External Dimension of European Climate and Energy Governance

European Union
Governance
International Relations
Climate Change
Energy Policy
Andrea Prontera
University of Macerata
Andrea Prontera
University of Macerata
Rainer Quitzow
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS)
Andreas Goldthau
Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, Universität Erfurt

Abstract

The regulatory state has provided a useful analytical framework to conceptualise the nature of the EU, to study its policy making and to assess its impact on global political economy. Although it is widely accepted that the internal and external conditions of European integration have dramatically changed since the 1990s, when this approach was initially formulated, few scholars have sought to theorise the EU ‘beyond’ the regulatory state perspective. This becomes even more evident as world politics have seen the forceful return of geopolitics, also in sectors that have been dominated by market-oriented approaches, like climate and energy. This paper offers a conceptual alternative to the regulatory state model, a framework that opens a new research agenda on European governance and the EU strategy ‘as power’ in global politics (Goldthau and Sitter 2015, 2018). The paper puts forward a conceptualization of external EU governance based on the “catalytic state” model (Prontera 2017, 2019). The latter is conceptualized as being situated between the direct interventionist approach of the positive state and the indirect one of the regulatory state. The paper proposes an initial theorisation of the EU’s evolving role as a catalytic state and how this is manifested at the level of actors, instruments and policy frames. Building on this, it then develops the notion of Catalytic Power Europe to exemplify how the EU deploys its catalytic state capacities as resources for projecting power in international affairs. Drawing on examples from climate and energy diplomacy, the paper illustrates the tools and mechanisms deployed by the EU to achieve its external objectives in these fields. It demonstrates that these go beyond existing conceptualisations of the EU’s actorness in global politics as a by-product of its regulatory state identity and regulatory capacity, i.e. Regulatory and Market Power Europe (Bradford 2012; Damro 2012, 2015).