The European Commission: The Limits of Centralization and the Perils of Parliamentarization
Title: The European Commission: The Limits of Centralization and the Perils of Parliamentarization
Author: MAJONE, Giandomenico
Publisher: Blackwell Publishers
Citation: Governance-An International Journal of Policy and Administration, 2002, 15, 3, 375-392
The idea of an inevitable process of centralization in the European Community (EC)/European Union (EU) is a myth. Also, the metaphor of creeping competences, with its suggestion of a surreptitious but continuous growth of the powers of the Commission, can be misleading. It is true that the functional scope of EC/EU competences has steadily increased, but the nature of new competences has changed dramatically, as may be seen from the evolution of the methods of harmonization. The original emphasis on total harmonization, which gives the Community exclusive competence over a given policy area, has been largely replaced by more flexible but less communitarian methods such as optional and minimum harmonization, reference to nonbinding technical standards, and mutual recognition. Finally, the treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam explicitly excluded harmonization for most new competences. Thus, the expansion of the jurisdiction of the EC/EU has not automatically increased the powers of the Commission, but has actually weakened them in several respects. In addition, the progressive parliamentarization of the Commission risks compromising its credibility as an independent regulator, without necessarily enhancing its democratic legitimacy. Since the member states continue to oppose any centralization of regulatory powers, even in areas essential to the functioning of the internal market, the task of implementing Community policies should be entrusted to networks of independent national and European regulators, roughly modeled on the European System of Central Banks. The Commission would coordinate and monitor the activities of these networks in order to ensure the coherence of EC regulatory policies. More generally, it should bring its distinctive competence more clearly into focus by concentrating on the core business of ensuring the development and proper functioning of the single European market. This is a more modest role than that of the kernel of a future government of Europe, but it is essential to the credibility of the integration process and does not overstrain the limited financial and legitimacy resources available to the Commission.
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