Montesquieu Institute: from science to society

Research on Voter-Elite Linkage in EU Decision-making

Eurosceptics launch 'democracy bus'
Bron: EUobserver

EU directives represent one of many policy instruments used by the EU Commission, the European Parliament or the Council to generate EU-wide rules that member states incorporate into their own national legal frameworks.

With ever increasing policy discretion of the EU in place of the capacities of national governments, directives have been increasingly making a visible imprint on citizens’ every-day life.

The growing impact of EU-level policy-making is contrasted with changes in public support for the EU that has taken a downward turn since the early 1990s. Such a change, the arguments suggest, indicates that voters are increasingly more skeptical about whether the EU has consistently acted in their interests and signals heightened public tension regarding EU’s role in the future. Such contrast between public sentiments and increasing policy relevance of the EU begs a pressing question about whether the generally decreasing support of voters for the EU is reflected in the manner “business” is done in the EU.

This project studied the effect of decreasing public support for the EU in relation to how much these changes influence EU-level policy decisions of domestic elites. Specifically, the research takes a closer look at how public shifts in support and attention towards the EU affect the extent of governments’ compliance with their commitments to transpose EU directives.

The findings show that domestic public pressures do have an independent effect on the rate of transposition of EU directives in 15 of the current EU member states. Indeed, when public support for the EU decreases and overall attention to EU matters among the public increases, the speed with which governments transpose EU directives decreases significantly. These findings therefore provide a preliminary answer regarding the question of how citizens’ influence policies that originate with the EU. This research shows, however, that only when public pressure is very high, can we confirm that such a relationship between public sentiments and governments’ adoption of directives exists with statistical reliability.

Lucie Spanihelova worked at the Montesquieu Institute as a researcher untill 2013.