Tradition and innovation: Europe’s accumulated executive order

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Series Details No.9, 2008
Publication Date 17/03/2008
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We argue in this article that Europe has in fact had a kind of executive order for centuries but that we only now see that the contours of this order are qualitatively different from the intergovernmental order inherited from the past. We ascribe this phenomenon in particular to the consolidation of the European Commission as a new and distinctive executive centre at the European level. It seems as if this institutional innovation triggers significant centrifugal forces within national governments due to the Commission’s strategy of establishing direct partnerships with semi-independent national agencies that might be crucial for the implementation as well as the formulation of EU policies. The new order does not seem to replace former orders; instead it tends to be layered around already existing orders so that the result is an increasingly compound and accumulated executive order. Such an order raises sensitive questions about which actors should be held to account: holding governments to account may no longer be enough and may need to be complemented with mechanisms and forums that focus both on the accountability of supranational executive bodies as well as national agencies with dual loyalties.

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