Ministerial gatekeeping and parliamentary involvement in the implementation process of EU directives

Abstract

According to the literature on parliamentary government, legislatures provide political parties with veto and amendment rights, which counterbalance executive power. This institutional feature is also said to help overcome ministerial “drift” within coalition governments. While this literature has focused on the situation of an unconstrained environment of parliamentary government, the European Union’s Member States continuously delegate policy competencies to Brussels, whose directives must in turn be transposed into national law to take effect. Because the minister in charge enjoys informational advantages and has the sole right to begin the process of implementing directives, he can completely control the agenda in this constrained environment. We evaluate the empirical implications of a ministerial gatekeeping model by investigating the (in)activities of 15 countries with respect to 2,756 EU directives adopted between December 1978 and November 2009. Our findings show that partisan ministerial approval is necessary to start the implementation process which conditions the counterbalancing response of parliaments. Accordingly, the delegation of policy competencies to the European Union changes the power relationship in parliamentary governments and increases the risk of partisan ministerial drift.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Until the Lisbon Treaty came into force in December 2009, most EU legislation was adopted under the consultation procedure, while only the co-decision procedure provided the European Parliament with veto power over Commission proposals. Note that there are two types of Commission proposals for either secondary or tertiary legislation. Secondary legislation requires the approval of the Council under both procedures, while tertiary legislation demands a legal basis in secondary legislation and is adopted by the Commission alone (König et al., 2012: 24–25).

  2. 2.

    See the literature on committee gatekeeping (Shepsle 1979; Denzau and Mackay 1983; McCubbins et al. 1987; Shepsle and Weingast 1987; Snyder 1992; Dion and Huber 1996; Epstein 1997; Cox 2001; Crombez et al. 2006; Calvo and Sagarzazu 2011) and (majority) party gatekeeping (Cox and McCubbins 1993, 2005; Aldrich, 1995; Cox and Poole, 2002; Lawrence et al., 2006; Gailmard and Jenkins, 2007).

  3. 3.

    From January 1973 to December 1980, 70.69 %; from January 1981 to December 1985, 71.43 %; from January 1986 to December 1994, 71.05 %; from January 1995 to April 2004, 71.26 %; from May 2004 to October 2004, 70.97 %; from November 2004 to December 2006, 72.27 %; and since January 2007, 73.91 % (Moberg, 2002; Hosli and Machover, 2004; Holzinger et al., 2005: 107–111).

  4. 4.

    In the U.S. federal system, the legitimacy of gatekeeping has been extensively discussed in the pre-Civil War decades. John C. Calhoun, one of the proponents of (Southern) states’ rights, developed the concept of concurrent majority and argued that “it is this negative power… be it called by what term it may—veto, interposition, nullification, check, or balance of power—which, in fact, forms the constitution” (Lence, 1992: 28, 371).

  5. 5.

    See http://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2012:287:0023:0023:EN:PDF.

  6. 6.

    Brigitte Zypries not only voted in favor of the Data Retention Directive, but also insisted on more extensive data surveillance in the 2005 Council deliberations, which she attempted to implement immediately, but without success due to the intervention of the German Federal Constitutional Court (see http://www.bverfg.de/entscheidungen/rs20100302_1bvr025608.html).

  7. 7.

    The core corresponds to the concept of a “centrality area” in a one-dimensional policy space, which Roozendaal et al. (2012: 453–454) use to determine the indispensable part of each (connected) winning coalition in the Council.

  8. 8.

    The unanimity core is determined by the most left-wing and the most right-wing minister in the Council, whereas the QMV core is calculated as the intersection of all (connected) winning coalitions in the Council that reach the QMV threshold (see footnote 3).

  9. 9.

    See the EUR-Lex service, available at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/index.htm (last download: 3 January 2013). EUR-Lex sector 3 contains bibliographical notices and full texts of EU legislative acts, while EUR-Lex sector 7 provides information on national implementation measures of EU directives (König et al. 2006).

  10. 10.

    Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Finland, and Sweden.

  11. 11.

    Note that we disregard directives with no notifications at all.

  12. 12.

    We consider directives with deadlines prior to 30 June 2012. This introduces the possibility of a six-month notification delay.

  13. 13.

    For minority governments, the parliamentary support party (Laver, 2006: 128; Franchino and Høyland, 2009: 612).

  14. 14.

    Following Franchino and Høyland (2009: 612), we use party positions from expert surveys (Ray 1999; Benoit and Laver 2006; Steenbergen and Marks 2007) and calculate the mean value across the national implementation measures for each directive. To cope with missing data for Luxembourg, we use the data of the Comparative Manifestos Project (CMP; Budge et al., 2001; Klingemann et al., 2006), aggregated on the left-right dimension using a method proposed by Gabel and Huber (2000). For the coding of parliaments and cabinets, we collect information provided by Müller and Strøm (2000),Woldendorp et al. (2000), and the political data yearbooks published in the European Journal of Political Research.

  15. 15.

    Parliamentary involvement is coded if at least one national implementation measure for a directive has been adopted legislatively (see Franchino and Høyland, 2009: 610).

  16. 16.

    Following formula (1) or (2), we calculate the Council core using the positions of the parties of the ministers (with responsibility for the subjects under discussion) in all EU Member States at the adoption date t 0 (from the EU-9 to the EU-27). Although this procedure estimates the expected outcome of a directive based on all Member States participating in the adoption, our analysis considers only the implementation (in)activities of the EU-9 (before 1981), the EU-10 (from 1981 to 1985), the EU-12 (from 1986 to 1994), and the EU-15 Member States (since 1995), i.e., parliamentary systems in Western Europe.

  17. 17.

    In the standard selection model of Heckman (1979), the second-stage estimation involves a continuous variable.

  18. 18.

    In contrast to the probit model with sample selection, the second-stage estimation in the Heckman (1979) selection model makes it possible to include the inverse of Mill’s ratio for multi-level modeling.

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Acknowledgements

Earlier drafts of this article were presented at the 69th Annual National Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago (31 March–3 April 2011), at the University of Essex in Colchester (13 March 2012), at the 2nd Annual General Conference of the European Political Science Association in Berlin (21–23 June 2012), and at the 6th Pan-European Conference on EU Politics at the University of Tampere in Finland (13–15 September 2012). We thank the participants for fruitful discussions. Furthermore, we gratefully acknowledge the valuable comments of three anonymous reviewers and the editor.

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König, T., Luig, B. Ministerial gatekeeping and parliamentary involvement in the implementation process of EU directives. Public Choice 160, 501–519 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-013-0110-x

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Keywords

  • Parliamentary government
  • Ministerial gatekeeping
  • Parliamentary involvement
  • EU directives

JEL Classification

  • D72
  • D78
  • F53
  • N44