Accountable Multilevel Governance...
Accountable Multilevel Governance by the Open Method of Coordination? Arthur Benz* Abstract: In multilevel governance arrangements policies are coordinated across levels, usually in negotiations or networks of executives and representatives of special interests. Actors committed in such arrangements can hardly be held accountable by parliaments or citizens, and this is one of the main reasons for the democratic deficit of the EU. With the open method of coordination (OMC) the EU introduced a new mode of multilevel governance. The article focuses on the question whether problems of accountability can be solved by this mode. It is argued that the OMC framework includes two types of coordination. Whereas the dominating ���deliberative��� mode does not improve account- ability, the ���competitive��� mode seems to be more promising. It supports transparency, reduces the costs of control for parliaments and stimulates public discussion on policies. However, multilevel coordination by policy competition at the lower levels of government does not work effectively under all conditions, and this therefore has to be carefully investigated. I Introduction In research on multilevel governance, the open method of coordination (OMC) has raised considerable attention. Scholars have acknowledged the invention of this new mode of governance as an indication of the ongoing dynamics of European integration.1 The OMC is said to demonstrate the flexibility of European multilevel governance, since it provides the Council and the Commission with a new device to influence national or sub-national policies even when they have no formal compe- tencies. On the other hand, empirical studies have given reasons for rather critical * Professor of Political Science, University of Hagen. 1 For example, S. Borr��s and K. Jacobsson, ���The Open Method of Co-ordination and New Governance Patterns in the EU���, (2004) 11 Journal of European Public Policy 185 J. Caporaso and J. Wittenbrink, ���The New Modes of Governance and Political Authority in Europe���, (2006) 13 Journal of European Public Policy 471 B. Eberlein and D. Kerwer, ���New Governance in the European Union, A Theoretical Per- spective���, (2004) 42 Journal of Common Market Studies 121 A. H��ritier, ���New Modes of Governance in Europe: Policy-Making without Legislating���, in A. H��ritier (ed.), Common Goods. Reinventing European and International Governance (Rowman and Littlefield, 2002), pp. 185���206 D. Hodson and I. Maher, ���The Open Method as a New Mode of Governance: The Case of Soft Economic Policy Coordination���, (2001) 39 Journal of Common Market Studies 719 J. S. Mosher and D. M. Trubek, ���Alternative Approaches to Governance in the EU: EU Social Policy and the European Employment Strategy���, (2003) 41 Journal of Common Market Studies 63 S. Regent, ���The Open Method of Coordination. A New Supranational Form of Governance?���, (2003) 9 European Law Journal 190. European Law Journal, Vol. 13, No. 4, July 2007, pp. 505���522. �� 2007 The Author Journal compilation �� 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
assessments regarding the implementation of this mode of governance and its impacts on policy making and on the political system of the EU. In view of the limited effects of this method, it can be doubted that it is really worth further research and contri- butions to the huge amount of literature that is dedicated to it. This article neither intends to add a new critical study on the OMC to this literature nor does it present an additional empirical study. It is focused on the problem of democratic legitimacy and accountability which has been raised in many contributions to the discussion. There is no need to recapitulate what has been already written by other scholars on the predominance of executives and experts and the limited role of national parliaments and the European Parliament (EP). However, this discussion so far has failed to elucidate the mechanisms of the OMC���s mode of multilevel gover- nance. For this reason, empirical studies have correctly revealed the democratic deficit caused by the OMC but they have not adequately explicated the potentials of this method to improve accountability of executives to their parliaments and the electorate in a system of multilevel governance. Speaking about mechanisms���and not mechanism���I want to point out that the OMC implies at least two different modes of governance. They have been enmeshed in the formulation of the concept of the European Council at Lisbon and they have never been clearly sorted out. In most cases of its application, the OMC has turned into a kind of deliberative policy making (or coordination by discourse) in multilevel gover- nance. The other mode of policy competition has remained in the background and has rarely been explicitly implemented in practical policy making. As regards accountability, I argue that the deliberative mode in fact causes serious problems. However, one should ask whether the competitive mode of multilevel gov- ernance can help to overcome these problems. I will show in the ensuing sections that there are theoretical reasons in support of a positive answer to this question. Yet, policy competition works only under particular conditions that cannot be easily fulfilled in the multilevel political system of the EU. Hence, my conclusion does not deviate too much from the sceptical views of the OMC predominating in the literature. However, it clarifies the conditions under which a revision of the method could support account- ability in multilevel governance. II Accountability Problems in Multilevel Governance The OMC has been introduced as a device to stimulate policy changes in the Member States without the EU using its powers to regulate or to control national implementa- tion and without transferring powers from national or sub-national governments to the European level. It should have been obvious from the outset that such a kind of coordination between the EU and the Member States beyond existing competencies and formal procedures must raise concerns regarding democratic legitimacy. Indeed, empirical studies have confirmed the exclusion of national parliaments and the Euro- pean Parliament and the predominance of executives in the coordination process.2 The 2 K. A. Armstrong, ���How Open is the United Kingdom to the OMC Process on Social Inclusion?���, in J. Zeitlin, P. Pochet and L. Magnusson (eds), The Open Method of Coordination in Action. The European Employment and Social Inclusion Strategies (Peter Lang, 2005), pp. 287���310 C. de la Porte and P. Pochet, ���Participation in the Open Method of Coordination. The Cases of Employment and Social Inclusion���, in Zeitlin, Pochet and Magnusson, ibid., pp. 353���390 K. Jacobsson, ���Trying to Reform the ���Best Pupils in the Class���? The Open Method of Co-ordination in Sweden and Denmark���, in Zeitlin, Pochet and Magnusson, ibid., p. 206. European Law Journal Volume 13 �� 2007 The Author 506 Journal compilation �� 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
qualification as a mode of policy making dominated by small circles of experts reveals that the OMC has not really opened access for civil society3 as it was suggested in the Commission���s White Paper on Governance. However, as Claudio Radaelli4 correctly pointed out, participation is just one dimension of democratic legitimacy and democracy goes much further than delibera- tion among governments and private interest groups. It goes without saying that demands to improve participation of parliaments and associations representing civil society are justified from a normative point of view. Requests for participation are particularly relevant regarding the EP. Concerning the role of national parliaments one should keep in mind that their participation in EU policies is rendered difficult by the multilevel character of governance, where they run the risk of being caught in the dilemma between effectiveness and democracy.5 The same holds true for associa- tions which have to be considered as multilevel organisations. Their problem is not so much participation in EU governance but how representatives and experts from these associations can be held accountable by their members. Therefore, a realistic per- spective on the problem of democratic representation in multilevel governance is more useful than applying idealistic normative concepts of participatory democracy. From this point of view, the focus is shifted to the analysis of democratic account- ability, i.e. accountability of actors directly involved in the OMC process to citizens and parliaments. These actors represent particular interests of citizens and they respond to the demands of those they represent only if they can be held accountable by them.6 The problem of accountability can be analysed in a principal���agent framework.7 In multilevel governance, as in every complex organisation, this relationship includes many agents with ���many hands���, that have to be coordinated, and many principals with ���many eyes���8 to control decision makers. In the EU, agents that are immediately involved in decision making include the Commission, the Council and representatives of national executives. They are accountable to principals like the EP and national or sub-national parliaments. Depending on the procedures applied, representatives of social partners and experts take part in the OMC. While the role of experts is often accepted for reasons of output legitimacy,9 other non-governmental actors have to be considered as agents as well, working for different societal groups. The multiplication of both sides of the governance game, of agents and of principals has considerable consequences for accomplishing accountability. 3 C. De la Porte and P. Nanz, ���The OMC���A Deliberative-Democratic Mode of Governance? The Case of Employment and Pensions���, (2004) 11 Journal of European Public Policy 267 C. M. Radaelli, The Open Method of Coordination: A New Governance Architecture for the European Union?, Sieps Report No. 1 (Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies, 2003), pp. 36���37. 4 Radaelli, op. cit. note 3 supra also A. Moravcsik, ���In Defense of the Democratic Deficit: Reassessing Legitimacy in the European Union���, (2002) 40 Journal of Common Market Studies 603. 5 A. Benz, ���Path-Dependent Institutions and Strategic Veto Players���National Parliaments in the European Union���, (2004) 29 West European Politics 875. 6 B. Manin, A. Przeworski and S. C. Stokes, ���Introduction���, in A. Przeworski, S. C. Stokes and B. Manin (eds), Democracy, Accountability, and Representation (Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 10. 7 See Bovens in this issue, p. 447. 8 M. Bovens, The Quest for Responsibility: Accountability and Citizenship in Complex Organizations (Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 45���52. 9 A. Benz and Y. Papadopoulos, ���Actors, Institutions and Democratic Governance: Comparing Across Levels���, in A. Benz and Y. Papadopolous (eds), Governance and Democracy���Comparing National, European and Transnational Experiences (Routledge, 2006), p. 276. July 2007 Accountable Multilevel Governance �� 2007 The Author 507 Journal compilation �� 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.