Vol. 3 (2008) > lreg-2008-3

Living Rev. Euro. Gov. 3 (2008), 3

The EU’s competences: The 'vertical' perspective on the multilevel system

1 Technische Universität Darmstadt, Institute for Political Science, Residenzschloss, 64283 Darmstadt, Germany
2 University of Hagen, Department of Political Science, State and Government, Universitätsstrasse 41, 58084 Hagen, Germany

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Article Abstract

This Living Review deals with the division of competences between the EU and its member states in a multilevel political system. The article summarises research on the relations between the EU and the national and sub-national levels of the member states. It provides an overview on normative and theoretical concepts and empirical research. From the outset, European integration was about the transfer of powers from the national to the European level, which evolved as explicit bargaining among governments or as an incremental drift. This process was reframed with the competence issue entering the agenda of constitutional policy. It now concerns the shape of the European multilevel polity as a whole, in particular the way in which powers are allocated, delimited and linked between the different levels. The article is structured as follows: First of all, normative theories of a European federation are discussed. The section deals with different concepts of federalism and presents approaches of the economic theory of federalism in the context of the European polity. The normative considerations conclude with a discussion of the subsidiarity principle and the constitutional allocation of competences in the European Treaties. The next section covers the empirical issue of how to explain the actual allocation of competences (scope and type) between levels. Integration theories are presented here only in so far as they explain the transfer of competence from the national to the European level or the limits of this centralistic dynamics. Normative and empirical theories indeed provide some general guidelines and conclusions on the allocation of competences in the EU, but they both contradict the assumption of a separation of competences. The article therefore concludes that politics and policy-making in the EU have to be regarded as multilevel governance. The main theoretical approaches and results from empirical research on European multilevel governance are presented before the article concludes with recommendations for further discussion and research in the field. Following Fritz Scharpf, it is recommended that research on the vertical allocation of competences and the application of shared competences in the European multilevel governance should stop searching for holistic approaches (grand theory) explaining unique features of the European political system; instead, research will best succeed when relying on a variety of simpler theories and models to describe European governance modes.

Keywords: integration theory, subsidiarity, multilevel governance, fiscal federalism, competences, European integration, federalism

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Arthur Benz and Christina Zimmer,
"The EU’s competences: The 'vertical' perspective on the multilevel system",
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Article History

ORIGINAL http://europeangovernance-livingreviews.org/Articles/lreg-2008-3
Title The EU’s competences: The 'vertical' perspective on the multilevel system
Author Arthur Benz / Christina Zimmer
Date accepted 3 March 2008, published 30 June 2008
UPDATE http://europeangovernance-livingreviews.org/Articles/lreg-2010-1
Title The EU's competences: The 'vertical' perspective on the multilevel system
Author Arthur Benz / Christina Zimmer
Date accepted 5 April 2010, published 25 May 2010
Changes All sections have been reviewed, edited and supplemented with additional references. More substantial changes and additions were made to Sections 2.2 (Economic theory of federalism), 2.3 (Subsidiarity principle and constitutional delimitation of powers), 3.1 (Functionalist theories), 3.3 (Neo-institutionalist theories) and 3.4 (Policy- and actor-centred approaches). The list of references has been updated; 36 references have been added.
Date accepted 8 August 2012, published 24 August 2012
Changes Revised some sections (primarily, 3.3, 3.5, 4, 5) and added 19 new references.

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