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Environmental Governance in EuropeAn Ever Closer Ecological Union?$

Albert Weale, Geoffrey Pridham, Michelle Cini, Dimitrios Konstadakopulos, Martin Porter, and Brendan Flynn

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199257478

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199257478.001.0001

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Introduction to Part I

Introduction to Part I

(p.15) Introduction to Part I
Environmental Governance in Europe

Albert Weale

Geoffrey Pridham

Michelle Cini

Dimitrios Konstadakopulos

Martin Porter

Brendan Flynn

Oxford University Press

In the Introduction we claimed that the European Union had developed a multilevel and horizontally complex system of environmental governance that was none the less evolving and incomplete. We identified three aspects of this system: the first was the development of environmental policies; the second was the expansion of institutions for making policies; the third was the effect of these first two developments on the structure of political authority within the European Union, that is to say on the rules for making rules.

To say that there is a system of governance, however, is no more than to point to a political fact. If we are properly to understand this system, we need to identify its underlying logic and to locate its place within the more general processes of European integration. To what extent, for example, is it a manifestation of more widespread trends, and how does it relate to other processes at work in the development of the European Union? Although every policy sector has its own logic, it cannot be detached from the political processes in which it is embedded, and understanding the character and workings of those processes is relevant to understanding how a particular policy area develops.

Environmental policy in this sense brings us to the heart of debates about theories of European integration and governance. Such theories seek to identify the main characteristics of the process of integration and the principal features of the institutional forms that European governance can take. These theories are concerned with such questions as how best to interpret the quickening pace of European integration in the 1980s and the extent to which it fitted into a process of integration more generally, as well as the extent to which the growth of the European Union has undermined the traditional preserves and authority of the nation state. In this chapter we review some of the principal propositions in these competing theories as a way of setting the general framework for our studies.

Theories of European Integration

Within the theoretical literature, two views taken from International Relations have been overridingly dominant: work in the tradition of functionalism, now standardly identified as neo-functionalism; and work in the tradition of realism, now standardly (p.16) identified as neo-realism.1 Both perspectives are best regarded as clusters of propositions, each stating a particular orientation to the understanding of European integration, though there are many people who might adhere to some but not to all of the respective claims. Here we set out the key elements of the characteristic arguments of each side, in somewhat schematic form.

One central proposition for neo-functionalists is that functions or issue areas provide the usual foci for the process of integration, at least as far as the EU is concerned.2 The idea is that the solution to problems in one area is bound to affect developments in other areas through processes of issue linkage and spillover. In a context in which states are not the exclusive or even predominant actors in the international system, these processes of issue linkage and spillover can bind diverse actors together in institutional forms the full extent of which no one agent can envisage. Thus, the outcomes of international developments are not predictable in advance.

The origins of this way of thinking go back to Mitrany's early formulation of the functionalist position in the 1940s, though subsequent developments have departed from his views.3 Mitrany wished to replace the territorially based authority of the state with a system of international functional authority based on expertise rather than power. Monnet took up this perspective, arguing that it was only through functional integration, most obviously in areas like the production of iron and steel, that any breach could be made in the authority of the nation states. Since these early formulations, however, it has become common in neo-functionalist literature to stress the extent to which there is no hard and fast distinction between technical matters and political decisions.4 The spillover from one issue area to another that neo-functionalists posit is only part of a more general process in which technical spillover in policy sectors provokes spillover from the making of policy to the making of institutions. In order to deal with the problems that the logic of decision-making throws up, states find that they need to transfer their authority to international bodies, and in the case of the EU this is aided by the existence of powerful supranational actors anxious to expand their own authority and scope of decision-making. It follows that the European Commission and the Court of Justice act to a significant degree independently of the member states and may initiate, strengthen, or complement processes that make for an increased transfer of authority.

Typically this transfer is not intended. Indeed, neo-functionalists stress the extent to which states find themselves enmeshed in processes the significance of which they did not fully realize at the time at which they embarked upon them. Thus, important constitutional change may emerge not as the result of an explicit and conscious bargain entered into by state actors, but by virtue of the fact that national executives are caught up in ‘a web of unintended consequences spun by their own previous commitments’.5 Moreover, non-state actors may help push the process along, themselves shifting their own expectations, activities, and loyalties from the national to the international level.

(p.17) In the 1980s the attraction of this approach, which had been in the theoretical doldrums for some time, increased with the creation of the single market and the subsequent move towards economic and monetary union.6 In this instance there seemed to be an almost textbook example of spillover. The single market itself created new questions and problems, and its full working out seemed to call for greater collective control of the levers of economic policy at the European level.7 Moreover, no one could deny that monetary policy was at the heart of the traditional functions of the state. If the single market led to monetary union, even if this had not been appreciated by leading actors at the time of the Single European Act, who could gainsay the role of the functional logic?

If for neo-functionalists the increasing pace of European integration in the 1980s reflected an underlying logic of cooperation implicit in world economic changes of the previous twenty years, for neo-realists it continued to represent an intergovernmentalist bargain among leaders of nation states about the best way to secure national interests. For neo-realists European integration depends upon a convergence of preferences among the key actors in the international system, namely the nation states. Such states form alliances for self-interested reasons determined out of rational calculation. Often the formation of these alliances is closely related to the prevention of war, but sometimes it may simply be a way of dealing with inter-dependencies that arise from the operation of international trade.

In accounting for the emergence and working of the EU, the basic neo-realist claim is thus that ‘the EU can be analysed as a successful intergovernmental regime designed to manage economic interdependence through negotiated policy coordination’.8 Such interdependence arises from increasing transboundary flows of goods, services, factors of production, and pollutants. In this way there is a clear acknowledgement of spillovers in some sense within the neo-realist position. But the realist insists that political action to deal with such spillovers has to be taken by nation states in the light of their own calculations of their circumstances and interests. Interdependence through increased transboundary flows of various kinds certainly creates incentives for international policy coordination, but the form of interstate bargain that emerges stems from the way national governments define their own interests. The neo-realist is thus committed explicitly to a two-stage view of international regime formation. As Moravcsik puts it, ‘international conflict and cooperation can be modelled as a process that takes place in two successive stages: governments first define a set of interests, then bargain among themselves in an effort to realize those interests’.9 This does not imply that the preferences of governments remain static during the course of negotiation, since during negotiation participants can learn more about one another and the possibilities for cooperative solutions. It does imply, however, that the test of negotiated bargains is to be found in conformity with the range of acceptable solutions that domestic processes of policy formation define. Domestic interest aggregation places limits on the international agreements into which governments can enter.

(p.18) The implication of this approach is that an international body like the EU will remain intact only so long as it can promise advantages to national policy-makers that they cannot obtain in other, less compromising, ways. Indeed, neo-realists claim that, far from undermining the state, the creation of international institutions like the EU can strengthen national executives.10 For example, if it is difficult for governments to maintain their own agricultural industry because the costs of support are high, it may well be to their advantage to enter into international arrangements in which some of these costs are shared by other countries. Similarly, if national executives confront powerful interests in their own society, they may well find it advantageous to pray in aid of the power of an international body like the EU.

At the basis of this account of European integration is the traditional realist assumption that states are an irreducible unit of political organization, the actions of which are shaped by a concept of the national interest. States do not act irrationally, and it would be the height of irrationality from this perspective for states to enter into agreements that led to their own abolition. It follows that there are limits to which we can explain state action by an appeal to uncertainty. Rational action will always guard against those uncertainties most likely to lead to the destruction of the rational agent. It therefore also follows that there are limits to integration, and to the transfer of political authority that such integration eventually requires. Authority is lent, not transferred, by the nation state, and there are some sectors of policy, especially the high politics of defence and foreign policy, where the writ of integration will never run.

It seems, then, as though for every plausible neo-functionalist proposition there is an equally plausible neo-realist counter-proposition. If neo-functionalists stress the logic of policy, and eventually political, spillover, neo-realists echo Hoffmann's assertion of the ‘logic of diversity’ and the limits of functional integration.11 If neo-functionalists stress the extent of unintended consequences, neo-realists point to policy outcomes that embody the power and preferences of the member states. If neo-functionalists stress the extent to which authority has been transferred, neo-realists explain the extent to which it would have been rational to have delegated it. If neo-functionalists identify the internationalization of civil society, neo-realists stress the continued importance of domestic political forums. And so on. For those who are not partisans of either side, the controversy is often more notable for its intensity than for its illumination. Yet it is not without point. We miss something about the logic of any policy sector if we do not relate it to broader questions about European integration. We may agree that there are international rules, institutions, and patterns of authority, but may not properly understand their working until we also see their relation to larger processes. However, for a number of reasons, this is not to say that we can simply take sides in the dispute between neo-functionalists and neo-realists.

Firstly, the two sides of the debate, though they are set up as rival claims about the character of the process of European integration, are not cast as hypotheses that can easily be tested by reference to available empirical evidence. One reason (p.19) for this is that some of the notions that are central to the claims of each cannot be operationalized in any straightforward way. Consider, for example, the question about the extent to which authority has been transferred from the nation state to the European Union. We can certainly observe the European Union making decisions, some of which appear to be imposed against the will of member states, most obviously through the qualified majority voting procedure. But is this really a straightforward transfer of decision-making authority? States may be prepared to trade losses in one area for gains in another. States may be playing ‘nested games’, where the position that they take in the EU is embedded in a context in which they know that they will get something else that they want.12 And in any case, the claim that has to be decisive between neo-functionalists and neo-realists is that authority is not only transferred but is transferred in some fundamental way. However, the extent to which the transfer is fundamental is not a simple matter of empirical observation.

Another reason why the debate cannot be regarded as amenable to straightforward empirical test is that some of the claims of each side are themselves modified or reinterpreted during the course of the debate, even when they might appear to be core propositions. Consider, for example, the question of whether technical spillover automatically leads to political spillover. Critics of neo-functionalism often assume that this is one of the claims that they are contesting, and they highlight the deterministic assumptions that appear to be built into this way of reasoning. However, the reply this elicits from neo-functionalists is that determinism or auto-maticity was never built into their assumptions, and that politicization of issues was always expected.13

The dilemmas associated with comparative evaluation are compounded by the fact that much of the argument turns not on whether a certain process is at work, but on the extent to which it is at work. Thus, neo-realists like Moravcsik can concede that there are unintended effects in EU policy decisions, but claim that they are important only at the margins.14 In other words, the issue between the two camps is often one of degree. Moreover, in so far as neo-realists make claims about the likelihood of intergovernmental bargains collapsing in hard times, as the regime of international free trade collapsed in the 1930s, they are implicitly appealing to a subjunctive conditional statement (what would happen if … ?) of which we have no experience.

However, there is another more important reason why the theories cannot be evaluated simply as rivals. Both can be regarded as extrapolations from historical aspects of the process of European integration. In that sense, they may be complementary, at least in certain respects. Neo-functionalism owes much to the historical influence of the Monnet method of integration, the original basis upon which the Union was founded; neo-realism owes much to the intergovernmental processes that have proved significant at certain junctures of the Union's history. If we see the competing theories as attempts to characterize the whole integration process in terms of specific historical and institutional features, we can see how both (p.20) neo-functionalism and neo-realism can with some plausibility claim to offer an account of that process.

As is well known, Monnet's own view was that European integration required a piecemeal, pragmatic approach, rather than the implementation of a previously conceived grand design, and it was this belief that lay behind the stress on putting technical issues first. In his own memoirs, he stressed that the starting-point for European integration had to be limited achievements, leading to de facto ‘solidarity’ from which a federation would grow. This notion of ‘solidarity’ appeared, for Monnet, to be defined in terms of the existence of common interests, created for example in the ‘pooling’ of coal and steel resources. He wrote that the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) provided for a breach in national sovereignty that was ‘narrow enough to secure consent, but deep enough to open the way towards the unity that is essential to peace’.15 On this view, European integration had to be achieved by small, incremental steps in policy sectors where issues of national sovereignty were not likely to be raised, rather than in the high politics of defence and foreign policy.16 Indeed, this was the main feature of Monnet's method that marked it out from contemporaneous attempts at European federalism.

The Monnet approach also depended on the idea of issue linkage. In other words, integration not only focused on technical matters, but also involved an issue dynamic drawing broader considerations into the decision-making process, perhaps without anyone ever seeing that they are involved. Just as Monnet himself stressed the potential for industry and agriculture to provide the basis for the common interests that the pooling of sovereignty in certain spheres would enable, so he saw, even in specific areas of policy, the solution to specific problems as raising general concerns, most notably the need for better communications if prosperity was to be achieved. It is this aspect of Monnet's thought that provides the foundation for neo-functionalism.

Moreover, unification by stealth led to government by appointed officials chosen for their technical competence rather than for their political representativeness. Both Monnet and Hallstein stressed the importance of making the High Authority of the ECSC independent of elected representatives in contrast to those, like Dirk Spierenburg, who wished for greater political control.17 European integration also followed the Monnet method in that it can be seen as an open-ended process, not the implementation of a constitutional blueprint. The bicycle metaphor is the one that is frequently used in this context: European unification is like riding a bicycle—you need to keep going forward in order not to fall off. The Monnet method thus rests upon the steady accumulation of powers at the supranational level, and not on a once-and-for-all constitutional bargain among contracting parties.

Putting these points together, we can see that there is a sense in which neo-functionalism will have to be an element in the characterization of the integration process, since it captures some of the assumptions that were programmed into that process by one of its leading designers. The Monnet method was never implemented in a pure form, however. In the negotiations setting up the ECSC, it was the smaller (p.21) nations that insisted on the injection of political control through a council of ministers. Since the pattern adopted for the ECSC was to form the basis of the institutional arrangements of the EU, the division of decision-making authority between the Commission and the Council of Ministers that derived from this original institutional bargain meant that the structure of European governance was superimposed on the political institutions of the member states. At various other stages, including de Gaulle's insistence that the process of functional integration be limited by the reassertion of the authority of the nation states in 1965 and the decision to move away from the Luxembourg compromise to the system of qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers in the Single European Act, the conscious decisions of member states have been crucial.

It is this aspect of the process that lends credence to intergovernmentalist claims that the European Union does not transcend the interests of member states, but merely provides them with a convenient institutional vehicle for achieving their own purposes. Moreover, to the extent to which theories of integration look at achievements, rather than aspirations, the persisting role of national interests cannot be ignored in any theoretical construction.

For these reasons, instead of regarding neo-functionalism and neo-realism as well formed empirical theories to be tested against the evidence, we prefer to see them as general conceptual maps, against which we can plot our course. They alert us to potentially important features of the landscape and pose important questions of navigation. Neither form of cartography is likely to prove definitive, however, although we shall try to identify points at which their rival claims can be assessed or evaluated.

Partly in view of the apparently interminable nature of the debate between neo-functionalists and neo-realists, some scholars have accepted that there are lessons to be learnt from both perspectives. Both Pollack and Pier son, for example, seek to offer a theory of European integration by taking on board certain neo-functionalist assumptions and adapting intergovernmentalism accordingly.18 Stone Sweet and Sandholtz seek to construct what they claim is a theory to rival Moravcsik's liberal intergovernmentalism, which they see as little more than a theory of intergovernmental bargaining.19 Their theory of supranational governance rests on an explanation of the transition from national to intergovernmental to supranational governance, which they argue derives from a social demand for European rules. In this account, rule creation provokes a process of institutionalization which facilitates and promotes further integration in a manner reminiscent of the spillover dynamic, and this is able to account for variation in integration between different issue areas. Stone Sweet and Sandholtz thus seem able to suggest an underlying dynamic for primary rule creation, an explanation that would complement, rather than undermine, neo-realist accounts of intergovernmental bargains which focus on different sorts of decision.

Other scholars, however, have sought to go beyond a synthesis of the approaches from International Relations to advocate different approaches, especially those drawn (p.22) from the literature on Comparative Politics.20 One important move here is to distinguish the domain of different sorts of theories, a move that has been made, among others, by John Peterson.21 Peterson distinguishes the ‘super-systemic’ level of European politics, where decisions are made about major changes to the structure of European institutions from the systemic and sub-systemic levels where priority-setting decisions are made about alternative courses of action or numerous ‘technical’ decisions are made about the setting of standards. His claim is that, whereas theories of European integration drawn from International Relations may be appropriately applied at the super-systemic level, other sorts of theories, drawn from Comparative Politics, and in particular from the literature on comparative public policy, are more appropriately applied at the other levels.

Distinguishing the domain of theories in this way would seem to map well on to the distinction that we have made between primary and secondary rule creation in the field of environmental policy. If we consider secondary rule creation, then we are confronted by the following sorts of question: How is the emergence of environmental policy to be explained? What relationship does it have to the issues raised by the single market? How are the rules institutionalized, and why do they take the form that they do? How important are issue-driven features of the European environmental policy process by comparison with the policy preferences of national policy-makers acting at the European level?

These questions are essentially about the rules (in the broadest sense) under which decisions are taken, and it looks as though any explanation will have to make essential reference either to functional linkages or to convergent national preferences, or to some mixture of the two. Yet theories drawn from the literature of International Relations may be less suitable to understanding the processes of primary rule creation that are so important in shaping the decisions that are made in particular policy areas. Taking decisions under a set of rules is typically different from taking decisions about a set of rules, even when the cumulative effects of primary rule creation can lead to a change in the overall structure of the secondary rules. Primary rule-making is typically a more routine process than secondary rulemaking, involving different actors and procedures in circumstances where the issues are relatively well defined, even if they are difficult to solve. Hence it may well be that highly general theories of EU integration are less well adapted to understanding how decisions are made in particular cases of problem-solving.

The theoretical framework in terms of which scholars are seeking to understand the functioning of primary rule creation in this sense draws upon institutionalist theories of politics.22 Institutionalism itself is not so much a well defined body of propositions as a general approach that draws attention to certain important features of the decision-making process.23 In particular, we suggest, it sees governance as resting on the interaction of four elements: rules that allocate decision-making competence to different bodies; conventions that govern the interpretation of these rules in cases of doubt or in circumstances in which the rules are silent; norms that constrain and define the range of acceptable preferences on the part of actors; (p.23) and practices that summarize behavioural regularities, to which normative expectations become attached, most notably in connection with the functional representation of interests in policy networks. Taking this framework of secondary rules as given, neo-institutionalists then seek to explain policy outputs in terms of the preferences of actors within the system who are seeking to achieve their ends within that framework.

It will be helpful to provide some illustrations. Theorists of the policy process within the literature of Comparative Politics claim that ‘institutions matter’. As Weaver and Rockman parse this claim, it amounts to the proposition

that political institutions shape the processes through which decisions are made and implemented and that these in turn influence government capabilities. Features such as the extent to which decision-making is centralized, the degree to which decisions are subject to multiple vetoes, and the extent to which elites are stable and share common values and objectives may affect specific capabilities.24

In other words, the institutionalist says that we should forget about the political status of the EU as an international organization—that is, whether it is basically an intergovernmental or a supranational body—and treat it simply as a decision-making system. As such, it will share certain features with any other decision-making system. For example, if there are multiple points of veto, we should expect it to be difficult to change existing policies, and we might anticipate special interests to be disproportionately advantaged. Thus, just as presidential political systems, viewed in a comparative context, are slower to develop certain policy strategies than parliamentary systems, so the EU might be expected to display certain patterns of decision-making given its institutional arrangements.25 Any such general tendency of a decision-making system, therefore, we might expect to find replicated in the case of the EU.

To this general approach it is possible to add one further element. This is the claim that policy is made under conditions of bounded rationality.26 Institutions perform a number of functions, but one aspect of their working is particularly important, namely the extent to which they help decision-makers economize on information.27 Since human beings are always only boundedly rational, they need to be able to rely on existing worked out rules in order to make decisions. Thus, policy-makers take as their starting-point existing accomplishments and activities. Within the framework of the EU, this assumption is in fact formally institutionalized in the notion of the acquis communautaire, that body of practice and principles that has already been decided upon and agreed to. In this sense, policy-making and development with the EU is always likely to be ‘path-dependent’: it will always be a development of what has gone before.

How might such an institutionalist approach fare in relation to neo-functionalism and neo-realism? That institutions matter is an assertion that has been made time and time again in the literature on the European integration process. It is made by intergovernmentalists, who emphasize the centrality of national governments (p.24) in the integration process and who tend to focus on the EU as a coordinating mechanism between governments; but it has also been made by neo-functionalists, who are more likely to place emphasis on the role of the central European institutions as engines of the integration process.

In this context, Cram usefully distinguishes between three models applicable to the European institutions.28 First, the European institutions may be considered as passive structures, ‘providing … norms, values and procedures, alterable only with unanimous consent’. As she points out, this ‘is quite consistent with the inter-governmentalist perspective, which focuses predominantly on the structural leadership exerted by national governments in international negotiations’.29 In this model, the European institutions have no independent existence. They are little more than governmental tools, used to improve the efficiency of intergovernmental relations, disseminate policy ideas or information, and monitor cooperation. They provide a framework within which international or regional agreements may be negotiated.

The second model envisages the European institutions as playing a more active role: European institutions are not only responsive to national preferences, but also have a role to play in shaping shared beliefs and values and in coordinating expectations.30 Indeed, with such an approach, institutions are able to influence goals and stimulate policy changes. From this perspective, European institutions would not only act as the framework within which national preferences are played out, but would contribute to the construction of that framework and those preferences. In so doing, they define for national actors the limits of acceptable and unacceptable intergovernmental practice.

The third model enhances even further the role of the European institutions. Here such institutions are seen as independent and purposive actors within the European policy process. In this model institutions are policy actors in their own right, able to develop their own agendas, strategies, and goals and able to alter European policy in a much more direct fashion than is allowed for by the two earlier models. The extent to which one allows for the autonomy of European institutions and their capacity for policy influence depends on normative assumptions about the nature of the European Union and the integration process. But there is also a clearly empirical question to be addressed, as Cram notes:

The most interesting debate on the significance of EU institutions is not … whether they have a role to play. Rather, the interesting question is whether the role played by EU institutions is simply that ascribed to them by the national governments of the EU member state, and strictly limited by these member states, or whether the EU institutions have developed a role for themselves which extends beyond that delegated to them by the member states.31

According to this argument, both neo-functionalists and neo-realists can accept the claim of those writers who stress the contribution of Comparative Politics analysis that institutions matter, but they interpret its significance in different ways. Ultimately, the only way in which we can assess which approach or, better, which (p.25) combination of approaches, provides the more accurate map is by examining the processes that have historically been at work, which is what we seek to do in the case of environmental policy.

Plan of Part I

In this first part of this book, we pursue the analysis of EU environmental policy in the light of these general issues. We begin by being interested in the relationship between the single market and environment policy as a way of seeing the extent to which there is issue linkage and spillover at work. As we shall see, in setting out the issues arising from the creation of environmental standards, broader questions about the political legitimacy of the European integration process are raised. In exploring the issue dynamic underpinning the European environmental agenda, national differences and the potential for both conflict and accommodation are identified. Yet, without accepting fully the existence of any neo-functionalist logic, issue linkage and spillover can be seen as ways of accounting for the emergence of European environmental rule creation, even though a political decision was needed to sanction the development.

The problems posed by the creation of the single market naturally lead on to a consideration of the policies that have been developed to deal with environmental problems. However, we must look not simply at the evolution of a set of policies, but also the legitimating discourse that underpins and justifies policy. As a result, we are interested in the extent to which the European institutions have succeeded in encapsulating a set of distinct environmental policy principles. One way, though certainly not the only way, of examining those principles is through analysis of the publicly available policy frameworks issued by the Commission in successive action programmes. These frameworks not only reflect the priorities in the Treaty and in its revisions, they also anticipate and influence constitutional change on the environment front. For our purposes, they act as windows on to the principles that underpin European environment policy.

Secondary rule creation takes the form of the institutionalization of environmental policy-making, and in this context the analysis of the principal institutional actors is also important. Not only do institutions serve as arenas in which political, economic and societal actors operate, they also actively shape rules, norms, and conventions. Indeed, in some cases institutions even operate as purposive actors in their own right. However, while we might be tempted to define the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Justice as agents of supranationalism, the story to be told about these institutions is in fact far more complex, since these institutions have long been subject to national pressures. For example, the ‘infiltration’ of the Commission by national officials is now well documented.32 Similarly, while the Council of Ministers and the European Council might (p.26) quite easily be categorized as intergovernmental organizations, these institutions have in fact well-established European credentials. If anything, the extension of qualified majority voting applied to environmental legislation helps to blur the edges of intergovernmentalism.

Patterns of governance need also to figure in our account of European environment policy. At the European level, this takes the form of an assessment of the processes by which legislation is passed. It is the European institutions that have formal responsibility for the making of policy, even if we recognize that policy is not made in a supranational vacuum, and that the source of policy rests as much with networks of national, international, regional, and transnational actors as it does with the European institutions. We acknowledge therefore the importance of policy networks and policy communities which cut across traditionally defined levels of analysis. Whereas the multi-level metaphor might suggest an emphasis on government as the source of governance, there is also the horizontal complexity, derived from the separation of powers in the EU's own decision-making procedures as well as the participation of interested parties in EU policy networks.

However, much of the focus of this study still rests on the interaction between levels of governance. We are therefore keen to bring in the national dimension at this point, by highlighting the distinctive role of the Council of Ministers. The member states are the lynchpins or cornerstones of the multi-level relationship, as they remain in the majority of cases (despite increasing powers exercised by the European Parliament) the final arbiters of environmental policy. As such, the Council acts as the most obvious, though clearly not the only, bridge between the European and the national levels. While this does not preclude any of the more direct relationships that are now commonplace, involving for example regional and local authorities, it would be misleading to play down the Council's inescapably preeminent role in European environmental governance.

To anticipate: our conclusions are that the European level matters, but that the extent to which it matters is impossible to judge by looking at solely European institutions, principles, and patterns. What becomes crucial, then, if we are to understand the nature of European environmental governance, is the interaction of the European, national and subnational levels, and the comparative politics and policies of the member states.


(1.) For a good recent summary of these debates, see L. Cram, ‘Integration Theory and the Study of the European Policy Process’, in J. J. Richardson (ed.), European Union: Power and Policy-Making (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 40–58. See also S. George, ‘The European Union: Approaches from International Relations’ in H. Kassim and A. Menon (eds.), The European Union and National Industrial Policy (p.27) (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 11–25. We follow the convention of using the capitalized ‘International Relations’ for the discipline of study and ‘international relations’ for the subject matter, as well as following a similar convention for Comparative Politics.

For the functionalist tradition, see: E. B. Haas, The Uniting of Europe: Political, Social and Economic Forces, 1950–1957 (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1986, 2nd edn); L. N. Lindberg, The Political Dynamics of European Economic Integration (London: Oxford University Press, 1963); D. Mitrany, The Functional Theory of Politics (London: Martin Robertson, 1975); and P. C. Schmitter, ‘Examining the Present Euro-Polity with the Help of Past Theories’, in G. Marks, F. W. Scharpf, P. C Schmitter, and W. Streeck, Governance in the European Union (London: Sage, 1996), pp. 1–14. There is an interesting discussion of the distinctions between Mitrany's and subsequent functionalisms in P. Taylor, Limits of European Integration (London and Canberra: Croom Helm, 1983), ch. 1.

For the intergovernmentalist tradition, see: G. Garrett, ‘International Cooperation and Institutional Choice: The European Community's Internal Market’, International Organization, 46:2 (1992), pp. 533–60; S. Hoffmann, ‘Obstinate or Obsolete? The Fate of the Nation-State and the Case of Western Europe’, Daedalus, 95:3 (1966), pp. 862–916; A. Moravcsik, ‘Negotiating the Single European Act’, in R. O. Keohane and S. Hoffmann (eds.), The New European Community (Boulder, Colo., San Francisco and Oxford: Westview Press, 1991), pp. 41–84; A. Moravcsik, ‘Preferences and Power in the European Community: A Liberal Intergovernmentalist Approach’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 31:4 (1993), pp. 473–524; and Taylor, Limits of European Integration.

An interesting attempt to go beyond the dichotomy is in W. Sandholtz and J. Zysman, ‘1992: Recasting the European Bargain’, World Politics, 42:1 (1989), pp. 95–128.

For a discussion of the applicability of these theories to environmental policy, see A. Jordan, ‘“Overcoming the Divide” between Comparative Politics and International Relations Approaches to the EC: What Role for “Post-Decisional Politics”?’ West European Politics, 20:4 (1997), pp. 43–70, and A. R. Zito, ‘Task Expansion: A Theoretical Overview’, Environment and Planning C, 17:1 (1999), pp. 19–35.

(2.) Schmitter, ‘Examining the Present Euro-Polity with the Help of Past Theories’, p. 5.

(3.) Cram, ‘Integration Theory and the Study of the European Policy Process’, pp. 41–3.

(4.) A point well made in Cram, ‘Integration Theory’, p. 43.

(5.) The phrase of a neo-realist that nicely captures one aspect of the neo-functionalist viewpoint; see Moravcsik, ‘Preferences and Power in the EC’, p. 475.

(6.) See E. J. Kirchner, Decision-Making in the European Community (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1992), p. 25.

(7.) Compare D. R. Cameron, ‘The 1992 Initiative: Causes and Consequences’, in A. M. Sbragia (ed.), Euro-Politics: Institutions and Policymaking in the ‘New’ European Community (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1992), pp. 23–74, and S. Hix, ‘Approaches to the Study of the EC’, West European Politics, 17:1, (1994), p. 4.

(8.) Moravcsik, ‘Preferences and Power in the European Community’, p. 474.

(9.) Ibid. 481.

(10.) See e.g. A. Milward et al., The European Rescue of the Nation State (London: Routledge, 1992).

(11.) Hoffmann, ‘Obstinate or Obsolete?’

(12.) G. Tsebelis, Nested Games (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).

(13.) Schmitter, ‘Examining the Present Euro-Polity’, p. 7.

(p.28) (14.) Moravcsik, ‘Preferences and Power in the European Community’, p. 473.

(15.) J. Monnet, Memoirs, trans. R. Mayne, with forward by Roy Jenkins (London: Collins, 1978), p. 296.

(16.) Compare S. Mazey, ‘The Development of the European Idea: From Sectoral Integration to Political Union’, in J. J. Richardson (ed.), European Union: Power and Policy-Making (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), p. 29.

(17.) F. Laursen, ‘The Role of the Commission’, in S. S. Andersen and K. A. Eliassen (eds.), The European Union: How Democratic Is It? (London: Sage, 1996), pp. 119–41.

(18.) M. Pollack, ‘The New Institutionalism and EC Governance’, Governance, 9:4 (1996), pp. 429–58; P. Pierson, ‘The Path to European Integration: An Historical Institutionalist Account’, Comparative Political Studies, 29:2 (1996), pp. 123–63.

(19.) A. Stone Sweet and W. Sandholtz, ‘European Integration and Supranational Governance’, Journal of European Public Policy, 4:2 (1997), pp. 297–317. See also W. Sandholtz and A. Stone Sweet (eds.), European Integration and Supranational Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

(20.) S. J. Bulmer, ‘The Governance of the European Union: A New Institutionalist Approach’, Journal of Public Policy, 13:4 (1994), pp. 351–80; Hix, ‘Approaches to the Study of the EC’; J. Peterson, ‘Decision-Making in the European Union: Towards a Framework for Analysis’, Journal of European Public Policy, 2:1 (1995), pp. 69–93.

(21.) Peterson, ‘Decision-making in the European Union’.

(22.) Bulmer, ‘The Governance of the European Union’.

(23.) For useful accounts of institutionalism, see: B. Rothstein ‘Political Institutions: An Overview’, in R. E. Goodin and H.-D. Klingemann (eds.), A New Handbook of Political Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 133–66; P. A. Hall and R. C R. Taylor, ‘Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms’, Political Studies, 44:5 (1996), pp. 936–57; J. Kato, ‘Institutional Rationality in Politics: Three Varieties of Neo-Institutionalists’, British Journal of Political Science, 26:4 (1996), pp. 553–82.

(24.) R. K. Weaver and B. A. Rockman, ‘Assessing the Effects of Institutions’, in R. K. Weaver and B. A. Rockman (eds.), Do Institutions Matter? Government Capabilities in the United States and Abroad (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1993), p. 7.

(25.) For this sort of analysis in the general case, see G. Tsebelis, ‘Decision-Making in Political Systems: Veto Players in Presidentialism, Parliamentarianism, Multicameralism and Multipartism’, British Journal of Political Science, 25:3 (1995), pp. 289–325.

(26.) See e.g. H. Simon, Reason in Human Affairs (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983).

(27.) D. C. North, Institutions, Institutional Change and Ecnomic Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), esp. ch. 4.

(28.) L. Cram, Policy-Making in the EU: Conceptual Lenses and the Integration Process (London: Routledge, 1997), 170–3.

(29.) Ibid. 171.

(30.) G. Garrett and B. Weingast, ‘Ideas, Interests and Institutions: Constructing the European Community's Internal Market’, in J. Goldstein and R. Keohane (eds.), Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Institutions and Political Change (London: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 173–206.

(31.) Cram, Policy-Making in the EU, p. 173.

(32.) N. Nugent, The Government and Politics of the European Community (London: Macmillan, 1991, 2nd edn), pp. 65–6.