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Small states inside and outside the EU: Europeanisation and domestic policy concertation in Belgium and Switzerland

Number 36
Project Number IP 4 (Phase I): The impact of internationalization on Swiss policy processes in comparative perspective
Author(s) Marie-Christine Fontana
Current draft July 2009
Abstract The Europeanisation literature assumes that European integration affects domestic policies, politics and polities. However, so far research has concentrated largely on the impact on domestic policies. This paper aims to analyse whether European integration also affects domestic policy making, in particular policy concertation in small European states. In the literature, we find contradicting expectations in this regard - while some scholars argue it will foster it, others assume that concertation will be weakened; and empirical evidence is still scarce. Comparing several policy sectors across two countries - Belgium and Switzerland - this paper finds that European legislation weakens domestic concertation. More precisely, it strengthens domestic executives by offering them justification for reforms; as a consequence, the executives marginalise the role of concertation. The case studies also reveal that there are different forms of weakened concertation, due to sector- and country-specific factors. In sum, this study shows that policy-making processes are not only mediating factors in the Europeanisation process, but are themselves subject to change. At the same time, domestic factors should not be ignored, and the finding that concertation is weakened even in purely domestic cases, indicates a more general transformation of policy concertation, at least in the two countries under scrutiny.
Keywords Europeanisation, policy making, policy concertation, small states, Belgium, Switzerland.
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