An Organisational Approach To European Integration – Outline of a Complementary Perspective.

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Morten Egeberg


Organisational approach to European integration: focuses on individual actors organisational context → to account: behaviour, interests and identities

Intergovernmentalists: usually preclude any profound impact of EU institutions and organisations

Institutionalists: claim that EU institutions are able to shape and reshape individual actors’ preference and sense of belonging (seen from an organisational perspective: institutionalists often fail to specify (and theorise) the organisational components that institutions may contain.

This article: tries to illustrate what an organisational approach has to offer in fields like committee governance and Commission decision making.

The need for a complementary perspective:

○ The intergovernmental argument (Moravscik) has been applied more generally on European integration for a long time. From this perspective: policy-making at the European level is, in general, dominated by national governments whose interests and preferences are shaped and reshaped at the national level. Institutions like the Commission and the Court are managing cooperation among states by reducing transaction costs. Conflicts and cleavages at the European level are organised along (national) territorial lines.

→ this view has been challenged and criticized by many scholars. According to this critics: institutions at the European level might play a much more significant role in the policy process and they may be able to furnish participants with interests, preferences and identities and even recast those already acquired at the national level.

From an institutionalist perspective: implementation of EU legislation is not only a question of will and incentives, but is seen as highly contingent upon national administrative traditions (Knill; Sverdrup)

Organisational perspective: the extent to which institutions might impinge profoundly on people’s pre-established mind-sets and loyalties has to depend on how these institutions are organized.

1st: settings with modest demands on decision-makers’ attention (for example: Commission or Council groups) can’t be expected to have the same impact as institutions to which individuals devote most of their energy (for example: national ministries or Commission directorates)

2nd: Institutions at the EU level can be organised in ways that sustain and underpin rather than deeply challenge already acquired identities

3rd: somewhat paradoxically, such “non-socialisation” within EU institutions might be interpreted as highly conducive to further European integration and transformation of the existing political order. In the same vein, from an organisational angle, it is quite possible that individual resocialisation at the EU level may contribute to system preservation

organisational approach: provides a yardstick for measuring system transformation in a relatively consistent way across systems of governance and it offers an account of individual preference and identity formation and change. Organisational perspective focuses more on generic features of organisation

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Organisational key variables:

Organisational structure

Normative structure: rules and roles specifying → who are expected to do what and how. Defines interests and goals that are pursued. Decision-makers: aren’t be able to attend everything at the same time and to consider all possible alternatives and their consequences → the structure can therefore never be neutral, it always represents a mobilisation of bias in preparation for action.

What reasons then do we have to expect that people will comply with organisational norms from the moment they enter an organization?

1st: they may feel a moral obligation to do ...

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