Governing Europe

How to Make the EU More Efficient and Democratic

by Lorenzo Vai (Volume editor) Pier Domenico Tortola (Volume editor) Nicoletta Pirozzi (Volume editor)
©2017 Edited Collection 250 Pages
Series: Federalism, Volume 8


This book is a collection of the contributions to the Governing Europe project, which tackles the current situation and the future developments of the European mechanism of governance, putting forward a series of policy and institutional recommendations for the medium and long term, aimed at improving the democratic nature and the effectiveness of the European decision-making processes.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Acronyms
  • Preface (Gianni Bonvicini and Flavio Brugnoli)
  • What Government for the European Union? Five Themes for Reflection and Action (Pier Domenico Tortola and Lorenzo Vai)
  • The New EU Governance. New Intergovernmentalism, New Supranationalism, and New Parliamentarism (Vivien A. Schmidt)
  • Spitzenkandidaten 2.0. Initial Deficits and Prospects for 2019 (Johannes Müller Gómez and Wolfgang Wessels)
  • Democracy and Legitimacy in the EU. Challenges and Options (John Erik Fossum)
  • Toward European Electoral and Party Systems (Enrico Calossi)
  • Multi-Speed EU? An Institutional and Legal Assessment (Giuseppe Martinico)
  • Goodbye to Yesterday? Considerations on Consequences of a Brexit in Light of Scenarios of Differentiated (Dis)integration (Funda Tekin)
  • How to Pursue a More Efficient and Legitimate European Economic Governance (Gian Luigi Tosato)
  • Federalising the Eurozone. Towards a True European Budget? (Eulalia Rubio)
  • How Will I Function When I Grow Up? The Effectiveness of EU Foreign Policy Governance Stuck in a Teleological Dilemma (Lorenzo Vai)
  • Global and Operational. A New Strategy for EU Foreign and Security Policy (Sven Biscop)
  • Negotiating the European Union’s Dilemmas. Proposals on Governing Europe (Nicoletta Pirozzi and Pier Domenico Tortola)
  • Editors
  • Authors
  • Series index

← 8 | 9 →

List of Acronyms

← 10 | 11 →



Executive Vice President of the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)


Director of the Centro Studi sul Federalismo (CSF)

In the debates on the European Union (EU)’s institutional architecture we often focus on “governance” and we refrain from plainly talking of “government”. But the European agenda shows that the key question we are facing is: where does the EU “government” lie? In June 2016 the (unexpected) decision of the British people to leave the 28-Member bloc also contributed to raising the issue again of whom should take the lead for negotiating the United Kingdom’s exit from the Treaty framework. In fact, even when our study on the EU governing system began, back in November 2014, the institutional architecture of the EU and the different decision-making procedures regulating European policies were already posing several questions as to the existence of a “government” for the Union and of the nature of such government.

In the last few years, following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty (2009) and the successive important changes in the European institutional structure and balances, the topic has arisen repeatedly in the political and academic debate.

These changes have primarily affected the intergovernmental institutions – the European Council (EC) and the Council of the EU – that have assumed a pivotal role in responding: first, to financial emergencies, managing the economic crisis and defining the present system of economic governance, especially in the Euro area; second, to the political and diplomatic challenges posed by the Russian takeover of Crimea and the following combat in Eastern Ukraine; third, to the chaotic management of the refugee influx to Europe; and finally, to the challenge of the UK’s choice for Brexit.

Supranational institutions too, however, have been at the centre of important transformations both in the light of the Lisbon Treaty and due to ← 11 | 12 → the abovementioned crisis. The Commission – having stronger democratic legitimacy (thanks to the Spitzenkandidaten procedure) and new powers of scrutiny (especially in macroeconomic surveillance, in order to protect the Eurozone’s stability) – seemed determined to stress its political nature and revamp its role of initiative and of guardian of the Treaty. The European Parliament (EP) was inclined to fully perform its legislative functions, assuming at the same time the role of “institutional innovator” in an attempt to begin real parliamentarisation of many EU policy fields. The European Central Bank (ECB), for its part, did play an essential role in managing (“whatever it takes”) the Eurozone crisis.

In reality, this double set of institutional systems has not performed properly or with the necessary balance between them. A clear tendency towards the intergovernmental option and the subsequent rupture of the institutional equilibrium made the issue of who-decides-what in the EU even more pressing and challenging.

In light of the aforementioned events and transformations, the Centro Studi sul Federalismo (Center for Studies on Federalism, of Turin) and the Istituto Affari Internazionali (Institute of International Affairs, of Rome), launched an ambitious research project on the government of the EU and its future developments.

The research, that has lasted over a year and has involved the participation of some of the best European experts in the field of European politics and institutions, includes ten papers with the task of analysing current European forms and mechanisms of governance, the relations between the various EU institutions, the main problems that have emerged in recent years, and the direction of ongoing changes. At the same time, the ten sectoral chapters have tried to propose a prescriptive part, composed of a series of policy and institutional recommendations for the medium and long term, aimed primarily at improving the democratic nature and the effectiveness of the European decision-making processes. Proposals have been formulated in the framework of existing Treaty provisions, but also imagining a medium-term possible revision of the Treaties.

In order to address the many aspects of the EU’s present and future government, the ten chapters have been divided into five research areas:

Supranationalism and intergovernmentalism

The EU system of governance presents both supranational and intergovernmental features. The latter appear primary in areas such as political economy and foreign and defence policy, in which Member States (MSs) continue to keep strong prerogatives. While the supranational/intergovernmental dichotomy is still useful for a general understanding of ← 12 | 13 → the EU, in some cases and policy areas the dichotomy may no longer be sufficient to capture political and institutional dynamics within the Union. To what extent are these concepts still useful to understand the current European model of governance? Can the latest institutional transformations be classified under either label? What combination of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism can and should the EU adopt for the future? To answer these questions, two papers (as for each research area) have been produced: “The New EU Governance. New Intergovernmentalism, New Supranationalism, and New Parliamentarism” (Vivien Schmidt) and “The Spitzenkandidaten Procedure. Reflecting on the Future of an Electoral Experiment” (Johannes Müller Gómez & Wolfgang Wessels).

Representation and Democracy

The democratic nature of EU decision-making processes has been the subject of reflection and criticism for a long time. The work of the European institutions is often accused of a lack of transparency and accountability, and more generally deficiencies in its representativeness. The European Parliament – the only institution directly elected by European citizens – is not yet fully involved in all the legislative processes, has no formal power of legislative proposal, and has only a weak scrutiny function in some relevant policy areas. In many cases, decision-making procedures in the EU are such that MS Representatives have a primary role, adopting proposals unanimously, thus excluding one of the fundamental rules of the democratic game, i.e. majority voting. Other actors are involved in relation to the themes of political representation and democratic control: national parliaments and European parties, both mentioned in the Lisbon Treaty as, respectively, expression of the Europeans’ will and first watchdogs of national government activity at the EU level. Therefore the basic questions are the following: What are the main problems regarding political representation and democratic control in the EU’s decision-making? Have we recently witnessed a “parliamentarisation” or a “deparliamentarisation” of the decision-making processes both at the national and the European level? What role should European parties play in the future European government? What scrutiny powers should national parliaments be assigned with respect to European legislative activity? Did the application of the subsidiarity principle help to reduce the EU democratic deficit? Should the EU’s democratic legitimacy be direct or indirect? What will the consequences of a wider presence of Eurosceptic Members of Parliament (MEPs) in the EP be? The papers that have addressed these questions are: “Democracy and Legitimacy in the EU: Challenges and Options” (John Erik Fossum) and “Towards a European Electoral and Party System?” (Enrico Calossi). ← 13 | 14 →


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (January)
European Union integration economy Politics Governance Government Supranationalism
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2017. 250 pp., 6 fig., 6 tables

Biographical notes

Lorenzo Vai (Volume editor) Pier Domenico Tortola (Volume editor) Nicoletta Pirozzi (Volume editor)

Lorenzo Vai is researcher at the Centro Studi sul Federalismo (CSF) in Turin and the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in Rome, and adjunct lecturer at the University of Turin. Pier Domenico Tortola is currently research fellow at the University of Milan and the director of EuVisions. He was researcher at the Centro Studi sul Federalismo (CSF) from November 2013 to March 2015. Nicoletta Pirozzi is senior fellow in the European Affairs area and Institutional Relations Coordinator at the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and adjunct professor at the "Roma Tre" University in Rome.


Title: Governing Europe
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252 pages