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The European Commission in the Post-Lisbon Era of Crises

Between Political Leadership and Policy Management

Series:

Michele Chang and Jörg Monar

The European Commission has alternatively been portrayed as an all-powerful institution controlling far too many resources versus a bureaucracy that operates at the behest of Member States. In recent years the EU has been beset by major challenges coming from the inside (the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty) and the outside (the global financial crisis). How has the Commission responded to these events? Has the Commission changed substantially in terms of its institutional structure or the functions it performs? To what extent was the Commission actively promoting such changes versus accepting initiatives emanating from the Member States?
This edited volume seeks to answer these questions by examining this institution and how it has performed in several major policy areas in which the Commission traditionally has been both very active and others in which its influence has been more limited. This comparative study examines the impact that the changes brought about this past decade has had on the Commission.

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Introduction (Michele CHANG)

Extract

17 Introduction Michele CHANG In 2007 the European Union celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. The decade had started on an optimistic note as the EU embarked on significant institutional changes that would give it more coherence and launched a currency that had the potential to become the dominant international currency and threaten the supremacy of the American dollar. The EU had progressed well beyond an international organisation, and this was reflected in its policies and in its institutional structure. Indeed, one of the major innovations of the EU as an institu- tion is the presence of strong supranational institutions like the Europe- an Commission, which serves as its executive body. The political and institutional evolution of the EU culminated in the 2001 Laeken Declaration that aimed at creating a constitutional treaty for the EU. In 2005 the ratification process failed when voters in France and the Netherlands rejected it in referenda. The EU backed off of the lofty (and controversial) use of the word “constitution”, replacing it with the Lisbon Treaty. This, too, encountered difficulties during the ratifica- tion process as Irish voters rejected the treaty in 2008, forcing a second (successful) referendum a year later. Finally the Treaty of Lisbon en- tered into force on 1 December 2009, but the enthusiasm for further integration had clearly waned. The Commission found it increasingly difficult to play a leadership role in an environment that seemed to prefer national solutions over supranational ones as voters expressed their scepticism....

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