The Commission as a Network Orchestrator in EU Multi-Level Governance? The Case of the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL)
TARN Working Paper Series 6/2017, April 2017
21 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2017
Date Written: April 25, 2017
The EU’s transgovernmental networks are often treated as second or even third best solutions to solve regulatory problems in the European Union, as compared to other regulatory bodies, such as EU decentralised agencies. This paper counter-argues that networks may be preferable options for the EU Commission in policies which require coordination, street-level expertise and high operational capacities in order to be implemented. In particular, the paper argues that the Commission is capable of orchestrating national regulators in the pursuit of EU goals through the formation informal networks of regulators, by creating organisational bonds with networks’ participants and, especially, by steering the political agenda of the network in the Commission’s preferred direction. This argument is supported by an in depth case study about the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL), a network of national environmental authorities formally independent from EU institutions, but increasingly active in the coordination of the implementation of EU environmental policies. Through semi-structured interviews and document analysis the study investigates the historical development of the IMPEL network by focusing on the changing relationships between the network and the European Commission. Findings provide empirical evidence of how IMPEL progressively gained formal autonomy from its supranational counterpart on the one hand, and increasingly pursued broader and broader EU goals on the other. The European Commission emerges as an actual orchestrator which has managed to maintain its economic and political control over the network in spite of their formal separation. Under the Commission’s guidance, member states’ environmental authorities have increasingly engaged in IMPEL initiatives by pooling their resources and expertise in the pursuit of EU goals. In this context, IMPEL is recognised as an important added value to the implementation of EU environmental policy.
Keywords: Agencification, environmental policy, EU Commission, multi-level governance, networks, orchestration
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