Research event

United in diversity? European regulation between uniformity and differentiation

A presentation by Jonathan Zeitlin (University of Amsterdam). This is a joint event of the European Governance colloquium and the Management Research colloquium on Innovation in the Public Sphere.

A key challenge facing the European Union concerns the tension between functional pressures for uniform rules and standards in integrated markets on the one hand and diversity across member states in policy preferences, institutional structures, and socio-economic conditions on the other. This tension has given rise to growing calls for differentiated forms of integration, in which some member states push ahead while others opt out. The underlying assumption is that deeper integration of markets and societies requires uniform rules, which some member states may be politically unwilling or unable to accept, at least initially. Yet a growing body of research has shown that in many core policy domains, EU governance is characterized not by top-down imposition of rigid, uniform regulation, but rather by an experimentalist architecture of framework rulemaking and revision, based on learning from comparative review of implementation experience in different local contexts. 

Such experimentalist governance architectures arguably have a number of fundamental advantages, relative both to conventional uniform regulation and to differentiated integration. First, they accommodate diversity by adapting common goals and rules to varied local contexts, rather than seeking to impose one-size-fits-all solutions or dividing member states into separate groups of ins and outs. Second, they provide a dynamic mechanism for coordinated learning from local experimentation through disciplined comparison of different approaches to advancing the same general ends, which can be used to generate new policy solutions and regulatory frameworks that may then be applied in contextually specific ways across the Union as a whole. Third, because both the goals themselves and the means for achieving them are explicitly conceived as provisional and subject to revision in light of experience, problems identified in one phase of implementation can be corrected in the next iteration. Drawing on a recently inaugurated Horizon 2020 project (InDivEU), this talk will explore how far and under what conditions experimentalist governance may be an effective and legitimate means of responding to diversity among EU member states, in comparison both to conventional uniform regulation and to differentiated integration. Sectoral cases to be discussed will include regulation of energy, finance, and agricultural biotechnology (GMOs).

Jonathan Zeitlin is Distinguished Faculty Professor of Public Policy and Governance in the Political Science Department at the University of Amsterdam, and Academic Director of the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (ACES). His current research focuses on new forms of experimentalist governance within and beyond the European Union, with particular emphasis on market regulation, environmental protection, and social policy. He has (co)authored or edited 16 books and more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. Recent publications include: “Experimentalism in Transnational Forest Governance: Implementing European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreements in Indonesia and Ghana” (with Christine Overdevest), Regulation & Governance (2018); “EU Socioeconomic Governance since the Crisis: The European Semester in Theory and Practice” (with Amy Verdun), special issue of the Journal of European Public Policy (2018); “EU Experimentalist Governance in Times of Crisis”, West European Politics (2016); Extending Experimentalist Governance? The European Union and Transnational Regulation (Oxford University Press, 2015); Assessing the Open Method of Coordination: Institutional Design and National Influence of EU Social Policy Coordination (with Egidijus Barcevičius and J. Timo Weishaupt), Palgrave Macmillan, 2014; and “Experimentalist Governance” (with Charles Sabel), in David Levi-Faur (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Governance, (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Lunch will be served.

We are very much looking forward to seeing many of you!