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The Centripetal Theory of Governance: A Borderless Union

Many art­icles have been writ­ten from dif­fer­ent sources on the European crisis and its ori­gins, but most of them base their argu­ments on per­sonal stand­points derived from fin­an­cial news and offi­cials’ speeches. That is exactly what I have been doing for the last few months. What we see is two dis­tant author­it­ies’ com­ments on the same topic, European crisis, with dif­fer­ent resources and basis. These two author­it­ies, aca­demia and the ‘real’ world, do not seem to be linked to each other on the mat­ter, but of course, this is not the case. For instance, there is much that aca­demia can con­trib­ute to the under­stand­ing of the ori­gins of the European eco­nomic crisis. It seems unlikely that one would find a com­pre­hens­ive art­icle that brings the two sides together on the ground, but it is pos­sible non­ethe­less. My inten­tion, of course, is not to take this respons­ib­il­ity; but rather to con­trib­ute to the research of the miss­ing pieces of the puzzle by high­light­ing the com­mon points that link the two sides.

I star­ted to think about the reflec­tion of the European crisis in the aca­demic world right after I came across the influ­en­tial book of George Tse­belis, Veto Players: How political institutions work?[1]. Even though the book cov­ers a wide range of top­ics, it  under­scores the key points of each one of them. In chapter eight, the author explains mac­roe­co­nomic out­comes by touch­ing upon the rela­tion­ship between debts, defi­cits and num­ber of veto play­ers[2]. Indeed, accord­ing to the author’s the­ory, “more veto play­ers will lead to more iner­tia, and there­fore coun­tries with high levels of debt (Italy) will con­tinue to have high defi­cits while coun­tries with low level of debt (Switzer­land) will con­tinue to have low levels of defi­cit”[3]. There­fore, hav­ing more play­ers who have a say in decision-making pro­cess will lead to a dif­fi­culty in legis­la­tion and this will res­ult in ‘policy iner­tia’. This should hold true regard­less of where it is applied.

The second point that I would like to draw atten­tion to is the struc­ture of the EU, which has been criticized for being the primary cause of the European eco­nomic crisis. A strong tend­ency towards rethink­ing this struc­ture by emphas­iz­ing its inflex­ib­il­ity has emerged. For instance, the Euro­zone could be blamed first for restrict­ing its members.

First of all, abol­ish­ing the mon­et­ary union and allow­ing the mem­ber states to act much more freely might be against the nature of the EU. The dir­ec­tion of integ­ra­tion should be from a decent­ral­ized sys­tem to a cent­ral­ized one, for there exis­ted some attempts towards European fed­er­al­ism dur­ing the first pro­cess of European integ­ra­tion[4]. Doubts not­with­stand­ing, the EU, as a nas­cent fed­eral state[5] is thought to pre­serve its cent­ral author­ity in order to hold mem­ber states together. Accord­ing to McKay, the EU has set a suc­cess­ful example of “trans­form­a­tion from an inter­na­tional organ­iz­a­tion to a fed­eral like state”[6]. Since the sep­ar­ated power sys­tem fosters  struggle between main act­ors, pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion is more likely to be effect­ive in cent­ri­petal organ­iz­a­tions. In com­par­at­ive fed­er­al­ism ana­lysis, unit­ary and cent­ri­petal con­sti­tu­tions show more sound struc­tures in resolv­ing coordin­a­tion prob­lems than fed­eral and separatist con­sti­tu­tions. Besides, cent­ri­petal organ­iz­a­tions help to medi­ate con­flicts, elim­in­ate rivalry atti­tudes and foster cooper­a­tion. On the other hand, decent­ral­ized organ­iz­a­tions are likely to exper­i­ence cor­rup­tion and coordin­a­tion prob­lems. This is reflec­ted, for instance, by the fiscal prob­lems in the EU due to a lack of fiscal coordin­a­tion among the mem­bers of the Eurozone.

Though the com­par­at­ive study of fed­er­al­ism can­not fully enlighten one as to how the  EU’s struc­tural prob­lems lead to mul­ti­far­i­ous crisis within the union, it can provide us with a broader under­stand­ing of centralized-decentralized insti­tu­tions. The research con­duc­ted on fed­er­al­ism stud­ies has an import­ant place in the gov­ern­ing of the EU and its future. Cent­ri­petal insti­tu­tions, where the abso­lute author­ity in policy-making is given to a single iden­tity, foster more effi­cient admin­is­tra­tion and avoid per­son­al­istic goals. There­fore, the EU should be cent­ral­ized rather than leav­ing its author­ity to mem­ber states for some flexibility.

The cent­ri­petal gov­ernance the­ory in polit­ical sci­ence provides us with cru­cial argu­ments which let us broadly dis­cern how polit­ical form­a­tions occur and how far they sur­vive in a col­lect­ive sys­tem. Appar­ently, organ­iz­a­tions con­sist­ing of diver­gent parts such as the EU should pre­serve their abso­lute author­it­ies to hold the parts together. EU’s mem­ber states dif­fer in their mar­ket sizes, pro­duc­tion capa­cit­ies, spend­ing levels and debt ratios; most of which have cru­cial impacts on the European eco­nomic tur­moil. The only way is to undergo an exten­ded reform in the struc­ture of the EU before the frag­ment­a­tion of the union becomes a fact.

–  Tevfik Murat Yildirim

(Featured photo: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Open Days – European Week of Cities and Regions, Creative Commons, Flickr)

[1] Tse­belis, G. (2002) Veto Play­ers: How Polit­ical Insti­tu­tions Work. Prin­ceton Uni­ver­sity Press

[2] To quote the author on the defin­i­tion of veto play­ers: “In order to change policies – or, as we will say hence­forth, to change the (legis­lat­ive) status quo- a cer­tain num­ber of indi­vidual or col­lect­ive act­ors have to agree to the pro­posed change. I call such act­ors veto play­ers. Veto play­ers are spe­cified in a coun­try by the con­sti­tu­tion (the Pres­id­ent, the House, and the Sen­ate in the US) or by the polit­ical sys­tem (the dif­fer­ent parties that are mem­bers of a gov­ern­ment coali­tion in West­ern Europe”.

[3] Ibid.

[4] This is expressed, for instance, by the Hague Con­gress in 1948 (although its out­come is far from sat­is­fact­ory for the fed­er­al­ists) and the dif­fer­ent nego­ti­ations that led to the cre­ation of the European Eco­nomic Com­munity (Beyen Plan for European Polit­ical Com­munity [that unfor­tu­nately collapsed]).

[5] There is an enorm­ous lit­er­at­ure on Fed­er­al­ism and the EU, gen­er­ally divided in two sides: One assum­ing that the EU is a nas­cent fed­eral state accord­ing to Riker’s fed­er­al­ism term, the other assum­ing that it is an inter­na­tional organ­iz­a­tion. The sys­tem­atic com­par­is­ons were car­ried out by Mckay (2001) and Tres­chel (2006). The sup­port­ers of the first view focus their atten­tion on EMU states, not all. The EU, accord­ing to many schol­ars, resembles a nation state: “Other schol­ars were quick to note that the new policy respons­ib­il­it­ies of the EU com­bined with a con­sti­tu­tional archi­tec­ture that looked for all intents and pur­poses like that of a nation state, jus­ti­fied clas­si­fy­ing the EU as a nas­cent fed­er­a­tion rather than a sui gen­eris vari­ety of inter­na­tional organization.”(see McKay, p.418).

[6] McKay, D. (2009) The SAGE Hand­book of Com­par­at­ive Polit­ics, Sage Pub­lic­a­tions Ltd, p.418.

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