Multi-level Governance, Domestic Politics, and National Adaptation to
Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy
Michael E. Smith
Georgia State University
Abstract The expansion of European foreign and security policy cooperation since the 1970s imposes unique requirements on European Union (EU) member states, and the coordination of these various obligations presents a major challenge to the EU’s pursuit of a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). However, the past decade also has seen significant progress toward the multilevel governance of EU foreign policy, particularly when compared to the limited policy coordination of the 1970s and 1980s. This article examines the relationship between institutional development and the multilevel governance of EU foreign policy, as represented by the CFSP. In particular, it explores: 1) the extent to which the CFSP policy space can be described in terms of multilevel governance; 2) the processes by which governance mechanisms influence the domestic foreign policy cultures of EU member states; and 3) how the interaction of domestic politics and governance mechanisms produces specific policy outcomes.
Keywords Common foreign and security policy, domestic politics, European foreign and security policy cooperation, multilevel governance
The expansion of European foreign and security policy cooperation since the early 1970s has involved a complex fusion of several institutional forms: intergovernmental, transgovernmental, and supranational (Smith 1998). Each of these institutional mechanisms imposes unique requirements on European Union (EU) member states, and the coordination of these various obligations presents a major challenge to the EU’s pursuit of a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). In response to this problem, the Maastricht Treaty on European Union attempted to re-organize these institutional forms into a coherent policy process. Yet while the current CFSP process is still not as supranational as other EU policy domains, such as the single European market, the past decade has seen significant progress toward the multilevel governance of EU foreign policy, particularly when compared to the limited policy coordination under the European Political Cooperation (EPC) framework of the 1970s and 1980s.
This generic process can be described in terms of a greater consolidation of authority at the EU level (which consists of both national and EU organizational inputs), and a greater degree of national adaptation to EU foreign policy norms (procedural and substantive), or “Europeanization.” Although the EU certainly possesses some elements of a federal system, the term “multilevel governance” is preferred here for two reasons: the EU clearly is still a treaty-based polity and its member states reserve ultimate authority to approve all decisions, especially in foreign/security policy. And although multilevel governance usually assumes a greater role for supranational EC organizations (chiefly the Commission and European Court of Justice) in policymaking (Marks 1993; Marks, Hooghe, and Blank 1996), my chief goal here is to demonstrate its applicability to the realm of foreign/security policy, an area where supranational organizations traditionally have been marginalized.
The use of multilevel governance also helps us avoid the pitfalls of intergovernmental approaches to EU foreign policy, such as two-level games (Bulmer 1991; Putnam 1988) or liberal intergovernmentalism (Moravcsik 1993). Although these conceptual tools may shed light on high-level negotiations about treaty reforms, as during major Intergovernmental Conferences (IGCs) of the EU, they are problematic in describing normal policy outcomes for several reasons. One problem is their treatment of national preference formation as a distinct domestic political process. A growing body of research suggests that it may be inappropriate to describe national and EU-level decision-making, even in foreign policy, as two separate but linked processes. EU member states do not form their national positions in isolation from each other and then attempt to realize those goals at the EU level (Sandholtz 1996). Intensive domestic lobbying on CFSP issues also is quite rare relative to other EU policy domains, nor do EU states typically “ratify” common policy decisions, either formally or informally.
A second problem is institutional: in foreign policy, EU states are required to discuss their thinking about problems before arriving at national positions. EPC/CFSP norms deliberately reorient member states toward a “problem-solving,” as opposed to bargaining, style of decision-making. This involves an appeal to common interests and the use of ostracism or peer-pressure to sanction potential defectors. Under certain conditions, these processes may inhibit the pursuit of rigid national policy positions in the realm of the CFSP. Moreover, past policy decisions become new reference points for discussions about foreign policy whether at the national or EU levels. Indeed, this problem of precedent-setting was a major factor in explaining why it took several years for the CFSP to function effectively. Several states were concerned about setting legal precedents while EU organizational actors, such as those in its various legal services, where drafting texts with the understanding that legal precedents were being set (Smith 2001a).
This article examines the relationship between institutional change (at the EU and domestic levels) and the multilevel governance of EU foreign policy, as represented by the CFSP. In particular, I first explore the extent to which the CFSP policy space can be described in terms of multilevel governance. In the second section, I describe the specific processes by which governance mechanisms influence the domestic foreign policy cultures of EU member states. Of special concern are the unique mechanisms by which CFSP governance permanently alters the domestic political structures of EU member states in ways that are not immediately apparent by a reading of EU treaty obligations. The third and final section explores how the interaction of governance mechanisms and domestic politics produces specific policy outcomes. This relationship is crucial in determining how the EU acts (or fails to act) in foreign policy. It also represents a move from ad hoc international cooperation (or the coordination of national foreign policies, as under EPC) to a far more collective decision-making process (or multilevel governance, as under the CFSP), although this process is neither supranational nor federal. How the EU has managed to both institutionalize and Europeanize its multilevel governance of foreign policy, while still respecting national sovereignty, is a key question for students of international cooperation and European integration. Answering this question could also shed light on why most other regional organizations have failed in this goal.
MULTILEVEL GOVERNANCE AND THE EUROPEAN FOREIGN/SECURITY POLICY PROCESS1 The analysis of multilevel governance in EU foreign policy must begin with the broader context in which that governance is embedded. EU states today share a high general propensity for common action due to certain inherent characteristics found within the region itself. These include historical experiences (the legacies of the two world wars and the Cold War), a sense of common fate, a high degree of interdependence as commonly measured in the literature (trade and financial flows, immigration, travel, etc.), a common cultural/normative heritage (democracy, free markets, the rule of law, social justice/cohesion, and human rights), and the most intensive national participation in a network of international organizations (UN, OSCE, EU, NATO, Council of Europe, etc.) found in any region on the planet. Among the states of Western Europe, the EU is now the primary frame of reference for more policy decisions than any other international/regional organization, and it is for this reason that any discussion of multilevel governance must focus primarily, though not exclusively, on the EU. For in the realm of foreign policy, even EU decisions must show some sensitivity to decisions taken elsewhere, particularly the UN and, to a lesser degree, NATO. Although I cannot pursue this issue within the confines of this article, we should be aware that interactions between the EU’s own system of governance and those of functionally-related institutions like NATO will become increasingly important as the EU develops its capabilities as a global actor.
Yet these general propensities for cooperation do not, by themselves, lead to common action, particularly in foreign policy. This is the “value added” of a multilevel governance approach to EU foreign policy: to explain how common general interests are defined, prioritized, and translated into concrete policy actions through institutionalized behaviors at the EU and domestic levels. Governance can be broadly defined as the authority to make, implement, and enforce rules in a specified policy domain. Multilevel governance refers to the sharing of this authority across an institutionalized, hierarchically-structured set of actors with varying degrees of unity/coherence, commitment to EU norms, and power resources. In applying multilevel governance to EU foreign policy, as compared to other EU policy domains, one must: 1) pay greater attention to the decentralized structure of the CFSP (i.e., a diminished role for the Commission/EP/ECJ relative to socio-economic policy areas, and more access points into decision-making) and 2) increase the potential influence of EU member states (as policy entrepreneurs, barriers, and implementers), which involves domestic politics in complex ways along the lines of existing approaches to multilevel governance (i.e., continuous negotiations across several tiers of decision-making).
These EU-domestic interactions will be explored in further detail below. For the moment, I focus on the general structure of multilevel governance in EU foreign policy. In particular, I argue this structure of CFSP governance now involves four major elements. First and most generally, it involves a much greater coherence of the policy sector and rationalization of the policy process, far beyond what had existed under EPC. This change can be described in terms of the definition of the CFSP itself, its linkages to the policies, organizations, and procedures of the EU’s first pillar (the EC), and its practical operation. Although numerous problems of coherence remain (Smith 2001b), EU foreign policy is now a formal EU policy domain with complex linkages, procedural and substantive, to other EU policies. Second, the CFSP is legally bindingon EU member states, which includes some limited compliance mechanisms. Third, the CFSP includes several authoritative decision-making rules, in the form of qualified majority voting (QMV). Although the procedures are somewhat convoluted, and they are not applicable across the entire range of CFSP activities, their inclusion in the Maastricht Treaty clearly represents a breach of the long-standing taboo against supranational decision-making procedures for EU foreign policy. Even if QMV is rarely utilized, which is the norm, the threat of QMV may help EU states find consensus in the hopes of avoiding a potentially embarrassing vote. Fourth and finally, the TEU provides a greater degree of autonomy for EC organizational actors in European foreign policy during specific phases of the policy process as described below.
If we further break down the CFSP policy-making process into a sequence of behaviors and the key actors involved, we can see where these various actors are most likely to influence each policy stage. Table 1 provides a general overview of this process to help structure the rest of this article.
Table 1 The CFSP Policy Process since Maastricht (major provisions only).
Agenda-setting: Defining general principles/areas for the CFSP
European Council of Heads of State/Government (which includes a member of the Commission)
Decision-making regarding specific CFSP policies
Council of the EU and Commission (supported by COREU, Political/Security Committee, European Correspondents, working groups, CFSP Secretariat, CFSP Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit, COREPER)
Implementing common positions and joint actions (includes external representation)
EU presidency, High Representative for the CFSP, Commission, ad hoc Special Representatives.
Funding of the CFSP
Commission and EP in most cases
Performance evaluation in terms of policy coherence (EC/CFSP/JHA/ESDP) and compliance (very limited)
Council of the EU, Commission, Political/Security Committee (supporting role for ECJ)