Conference on multilevel governance in the EU

The Forum recently supported a conference on "Centrifugal and Centripetal Forces in EU-Integration” which analyzed the emerging political system of the European Union through the lens of federalism and multi-level-governance. On the background of the ongoing EU financial crisis participants discussed political outcomes in different EU policy fields that either lead to more EU-integration or less EU-integration. Theories on European integration and on federalism were tested through focussing the discussion on the topic of centrifugal forces.

In multi-level systems it is typical to find both, forces leading to more centralisation and integration to more "shared rules”(centripetal forces), and forces triggering decentralisation and disintegration to more self rule (centripetal forces). The EU integration theory focuses on explanations of integration, centripetal forces. To capture and explain centrifugal forces in European integration, it is necessary to expand the theoretical focus. Therefore, it is helpful to see the EU as a quasi-federal system, because in federal systems and in federalism theories centrifugal trends are common phenomenon.

The event took place at the Berlin-Brandenburgisches Institute for German-French Relations at the castle of the Stiftung Genshagen near Berlin. Academic lead was provided by Dr. Annegret Eppler, University of Tuebingen, and Dr. Henrik Scheller, University of Potsdam who initiated the conference. The Forum of Federation was represented by its senior advisor Dr. Reinold Herber.

The conference was a joint project of the Forum of Federations, the Universities of Tuebingen and Potsdam, the European Commission, Stiftung Genshagen, Arbeitskreis Europäische Integration, and Unibund Tuebingen. It was opened by a key-note speech given by Dr. Dieter Spöri, President of the European Movement and former deputy premier of the Land of Baden Württemberg.

The phenomenon of centrifugal and centripetal forces in multi-level systems was then presented by Dr. Henrik Scheller, Dr. Annegret Eppler, Prof. Dr. Arne Niemann (University of Mainz), and Dr. Claus-Peter Clostermeyer from the state government of Baden-Württemberg. Subsequently, Dr. Olaf Leiße (University of Jena), Dr. Werner Reutter (Berlin), Prof. Dr. Stefan August Lütgenau (Foster Europe Foundation for strong Regions in Europe), and Prof. Dr. Hermann Schmitt (University of Manchester) discussed questions of democracy and legitimacy of the EU system. These theoretical contributions showed that at the moment there is not yet a common idea how to catch and measure centripetal and especially centrifugal forces that lay behind actual processes in EU politics.

Based on these more theoretical inputs, centrifugal and centripetal forces in different policy fields were presented and analyzed: The Contribution on Constitution policy (Prof. Dr. Matthias Niedobitek (University of Chemnitz) and Florian Ziegenbalg (State parliament of Baden-Württemberg) raised the question whether a legal act is a force per se or is the outcome of an antecedent game of powers.

On Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Dr. Katrin Böttger (Institut für Europäische Politik) and Dr. Marzenna Guz-Vetter (European Commission) emphasised the fact that the enlargement process may be a strengthening of the EU on the one hand, on the other hand it may hamper the deepening of integration. Therefore, processes in Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy may be seen as caused by either centrifugal or centripetal forces.

In the session on financial policy Dr. Daniela Schwarzer (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) and Dr. Matthias Woisin (Land Hamburg) laid the focus on the ongoing financial crises of the EU. The question whether the market as an arena different from the hierarchical political arena may be a centrifugal force was discussed. Beside that, it was pointed out that the most serious crises of the EU integration process could be the cause for even more political integration, because financial solidarity was the effect of the Greek disaster and the discussion about Eurobonds is going on.

Dr. Matthias Dembinski (Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung) and Dr. Barbara Kunz (Stiftung Genshagen) discussed issues related to EU foreign policy and argued that sustainment of national sovereignty of the member states seems to be a centrifugal force, while the vision of a soft / peace power is a centripetal one. Regarding environmental policy large parts of legal competencies were placed on the EU level during the last decades, argued Dr. Annegret Eppler (University of Tuebingen) and Matthias Winzer (Umweltbundesamt Dessau). Global environmental challenges seem to be powerful centripetal forces for the EU multi level system.

On education policy Dr. Henrik Scheller pointed out that integration into the EU system was difficult since in many EU member countries subnational rather than central governments were in charge of education. On the other hand, globalization and flexibility of location brings with it the need for a more integrated education system. Therefore, both centripetal and centrifugal forces are evident in education policy.

The conference proceedings are being prepared for publication by Nomos publishers.

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