THE PAPER | EU and Multi-Level Governance
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THE PAPER | EU and Multi-Level Governance

By Jing Xu and Shiyong Shen 
Shanghai University of Engineering Science, Shanghai, China

THE PAPER | EU and Multi-Level Governance

Image Attribute: European Union 2013 – European Parliament. 
Source: Flickr Creative Commons license.

Governance Concept

When refer to EU multi-level governance, there is still confusion about the conceptualization of the term: what’s the concept of governance? Pierre (2000) distinguishes between two broad meanings of the concept. The first meaning refers to “the empirical manifestation of state adaptation to its external environment as it emerges in late twentieth century”. From this perspective, governance can be considered both a process and a state whereby public and private actors engage in the intentional regulation of societal relationships and conflicts. Governance is thus different from government, the latter stressing hierarchical decision-making structures and the centrality of public actors, while the former denotes the participation of public and private actors as well as non-hierarchical forms of decision-making. The second meaning refers to governance as the “conceptual or theoretical representation of co-ordination of social systems”. Another concept about governance is about “good governance” from World Bank (1997) and OECD which means that good governance have been leading advocates of propagating sound fiscal management and administrative efficiency as a precondition to sustainable growth and development.

Governance and International Relations

With the development of economic glottalization and societal denationalization, the roles of nation-state are declining in international system and structure. The hitherto dominant strand in the IR-literature, which engaged in the inquiry of the conditions under which cooperation in an anarchic system would be possible, was complemented by a new strand of research, emphasizing questions of effectiveness and problem-solving capacity of different forms of international (institutionalized) cooperation underlining the central role of the state in producing and sustaining international order or “governance”. This literature has been complemented by an emerging discussion of the role of private actors, such as transnational business corporations and NGOs, in fulfilling a large variety of governance functions, from international economic regulation to providing security through private military forces.

EU Integration and Governance

The initiative of the White Paper on European Governance was geared to promote “good governance” by the wider involvement of civil society therefore the EU governance has become a popular research focus in EU studies and political issues. During the process of the EU integration, the transformation of states has come into being different levels such as supranational level, sub-national level and individual networking. American scholar Marks, Gary (1993: 392) firstly used the concept of EU multi-level governance based on the structural policy of EC in 1993. Therefore, the concept constantly was developed and applied by many scholars. In the course of the past decade, a plethora of analyses have come to have come to see the EU as a system of governance characterized by “a unique set of multi-level, non-hierarchical and regulatory institutions, and a hybrid mix of state and non-state actors” (Hix, 1998: 39). Concepts that sought to grasp the alleged sui generis—nature of the EU polity mushroomed during this period: “multi level governance” (Marks, Hooghe, & Blank, 1996), the “regulatory state” (Majone, 1994), and “network governance” (Kohler-Koch & Eising, 1999; Kohler-Koch, 1999). Aiming at a general theory of multi-level governance, Hooghe and Marks (2001: 4) emphasized that governance is interconnected.

EU Multi-Level Governance

According to the EU multi-level governance model, supranational, national, sub-national as well as transnational actors and institutions all play a key role for European integration and the interaction of actor during the process of integration. Some dimension will be examined through this mode: firstly decision making competence is shared-centric power to the EU policies remains important but meets its limits. Secondly, policy-making at EU level involves in the loss of control for individual governments. Member states’ competence has been transformed to the sub-national level—regional and local authority. Actors at the sub-national as well as transnational level can by pass the national level on crucial issues. Thirdly, multi-level governance helps coordination among different private interests and construct the civil society and the civic participation in EU. The operation of structural funds can completely reflects the mode of multi-level governance and the interaction of different actors level. 

The theory had four key points:

 1) The model of networks structure and non-single in the policy decision;
2) The transformation of the member states;
3) The Europeanize of the member states;

 4) Multi-political identity.


Essentially the same academic debate about the process of European integration has been going on for over four decades. In intergovernmental perspectives, European integration is a process whereby the governments of states voluntarily enter into agreements to work together to solve common problems. Neo-functionalist ideas were eagerly embraced by members of the Commission as a blueprint for constructing a united Europe. Opponents of further integration implicitly invoke the neo-functionalist idea that the process is no longer under control and threatens national identity. 

Today multi-governance is still an evolving and mobile and complex system which is examined by the dynamics and unique characteristics of the European integration. Facing the challenge of globalization and deficit of democracy, probably multi-level governance is useful exploration to the legitimacy in EU and also a useful analytical concept for the post-sovereign modernity of international politics in the twenty-first century.

Publication Details:

This article is an excerpt from a technical paper, titled - "IR Theories Debate of European Integration" published at Open Journal of Political Science, 2014, 4, 216-220 Published Online October 2014 in SciRes. 

Cite this paper: 

Xu, J., & Shen, S. Y. (2014). IR Theories Debate of European Integration. Open Journal of Political Science, 4, 216-220. IR Theories Debate of European Integration 

Copyright © 2014 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc. 
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).