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Learning from Difference: The New Architecture of Experimentalist Governance in the European Union


  • Sabel, Charles F.; Zeitlin, Jonathan


This paper argues that current widespread characterizations of EU governance as multi-level and networked overlook the emergent architecture of the Union’s public rule making. In this architecture, framework goals (such as full employment, social inclusion, “good water status”, a unified energy grid) and measures for gauging their achievement are established by joint action of the member states and EU institutions. Lower-level units (such as national ministries or regulatory authorities and the actors with whom they collaborate) are given the freedom to advance these ends as they see fit. But in return for this autonomy, they must report regularly on their performance and participate in a peer review in which their results are compared with those pursuing other means to the same general ends. Finally, the framework goals, performance measures, and decision-making procedures themselves are periodically revised by the actors, including new participants whose views come to be seen as indispensable to full and fair deliberation. Though this architecture cannot be read off from neither Treaty provisions nor textbook accounts of the formal competences of EU institutions, the paper traces its emergence and diffusion across a wide range of policy domains, including telecommunications, energy, drug authorization, occupational health and safety, employment promotion, social inclusion, pensions, health care, environmental protection, food safety, maritime safety, financial services, competition policy, state aid, anti-discrimination policy and fundamental rights.

Suggested Citation

  • Sabel, Charles F.; Zeitlin, Jonathan, 2007. "Learning from Difference: The New Architecture of Experimentalist Governance in the European Union," European Governance Papers (EUROGOV) 2, CONNEX and EUROGOV networks.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:eurogo:p0014

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Horn, Henrik & Weiler, Joseph H. H., 2005. "European Communities – Trade Description of Sardines: Textualism and its Discontent," World Trade Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(S1), pages 248-275, January.
    2. D. Geradin, 2000. "Institutional aspects of EU regulatory reforms in the telecommunications sector: an analysis of the role of national regulatory authorities," Competition and Regulation in Network Industries, Intersentia, vol. 1(1), pages 5-33, September.
    3. Damien Geradin, Nicolas Petit, 2004. "The Development of Agencies at EU and National Levels: Conceptual Analysis and Proposals for Reform," Jean Monnet Working Papers 1, Jean Monnet Chair.
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    5. David Bailey & Lisa De Propris, 2004. "A Bridge Too Phare? EU Pre‐Accession Aid and Capacity‐Building in the Candidate Countries," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(1), pages 77-98, February.
    6. Judith Kelley, 2006. "New Wine in Old Wineskins: Promoting Political Reforms through the New European Neighbourhood Policy," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(1), pages 29-55, March.
    7. Budzinski, Oliver & Christiansen, Andt, 2005. "Competence Allocation in the EU Competition Policy System as an Interest-Driven Process," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(3), pages 313-337, December.
    8. Maria Kaika, 2003. "The Water Framework Directive: A New Directive for a Changing Social, Political and Economic European Framework," European Planning Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(3), pages 299-316.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tamara K Hervey, 2008. "The European Union’s governance of health care and the welfare modernization agenda," Regulation & Governance, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 2(1), pages 103-120, March.
    2. Louise G. Trubek & Joseph V Rees & A. Bryce Hoflund & Marybeth Farquhar & Carol A Heimer, 2008. "Health care and new governance: The quest for effective regulation," Regulation & Governance, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 2(1), pages 1-8, March.
    3. Scott L. Greer, 2011. "The weakness of strong policies and the strength of weak policies: Law, experimentalist governance, and supporting coalitions in European Union health care policy," Regulation & Governance, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 5(2), pages 187-203, June.
    4. Helen Briassoulis, 2019. "Governance as multiplicity: the Assemblage Thinking perspective," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 52(3), pages 419-450, September.
    5. Joerges, Christian, 2007. "Integration through de-legislation? An irritated heckler," European Governance Papers (EUROGOV) 3, CONNEX and EUROGOV networks.

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    governance; regulation; democracy; rule of law; diversity/homogeneity; networks; open coordination; transparency; accountability; agency theory;
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