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Change and Continuity in European Governance


  • Laurie Boussaguet, Renaud Dehousse, Sophie Jacquot


Since the mid 1990s, European governance has evolved substantially, particularly in thedirection of fewer constraints: flexibility, coordination, peer monitoring, and soft law havebecome fashionable themes. The literature on new modes of governance (or NMGs) hasflourished alongside these transformations. But is the existence of new instruments ofgovernance necessarily synonymous with an innovative way of doing things? Is it really thecase that NMGs now play a central role in EU policy-making? Are we witnessing theemergence of an entirely new system of governance at the European level? In order toaddress these questions, this paper begins by briefly making the point that the concept ofgovernance is better suited to describing the way public policy is conducted in the EuropeanUnion, than that of government. It then moves to a discussion of the main trends that areidentified as NMGs in order to assess to what extent they can properly be described asnew. This is followed by an overview of more traditional forms of EU action, which showsthat old governance has far from disappeared.The European system of governance is thus a good example of change in continuity: oldand new are not mutually exclusive and this hybrid situation may in part be due to the greatcontiguity that exists between new modes of governance and their forerunners. New modesof governance are best analysed as an accentuation of the original features of the system,rather than as outright innovations. Both were largely conceived to respond to the sameneed, to provide a framework for interstate cooperation without leading to an unwanteddegree of centralisation. This is not without analogy with the metaphor of the marble cake,used over a century ago by Morton Grodzins to describe the coexistence of several varietiesof federalism in American government. Pure innovations are rare in the world of governance.

Suggested Citation

  • Laurie Boussaguet, Renaud Dehousse, Sophie Jacquot, 2010. "Change and Continuity in European Governance," Les Cahiers européens de Sciences Po 6, Centre d'études européennes (CEE) at Sciences Po, Paris.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:scpoxx:p0045

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    directives; European law; governance; legitimacy; multilevel governance; open coordination; policy coordination; soft law;

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