Accounting for centralisation in the European Union : Niskanen, Monnet or Thatcher?
Centralisation at the level of the European Union takes the form, not so much of increased staff or budget, but of enlarged responsibilities and an increased share in regulation. The paper first reviews possible explanations of that trend that are based on a view of bureaucracy inspired by, or closely related, to William Niskanen's. It then turns to a discussion of the extent to which any characteristic of the EU machinery can develop without the acquiescence or agency of a majority of the member-state governments, and of the discussion of whether centralisation as a process is not simply a way to implement, in the manner suggested by Jean Monnet, the "ever closer union" that was - and, to a degree, still is - the underlying rationale for the European construction project. A third set of causes of centralisation can be found, it is claimed in the paper, in the objectives of setting a "level-playing field" and "completing the single market" that were adopted, with the backing of Margaret Thatcher, in the Single Act. It is argued that a policy which pursues the objectives of eliminating all kinds of fragmentation of the single market and of distortion of competition among firms implies, under modern conditions, a massive transfer of responsibilities in the area of regulation and policy-making from the level of the member states to that of the Union. Finally, the paper discusses the hierarchical relationship between these three sets of causes of centralisation.
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