Eva Thomann to give talk at SOAS

Date: 28 October 2019

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings 
Room: KLT

Type of Event: Lecture

The motto of the European Union (EU) is “United in Diversity”. One central purpose of the EU is to provide joint solutions to shared policy problems that nation states cannot effectively tackle on their own. Indeed, a superior “output legitimacy”, that is, the ability to effectively solve problems, is traditionally seen as a core advantage of the EU that can compensate for weak democratic “input legitimacy”. At the same time, these solutions can only be effective if they are also put into practice by member states. However, different countries interpret EU rules in very diverse ways in order to adapt them to domestic contexts and political realities. Unlike “differentiated integration”, comparatively little is known about “differentiated implementation” in the EU.

Eva Thomann conceptualizes this diversity as vertical regulatory change of EU policies throughout the implementation chain, called “customization”. Customization captures how member states change the quantity (customized density) and quality (customized restrictiveness) of EU policies. Based on the implementation of EU food safety rules in Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, Thomann illustrates the extent and diversity of customization using innovative set-theoretic methods. She analyzes the causes for customization both in terms of domestic politics and “opposition through the back door”, misfit assumptions, and the distinction between a “logic of consequences” and a “logic of appropriateness”.  After transposition, EU policies still need to be put into practice and enforced by member states. Thomann provides the first analysis of how customized implementation contributes to successful or unsuccessful practical outcomes of EU policies. Spoiler: it depends on the tractability of the policy problem and the domestic implementation context. However, customization proves to be an important problem-solving strategy of member states.

This means that there is a role for “diversity” in making EU policies a success. The question is, what kind of diversity, and what role can it legitimately play in European governance? This research provides innovative analytic tools and an insightful account of how the politics of policy implementation shape the output legitimacy of the EU multilevel governance system.

The talk is based on the monograph “Customized implementation of European Union food safety policy: United in diversity?” (Palgrave, 2019, International Series on Public Policy), winner of the 2019 best book award of the International Public Policy Association, and integrates new findings on customization in 27 member states.

Find out more here.