The changing face of European policy making under Blair and Ahern
Author: Scott James

As two of the longest-serving prime ministers in Europe, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern were in power during one of the most tumultuous periods of European integration. This book offers an insight into how they responded to the demands and opportunities of European Union (EU) membership at the national level. Drawing on extensive interviews with key figures, it explores how the two leaders sought to radically reshape the EU national policy-making process in the UK and Ireland in order to further their strategic policy agendas. The book therefore asks three key questions. How did the national EU policy process change between 1997 and 2007? To what extent did the UK and Irish policy processes converge or diverge? Did the reforms enhance the projection of national policy? These empirical and comparative questions are related to broader theoretical and conceptual debates concerning Europeanisation. By employing conceptual and analytical frameworks, the book considers what these reforms tell us about the nature of the ‘EU effect’ in different member states. Do governments simply adjust to EU-level pressures for change or try to adapt strategically in order to maximise their influence? Are the changes attributable to political agency or do they derive from longer-term structural developments in Brussels?

Scott James

As two of the longest-serving prime ministers in Europe, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern had a profound impact on both the national and European stage. Their decade in power coincided with perhaps one of the most tumultuous periods of European integration, with no less than two successful rounds of treaty reform, a stalled Constitutional Treaty process, and two ratification crises. This book explores the way in which both leaders responded to the demands and opportunities of European Union (EU) membership by profoundly reshaping their domestic European policy-making processes in order to further their strategic policy agendas. By employing highly innovative conceptual and analytical frameworks, the book considers what these reforms tell us about the causal impact of European integration on national policy-making processes. It hypothesises that the EU policy process within the UK and Ireland underwent extensive reconfiguration between 1997 and 2007. It also seeks to test the proposition that the reforms to the UK and Irish European policy-making process enhanced the capacity of their respective governments to project national EU policy.

in Managing Europe from home
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The politics of Europe in the UK and Ireland
Scott James

Despite the position of the UK and Ireland on the geographical periphery of the continent, Europe has never been far from the heart of domestic politics in either country. This chapter analyses and explains the divergent developmental trajectories of UK and Irish European diplomacy in the post-war period from a comparative perspective. It first reflects on the relative importance of five aggregate variables which have shaped and help to explain the nature of European Union (EU) relations prior to 1997: namely geopolitics, economics, institutions, party politics, and public opinion. It then presents a detailed assessment of EU policy under the administrations of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern — their aims and objectives, principal accomplishments and perceived failures, and the extent to which their records represent a significant break from their predecessors.

in Managing Europe from home
Scott James

This chapter addresses the conceptual challenge posed by Europeanisation by reflecting on the utility of the existing goodness-of-fit model for exploring domestic adaptation aimed at uploading national policy preferences onto the European Union (EU) arena. It argues that the goodness-of-fit model is ill-suited to conceptualising strategic adaptation to EU membership: that is, the reform of national policy-making processes for the purpose of enhancing the coordination and projection of national EU policy. As an alternative to the conventional goodness-of-fit model, the chapter proposes an innovative strategic-projection model that sought to delineate between four modes of Europeanisation: the effective obligation of membership, differential empowerment and strategic adaptation within government, administrative transfer through intergovernmental learning, and the desire to maximise the compatibility of domestic and EU structures.

in Managing Europe from home
Scott James

In borrowing heavily from the institutionalist toolbox, many existing empirical studies of Europeanisation explain the incremental and path dependent nature of domestic adaptation as a consequence of European pressures being mediated by macro-level structural characteristics of the state — primarily national institutional and procedural arrangements, and organisational or administrative cultures. In seeking to ‘add value’ to existing historical institutionalist accounts of domestic change, this chapter proposes the use of a distinctive strategic-relational network framework through which to map the boundaries of the European Union (EU) national policy-making process over time. The framework is capable of capturing the dynamism and strategic nature of change, which offers a template for evaluating the reform, and that facilitates the identification of domestic and EU-level causal factors. The chapter proposes five broad categories of independent variables: national change agents, domestic administrative opportunity structures, domestic political opportunity structures, technological change, and European integration.

in Managing Europe from home
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Strategic agendas and codes of conduct
Scott James

This chapter outlines the nature of the common strategic agenda around which strategic players have been recruited to the European Union (EU) network. It provides a historical overview of the formation of the two networks (UK and Ireland) and how they have expanded over time in response to the intermittent growth of EU competence. Having mapped the network as a whole and its ‘core’, the chapter then examines the codes of conduct that govern formal interaction between players: that is, their formally defined roles and responsibilities, their function and location within the network, and the informal norms and procedures which govern strategic networking. The chapter is concerned primarily with those core players (or network ‘managers’) responsible for managing and coordinating EU national policy (the prime minister's/cabinet offices, foreign ministry, permanent representation, finance department and legal advisers). It also briefly reflects on the changing role of sub-national players over the past decade.

in Managing Europe from home
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Redistributing strategic resources
Scott James

This chapter explores the more fluid and dynamic ‘vertical’ dimension of networking: the redistribution of strategic resources between network players. At a general level, the basic relationship that exists across both the UK and Ireland remained relatively stable since formation. Departmental players rely upon network managers to: distil their preferences into a single negotiating position (the Cabinet Office/DFA); for European Union (EU) expertise and lobbying activity in other member states (the FCO/DFA); for direct access to Brussels (UKRep/PRI); for sources of funding (the Treasury/Department of Finance); and for strategic direction (PMO-Cabinet Office/DT). The traditional balance of power between network managers became increasingly asymmetrical between 1997 and 2007. Although their role remained complementary to the extent that they had to pool their limited resources, wider developments contributed to a redistribution of strategic resources and therefore the reshaping of internal patterns of power dependency. This chapter concludes that adaptation of vertical networking within the EU network was much greater in the UK than in Ireland.

in Managing Europe from home
Reconfiguring coordination
Scott James

Mechanisms of coordination refer to those ‘horizontal’ processes that embed strategic networking in regularised practices, facilitate and structure interaction, and create relationships of mutual interdependency. They include formal structures of decision making and coordination (such as standing committees), as well as informal processes of consultation and communication (for example through ad hoc meetings, circulation lists or correspondence). Within the European Union (EU) network, these mechanisms are critical for coordinating policy across departmental boundaries. The chapter first provides an overview of horizontal networking within the EU network immediately after accession in 1973 and how it evolved through to 1997. It then explores its development during the administrations of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, using the 2004 and 2005 EU presidencies in Ireland and the UK as comparative case studies of the particularly elaborate mechanisms that are put in place for its duration.

in Managing Europe from home
Evaluating adaptation strategy
Scott James

This chapter takes the analysis of change within national policy-making processes a stage further by addressing the question: how can we evaluate the impact of adaptation on the capacity of the UK and Ireland to coordinate and project national European policy? It compares and critically evaluates the relative strengths and weaknesses of the reform strategies pursed by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern by analysing the capacity of the UK and Irish networks to coordinate European Union (EU) policy, and by assessing the extent to which this changed after 1997. Using the simplified Guttman scale of coordination, the analysis focuses on four levels of coordination in particular: exchanging information and consultation; avoidance of divergence and the search for agreement; arbitration of differences and central oversight; and the establishment of priorities and formulating strategies. On the basis of the testimonies of policy practitioners from this time, the chapter examines the relative strengths and weaknesses of the UK and Irish networks to coordinate EU policy at each level.

in Managing Europe from home
Measuring the EU effect
Scott James

Having considered the nature and effectiveness of network adaptation under Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, this final chapter reconnects these important empirical and comparative insights with the wider conceptual debate about the impact of European Union (EU) membership at the national level. It employs the innovative strategic-projection model of Europeanisation to examine the extent to which strategic adaptation in the UK and Ireland can be attributed to wider domestic reform processes or to developments at the EU level. In other words, do the changes outlined in this study simply reflect the political decisions and distinctive leadership styles of Blair and Ahern (agency) or can they be attributed, at least in part, to the shared, longer-term impact of European integration (structure). It considers five potential independent variables: national change agents, domestic administrative opportunity structures, domestic political opportunity structures, technological change, and European integration. In order to disaggregate the potential EU effect further, the section on European integration is broken down into the four modes of Europeanisation: effective obligation, strategic adaptation, intergovernmental learning, and administrative optimisation.

in Managing Europe from home