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How a secretive circle of finance ministers shape European economic governance

This book a study on the work of the Eurogroup—monthly informal meetings between euro area finance ministers, the Commission and the European Central Bank. It demonstrates how this small, secretive circle of senior decision-makers shapes European economic governance through a routinised informal policy dialogue. Although the role of the Eurogroup has been contested since before the group's creation, its actual operation has never been subject to systematic evaluation. This book opens the doors of the meeting room and shows how an understanding of the interplay of formal provisions and informal processes is pivotal to the analysis of euro area governance. The book advances the conceptual understanding of informal negotiations among senior European and national decision-makers, and provides an in-depth analysis of historical episodes of policy coordination. As other areas of European decision-making rely increasingly on informal, voluntary policy coordination amongst member states, the Eurogroup model can be seen as a template for other policy areas.

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The informal Eurogroup, comprising the finance ministers of the euro area, plays a central role in the economic governance set-up of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The discussions within the group influence decision-making at the European and national level in a subtle way. Informal debates within the Eurogroup often stabilise delicate political situations and inter-institutional conflicts. Moreover, it is mainly through the group's ongoing debates about appropriate policy options that the rules and procedures of economic governance evolve over time. There is also clear evidence that ministers act as advocates of common Eurogroup positions in the domestic process of decision-making and political debate. Despite the important role of the Eurogroup for the coordination of economic policies in the euro area, the literature on the EMU has widely ignored the group as an independent source of decision-making authority.

in The Eurogroup

This chapter discusses the analytical framework of the analysis of informal governance within the Eurogroup. It reviews the current state of the literature on the EMU, the Council of Ministers, and on innovative modes of European governance. This literature focuses on the empirically most closely related institutions and styles of governance. By building on the findings of this literature and responding to its theoretical deficiencies, the discussion then follows up the relevant theoretical pathways in more detail. It substantiates the core argument of the book through three central working hypotheses. The discussion concludes with the introduction of the methodology organising the analysis of the empirical information.

in The Eurogroup

This chapter puts the Eurogroup's work into the historical and institutional context of the EMU. It explains how the creation of the Eurogroup responded to particular institutional deficiencies inherent to the EMU's economic governance set-up. Moreover, it also considers the effects of the multi-speed nature of European monetary integration on the efforts to strengthen economic policy coordination in Stage 3.

in The Eurogroup

This chapter introduces key features of the Eurogroup's informal working method. It is within this institutional setting that the euro area's top decision-makers address the challenges to economic governance in Stage 3. The actual work of the group is not regulated through legal provisions. Informal governance within the Eurogroup is built on a set of routinised practices and shared rules. Although the process of informal governance is often fluid and has been adjusted over time, nonetheless some characteristic patterns have evolved over the last six years. This chapter notes the structures of informal governance, preparation for the meetings, personality and group dynamic, and other informal groups in the context of the EMU.

in The Eurogroup
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This chapter portrays the Eurogroup's informal working method in action. It presents an overview of the recurrent items on the Eurogroup's agenda, showing how informal governance responds to quite different political and economic-technical challenges. This perspective is intended to demonstrate the role of informal policy deliberation with regard to different aspects of economic policy coordination in the euro area.

in The Eurogroup

Building on a broader and contextual picture, this chapter turns to the in-depth analysis of a particular discourse over policy within the group. The discussion refers to the Eurogroup's role in the operation of the SGP. It explains how discussion in the Eurogroup has shaped the interpretation of the pact since it came into force, a process which also found its expression in the revisions made to the pact in March 2005. In addition, reference to four similar instances of non-compliance with common policy rules brings in a comparative dimension and seeks to account for the role of possible obstacles to informal policy deliberation such as political and economic pressure.

in The Eurogroup

This chapter evaluates empirical findings in the context of the analytical framework of this book. It assesses the potential of the Eurogroup's informal working method to foster consensus-oriented policy deliberation among the euro area's top decision-makers. It reviews the features of the particular negotiation setting constituted by the Eurogroup. In a similar fashion, it discusses whether the specific content of Eurogroup discussions is compatible with a deliberative style of discussion. Moreover, the discussion reflects on the outcome of informal debates. Finally, it contrasts these findings with the prevailing pattern of official Council negotiations, which represent the key framework for intergovernmental decision-making at the EU level.

in The Eurogroup
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This chapter concludes the book by highlighting the institutional implications of this study for economic governance in the EMU and the wider EU. The Eurogroup represents a framework for routinised informal policy dialogue among the euro area's key decision makers. In this context the deliberative style of the informal discussions plays a pivotal role. The chapter highlights which lessons can be learnt in the area of the EMU from the experiences gained within the Eurogroup. In this context, the discussion pays particular attention to the consequences for economic governance within the euro area of the enlargement of the EU by ten new member states in 2004. Moreover, it considers the future use of deliberative intergovernmentalism in the light of concerns that the creation of informal negotiation settings at the intergovernmental level contradicts basic democratic principles. Finally, the discussion points to the possible use of this governance mode in other policy areas than the EMU.

in The Eurogroup