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Testing for Subsidiarity. Bruges European Economic Policy (BEEP) Briefing 13/2006

Pelkmans, Jacques (2006) Testing for Subsidiarity. Bruges European Economic Policy (BEEP) Briefing 13/2006. [Policy Paper]

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    In the EU circuit (especially the European Parliament, the Council and Coreper) as well as in national parliaments of the EU Member States, one observes a powerful tendency to regard 'subsidiarity' as a 'political' issue. Moreover, subsidiarity is frequently seen as a one-way street : powers going 'back to' Member States. Both interpretations are at least partly flawed and less than helpful when looking for practical ways to deal with subsidiarity at both EU and Member states' levels. The present paper shows that subsidiarity as a principle is profoundly 'functional' in nature and, hence, is and must be a two-way principle. A functional subsidiarity test is developed and its application is illustrated for a range of policy issues in the internal market in its widest sense, for equity and for macro-economic stabilisation questions in European integration. Misapplications of 'subsidiarity' are also demonstrated. For a good understanding, subsidiarity being a functional, two-way principle neither means that elected politicians should not have the final (political!) say (for which they are accountable), nor that subsidiarity tests, even if properly conducted, cannot and will not be politicised once the results enter the policy debate. Such politicisation forms a natural run-up to the decision-making by those elected for it. But the quality and reasoning of the test as well as structuring the information in a logical sequence ( in accordance with the current protocol and with the one in the constitutional treaty) is likely to be directly helpful for decisionmakers, confronted with complicated and often specialised proposals. EU debates and decision-making is therefore best served by separating the functional subsidiarity test (prepared by independent professionals) from the final political decision itself. If the test were accepted Union-wide, it would also assist national parliaments in conducting comparable tests in a relatively short period, as the basis for possible joint action (as suggested by the constitutional treaty). The core of the paper explains how the test is formulated and applied. A functional approach to subsidiarity in the framework of European representative democracy seeks to find the optimal assignment of regulatory or policy competences to the various tiers of government. In the final analysis, this is about structures facilitating the highest possible welfare in the Union, in the fundamental sense that preferences and needs are best satisfied. What is required for such an analysis is no less than a systematic cost/benefit framework to assess the (de)merits of (de)centralisation in the EU.

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    Item Type: Policy Paper
    Uncontrolled Keywords: subsidiarity, economics of federalism, fiscal federalism, optimal EU assignment of public economic functions.
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > economic and financial affairs > economic policy
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > economic and financial affairs > fiscal policy
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > governance: EU & national level
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > College of Europe (Brugge) > Bruges European Economic Policy Briefings (BEEP)
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2014 16:18
    Number of Pages: 38
    Last Modified: 22 Dec 2014 10:11

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