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Taming the Leviathan? Legal and Political Accountability in 'Post-Crisis' EU Economic Governance

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - LEVIATHAN (Taming the Leviathan? Legal and Political Accountability in 'Post-Crisis' EU Economic Governance)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2020-07-31

The key starting point for this project is that, just as the Euro crisis has challenged our understandings of EU integration, so it challenges the EU’s existing accountability models. Post-crisis economic governance removes many of the traditional pathways of legal and political accountability found under previous models of decision-making without substituting new models in their place.

In order to combat dangerous economic imbalances, the crisis has seen far greater powers provided to EU level executive institutions from the Commission to the ECB (and its financial regulatory agencies) to supervise national budgeting and regulate financial institutions. This rise in executive power has been accompanied by new challenges for parliamentary institutions at both the national and EU levels. Further, the open-ended and ad-hoc nature of ‘decisions’ under post-crisis governance make full political and legal scrutiny of decision-making difficult. Finally, while the crisis has seen the EU level gaining enhanced supervisory powers, many elements of the Union’s new economic governance have been established through international agreements of either a bi-lateral or multi-lateral nature. However, international law agreements offer EU citizens a far lower level of judicial protection than arrangements under the ordinary EU Treaties.

In light of this context, the overall objective of the LEVIATHAN Project is to determine how has ‘post-crisis’ EU economic governance altered the EU’s existing structures of legal and political accountability, and how could decisions under EU economic governance be made more accountable to EU citizens in the future? The project both maps how individuals and citizens can exercise accountability in post-crisis economic governance and seek to explore feasible and scientifically informed options as to how new avenues of accountability in the complex, differentiated and executive driven world of EU economic governance could be constructed.
Work package 1
Adina Maricut-Akbik is responsible for Work Package 1 ‘Holding Accountable the EU’s Economic Executive.’ This work package investigates the political accountability of the EU’s economic executive, specifically the extent to which the European Parliament (EP), the only directly elected body at the EU level, can hold accountable the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission, the ECOFIN Council, and the Eurogroup. In respect to work performed, Adina has developed the proposal and two chapters for the research monograph envisaged for Work Package 1. The monograph was accepted for publication by Cambridge University Press. Finally, Adina organized the first stakeholder workshop of the Leviathan project and was invited for talks at the ECB and at the European Parliament. The stakeholder workshop - including national and EU judges, as well as high-level ECB officials - explored the development of new forms of accountability in new areas of ECB action.

Work package 2
Ana Bobić is responsible for Work Package 2 'Differentiated accountability?'. As a legal scholar, Ana is examining the role of the Court of Justice and national constitutional courts in post-crisis economic governance and their role in accountability mechanisms. More particularly, the work package seeks to determine the position of the individual and her ability to make use of existing routes of legal accountability in EU economic governance post-crisis. It looks in particular at judicial review of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the proposed European Monetary Fund intended to replace the ESM; judicial review of monetary policy instruments of the ECB; and its application of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM). Ultimately, the monograph resulting from this work package seeks to determine the current patterns of legal accountability in EU economic governance post-crisis and explore its flaws. It will aim to show the interplay between EU and national models of decision-making and accountability. In respect to work completed, Ana is developing the proposal and two chapters for the research monograph envisaged for Work Package 2. Ana published two co-authored academic articles, with ongoing research from Work Package 2 presented at academic conferences.

Work package 3
Tomasz P. Woźniakowski is responsible for Work Package 3 ‘Economic Accountability and Domestic Institutions’. As a political scientist and historian, he examines the economic accountability of domestic institutions, specifically the extent to which the national parliaments (NPs) can hold accountable the executives at both the supranational and national levels. In respect to work completed, Tomasz has developed the proposal and two chapters for the research monograph envisaged for Work Package 3. In line with the project proposal, the national parliaments study is in progress and resulted with a single-authored article to be submitted to a major political science journal. He was also invited for the workshops on the future of the Economic and Monetary Union organized by the European Commission.

Work package 4
Mark Dawson is responsible for Work Package 4 ‘The Future of Accountability in EU Economic Decision-making’. The goal of the work package is to draw on the empirical findings of the other work packages with a view to future perspectives for the accountability of EU governance. A first part of this work has been theoretical, understanding how accountability should be understood in an economic context, and developing accountability standards. A second part has been applied, examining how these accountability standards are understood within specific EU economic institutions, examining the resulting gaps between the EU’s increasing functional ambitions and its constitutional commitment to legal and political accountability. To meet these goals, the project has published 3 papers, one (together with two other project members) unpacking the theoretical distinction between substantive and procedural understandings accountability and applying this to the accountability of the ECB; and two others, examining the role and challenges faced by legal institutions in rendering accountability (for example by examining the litigation brought before domestic and EU Courts regarding the quantitative easing programmes of the ECB).

Finally, the project has regularly invited high-level speakers to present on accountability and EU governance themes at a colloquium series on EU governance organised in Berlin in which all project members have taken part. The project team has presented their ongoing work at several occasions in this series receiving feedback from colleagues working in law and political and social sciences. This series, and the project’s other dissemination activities, will continue actively in the second half of the project.
For Work Packages 1-3, the remaining period of the project will be devoted to completing the research monographs in order to develop a holistic picture of how accountability relationships in economic governance are developing across the main available accountability channels (e.g. Parliamentary/legal and EU/national). This will be aided by several workshops. For Work Package 2, Ana Bobic and the PI will organize the second stakeholder workshop of the Leviathan project in 2020, titled: 'Adjudicating the unknown: in the search of theoretically sound approaches to judicial review of post-crisis mechanisms at the EU and the national level'. The purpose will be to apply new theorisations of the role of judicial review in prompting political accountability, applying concepts developed in the Work Package to the ESM case. For Work Package 3, Tomasz Wozniakowski and the PI are in the process of preparing a second workshop of the Leviathan project.

The remainder of Work Package 4 will be devoted to the final leg of Work Package 4 namely developing avenues and recommendations for the reform of EU economic governance’s existing accountability structure. This element will seek in particular to draw on the findings of the other work packages. Here, three main goals will be i) to examine how accountability should be conceptualised in EU economic governance ‘beyond’ reducing accountability to largely procedural goals and standards (an argument developed in the European Law Journal article already published, which indicates the scholarly need for a more developed ‘substantive’ understanding of accountability as a concept of EU law); ii) to develop recommendations to re-invigorate parliamentary scrutiny of economic decision-makers, including for the interaction and division of responsibility between national and trans-national parliamentarians; and iii) to develop recommendations for the re-appraisal of judicial review, particularly to ensure access to justice and substantive review of economic decisions.