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EMU_SCEUS Report Summary

Project ID: 649532
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EMU_SCEUS (The Choice for Europe since Maastricht. Member States' Preferences for Economic and Financial Integration)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2016-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The Eurozone crisis corroborated the warnings of economists that weak economic policy coordination and loose fiscal oversight would be insufficient to stabilise the monetary union. To prevent a recurrence of the crisis, economists, political actors and the European Commission are asking for the construction of a deep and genuine EMU with reinforced governance architecture.

Many models of a fiscal union have been proposed. What is missing are not ideas and economic analysis, but the political consensus among member states’ governments for a specific integration path. Therefore, this project analyses the politics of economic and fiscal integration, that is, the conflict structure among member states. To this end, we study the preferences of member states’ for different models of a fiscal union.

Our theoretical framework builds on the comparative political economy literature and liberal intergovernmentalism and argues that domestic economic, fiscal and political factors are the main determinants of member states’ preferences. To empirically study the extent to which governments’ preferences are shaped by these factors, we conduct 165 semi-structured interviews with decision makers in all member states. The interview data are analysed with a mixed-method strategy – including quantitative analysis as well as case studies. We expect that the findings of the project will provide guidance for the successful implementation of a feasible reform of the governance architecture of the EU.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

There were three main tasks for the first 12 months of the project:

1. Setting up of the research infrastructure for efficient collaboration within the consortium.

2. Preparing the research framework for the data collection of member states’ positions on fiscal integration and governance during the 2010-2015 period of the Euro crisis (EMU_SCEUS_CURR dataset). This task has been broadened following the methodological discussions which lead us to expand the data collection by the document analysis.

3. Conducting data collection and analysis for the database of member states’ positions on fiscal integration and governance since Maastricht (EMU_SCEUS_HIST dataset). The task also included a preparation of a complementary set of information on the legal foundations of fiscal integration and governance in 28 member states on on the EU level.

The first two tasks have been fully completed, while the third one will continue till the end of 2016 due to the slower-than-expected collection of primary documents.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The first 12 months of the project focus on data-gathering. The expected impact on the academic and policy debates will materialize at the later stage, when the results and conclusions of the feasibility analysis can be presented. However, we have introduced the document analysis, which is an important innovation to the research design, which moves the project beyond the state-of-the-art of similar projects conducted in the past.

Initially, the document analysis was to be implemented only for collection of historical data (EMU_SCEUS_HIST dataset), while the data collection on the most recent reforms of the EU’s fiscal integration and governance (EMU_SCEUS_CURR dataset covering 2010 to 2015 period) was to rely solely on interviews. However, at the kick-off meeting the Executive Committee decided to test whether some form of the document analysis could be introduced for the latter dataset as well. We have devised and piloted a procedure of identifying contested issues through qualitative analysis of text corpuses of media articles, identification of the relevant policy spaces and of national positions on each issue. The Executive Committee accepted the procedure on its second meeting in October 2015 and each partner in the consortium deployed the resources necessary for its completion by March 2016. In April and May 2016, we have validated the results of the procedure by internal review panels and 25 validation interviews with experts directly involved in the relevant EU decisions during the 2010 to 2015 period.

The main advantages of the document analysis - in comparison with the original research design - are the following:

1. More credible data. The state-of-the-art, characterized by projects such as DEU or DOSEI, consists of collecting data exclusively through interviews in member states. Complementing such interviews with national decision-makers with document analysis data that are themselves validated by a separate set of validation interviews with EU-level decision-makers allows us to triangulate every single datapoint (see Leuffen and Degner 2015 for the methodological discussion). The triangulation is less prone to individual biases of interviewees and thus the resulting dataset of national positions is more credible than if it relied solely on interview data as is the standard in this field.
We were also encouraged to introduce the document analysis by the academic discussion of our project at the joint kick-off meeting of Horizon 2020 project in November 2015 in Brussels, when the issue of credibility of interview data was brought up by fellow scholars and our project officer. The triangulation enabled by the document analysis presents a robust enhancement of data credibility and thus addresses the issue.

2. More and better data. The member states interviews are limited by time that elite interviewees are able to provide. Hence, without the document analysis we would not have been able to cover more than a dozen of issues. With the document analysis we have gathered and validated 85% of national positions on 41 contested issues. Hence, the EMU_SCEUS_CURR dataset is substantively larger than was anticipated in the original project design. With the developed method-mix of document analysis and elite interviewing, we apply for the different steps and questions the most promising empirical methods, which enhances the quality of the data and allows for cross-checking. We can thus not only gather more data, but will also have more information on the accuracy of the collected data.

3. Better interviews. The main advantage of this project, in comparison with the most successful past projects such as DEU or DOSEI, is that interviewers from our team know each issue very well before the start of the interview. Hence, we can spend less time asking about the national position and focus directly on its formation. Consequently, on the four issues selected for the Member State Questionnaire we can inquire much deeper into the positions, influence and strategies of various domestic stakeholders.

The larger, more credible and more detailed dataset of national positions and the process of their formation on domestic level will provide us with a robust platform for delivering the academic and policy impact envisaged by our project. Specifically, we will be able to evaluate empirically the legitimacy of EU decision-making, by the extent to which the governments’ positions are democratically anchored in the national political system. Such findings, complemented by the case studies conducted towards the end of the project, will enable us to assess the political feasibility of various reform scenarios under the variety of economic, political and legal circumstances.

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