The European Commission and Country-Specific Recommendations in the European Semester: An Impartial Advisor?

Thursday, July 13, 2017
JWS - Room J7 (J361) (University of Glasgow)
Stefan Becker , German University of Administrative Sciences
The European Semester, the EU’s framework for economic policy coordination, features country-specific recommendations to stimulate reform at national level. Despite being soft law, both the contents and the distribution patterns of these recommendations cause frequent controversy. The proposals of the European Commission are often deemed to be politically biased and to discriminate against specific member states. Analyzing distribution patterns from 2012 to 2016, this paper shows that most of the variation in the numbers of recommendations member states receive is explained by economic criteria laid down in the EU’s rules on economic governance. The Commission, however, appears to be more critical towards, or more attentive to, the Eurozone and newer member states. While the former finding can be explained by functional reasons, the latter lends credibility to suspicions of bias. Furthermore, the Commission’s interpretation of macroeconomic imbalances appears to be lopsided, merely as signs of economic competitiveness or lack thereof, when it comes to delivering advice to member states. Finally, the analysis also shows that the Commission displays growing self-constraint but more attention to detail when issuing recommendation proposals – a finding that corresponds to the general trajectory of its legislative activity. As a result, the Commission should not be considered a technical bureaucracy but a political actor in the implementation of the European Semester.
  • Becker - The Commission and CSRs.pdf (475.1 kB)