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Customization and output legitimacy in the European Union

A Department of Politics lecture
Date28 October 2019
Time19:00 to 21:00
PlaceRussell Square: College Buildings, London

Russell Square: College Buildings, London

Dr. Eva Thomann, senior lecturer in Politics, will deliver a lecture on customisation and output legitimacy in the European Union at SOAS on 28 October.

The motto of the European Union (EU) is “United in Diversity”. One central purpose of the EU is to provide joint solutions to shared policy problems that nation states cannot effectively tackle on their own. Indeed, a superior “output legitimacy”, that is, the ability to effectively solve problems, is traditionally seen as a core advantage of the EU that can compensate for weak democratic “input legitimacy”. At the same time, these solutions can only be effective if they are also put into practice by member states. However, different countries interpret EU rules in very diverse ways in order to adapt them to domestic contexts and political realities. Unlike “differentiated integration”, comparatively little is known about “differentiated implementation” in the EU.

Eva Thomann conceptualizes this diversity as vertical regulatory change of EU policies throughout the implementation chain, called “customization”. Customization captures how member states change the quantity (customized density) and quality (customized restrictiveness) of EU policies. Based on the implementation of EU food safety rules in Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, Thomann illustrates the extent and diversity of customization using innovative set-theoretic methods. She analyzes the causes for customization both in terms of domestic politics and “opposition through the back door”, misfit assumptions, and the distinction between a “logic of consequences” and a “logic of appropriateness”.  After transposition, EU policies still need to be put into practice and enforced by member states. Thomann provides the first analysis of how customized implementation contributes to successful or unsuccessful practical outcomes of EU policies. Spoiler: it depends on the tractability of the policy problem and the domestic implementation context. However, customization proves to be an important problem-solving strategy of member states.

This means that there is a role for “diversity” in making EU policies a success. The question is, what kind of diversity, and what role can it legitimately play in European governance? This research provides innovative analytic tools and an insightful account of how the politics of policy implementation shape the output legitimacy of the EU multilevel governance system.

The talk is based on the monograph “Customized implementation of European Union food safety policy: United in diversity?” (Palgrave, 2019, International Series on Public Policy), winner of the 2019 best book award of the International Public Policy Association, and integrates new findings on customization in 27 member states.

Dr. Eva Thomann is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Exeter. She specializes in Public Policy and Public Administration with an emphasis on both multilevel and frontline policy implementation. Eva Thomann’s research on customization scrutinizes the patterns, causes and consequences of how member states adapt and change European Union policies when putting them into action. Her topical interests include Europeanization and European integration, multilevel governance and problem-solving, public accountability, social equity, and behavioral public policy and administration. Eva Thomann is an active user and teacher of case-oriented and set-theoretic research design and methodology. In addition to her award-winning monograph “Customized implementation of European Union food safety policy: United in diversity?” (Palgrave, 2019), her research appeared amongst others in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Policy Studies Journal, Policy Sciences, Sociological Methods & Research, Governance, Public Administration, the Journal of European Public Policy, and the European Journal of Political Research. Eva Thomann is an active member of the international research community who serves on various boards and teaches at several renowned international method and summer schools. Previously, she has held research positions and lectured at the University of Bern, the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, the University of Heidelberg, and the European University Institute in Florence. She completed her PhD in Public Administration at the University of Bern in 2015 and has worked in policy consultancy from 2009-2015.

ProviderDepartment of Politics

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