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Informal Circles of Ministers: A Way Out of the EU's Institutional Dilemmas?

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This contribution argues that the particular relevance of informal circles of ministers lies in their ability to routinise and communise the process of the interpretation of constitutional norms at the intergovernmental level. The informal setting triggers a particular mode of interaction—deliberative intergovernmentalism. In the case of economic policy coordination among the euro–zone countries, which is analysed in this article, this interaction produces common standards for the assessment of the economic situation in the member states and guidelines on appropriate policy responses in particular budgetary and economic situations. In a situation, in which there is growing need for closer policy coordination but European Union member states are reluctant to transfer further decision–making competences to the supranational level, the mediation between diverging interpretations of the rather ‘thin’ formal constitutional norms governing the coordination process is crucial in order to ensure the overall stability of the coordination framework. Informal circles of ministers can therefore be a way out of the current institutional dilemmas arising from the attitude of national governments to move towards new areas of common engagement while being increasingly reluctant to transfer further formal decision–making competences to the supranational level.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Queen's University Belfast

Publication date: 2003-02-01

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