chapter  3
22 Pages

Downloading in the EEA

In this chapter, the focus turns from uploading preferences to the EU level to the process of EU rule adoption, or downloading, in Iceland through the EEA Agreement. As noted in the previous chapter, it is important to bear in mind in this context that in most cases EU legislation corresponds relatively well with pre-existing domestic arrangements in Iceland and does not necessarily require much change to the national legal framework. State actors may also often feel that EU policy poses an effective solution to domestic needs and challenges.1 Therefore, Iceland willingly adopts the majority of the EU legislation which it is required to take on board through the EEA Agreement.2 Yet, as in all states adopting EU rules, situations do arise where EU requirements effectively clash with domestic policies or preferences, and this may be a more likely scenario in Iceland for various reasons. First, as outlined in the previous chapter, Iceland’s uploading capacity is

somewhat restricted due to its small size and limited access to EU decisionmaking. This has been further exacerbated by the fact that the Commission’s role in EU decision-making has deteriorated, as it is the main point of access of the EFTA states. Iceland has developed strategies and capacities which have counterbalanced these developments to some extent. Nonetheless the chances of success in uploading are arguably relatively slim in comparison to other states. Furthermore, Iceland’s isolated location and sparse population could mean that many of the EU’s policies, designed with more densely populated states on the mainland in mind, might not be ideally suited to Icelandic conditions. Finally, before Iceland joined the EEA, Icelandic policy in a number of areas had not followed the same trajectory as the EU countries. High levels of policy incongruence were, for example, noticeable in areas such as competition, finance, telecommunications and consumer affairs (Thorhallsson 2002). Overall, it is therefore relatively likely that EU policy requirements will

differ significantly from existing traditions or preferences in Iceland. As explained in Chapter 1, the institutionalist literature assumes that domestic structures and institutions will exert pressure on state actors to resist change imposed by the EU if there is a high degree of mismatch between EU policy requirements and existing structures and practices. Nevertheless, the effective

application of divergent EU policies is necessary for change within the political system or ‘Europeanization’ to occur. The question of why and to what extent Iceland would adapt to costly changes required by EU policies is thus crucial to the Europeanization debate. It is generally agreed that there are two external factors which may serve to

counter the domestic tendency to maintain the status quo: either through mechanisms which put pressure on states to comply by tilting their cost/benefit calculations in favour of change or through a process of socialization whereby states internalize EU norms. These are based on the logics of consequentialism and appropriateness, respectively. For the EU member states, the former mainly involves the Commission issuing infringement proceedings which can result in the Court imposing financial penalties. The latter assumes that a willingness to adopt EU policy can be promoted through high levels of social interaction at the EU level, which makes states want to become ‘good’ members of the society (Borzel and Risse 2003: 67-68; Checkel 2001: 561-62; Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2005b: 6 and 9). The existing Europeanization literature has found that these mechanisms,

whether they are geared at cost/benefit calculations or persuasion, are often not enough to ensure domestic compliance or downloading in the member states. Rather, EU member states are frequently reluctant to adopt EU policies if there is a high degree of mismatch between the national and EU levels. Domestic intervening variables such as mobilization in society, administrative capacity, a particular culture that facilitates or hinders compliance and the existence of veto points within the political system play a large role in determining whether or not an EU policy is downloaded effectively (Borzel et al. 2008; G. Falkner et al. 2005; Grabbe 2002; Haverland 2003; Knill 2001; Risse et al. 2001). On the other hand, in studies of candidate countries during the eastern

enlargement the carrot of membership and the threat of exclusion from the accession process were almost always found to be enough to ensure (at least formal) adoption of EU policies, no matter how high the adaptation costs (Grabbe 2001: 1015; Jachtenfuchs and Kohler-Koch 2004: 110; Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2004: 672; Vachudova 2005). It can therefore be argued that the type and strength of mechanisms at the EU’s disposal to induce domestic change vary depending on the implementing state’s relations with the EU. The aim of this chapter is to gauge how likely Iceland is to download the

EU’s policies effectively, even when they impose high adaptation costs and require considerable changes to pre-existing policies and administrative and political structures. EU policy initiatives are thus considered to be the independent variables, while domestic responses to these initiatives are seen as the dependent variable. In Iceland’s case, the EEA Agreement is the key intervening variable which determines the framework through which EU policy is adopted in Iceland. There may, however, be other intervening variables present within the domestic sphere.