chapter  6
Consensus politics as administrative practice: the Europeanization of external advice seeking?
Pages 20

Introduction Obtaining external advice by public agencies is a widespread administrative practice in the Benelux countries. These countries are characterized by an extensive system of advisory councils and interest group consultation, and their administrative practice of seeking external advice has distinct characteristics because of the consensual way of policy-making (Daalder 1966; Hendriks and Toonen 2002). The essence of a consensual political system clearly also involves the way in which administrative actors and organizations operate, and the way in which they fulfill their primary constitutional tasks – that is, the way in which they assist the core executive in policy formulation and policy implementation. The main aim of this chapter is to shed light on how European integration affects a key characteristic of administrative practice in consensus democracies, namely national-level, external advice-seeking by civil servants. The main focus in this chapter is thus on the second research question central to the overall book, namely whether European integration substantially transforms the consensual nature of political (and administrative) institutions. To address this question, we proceed as follows. First, we discuss the characteristics of external advice-seeking in the consensus democracies of the Netherlands and Belgium up until roughly 1990. Then we derive several expectations from both the consensus democracy and the Europeanization literature on the possible effects of European integration on domestic external advice-seeking. We subsequently offer an empirical synthesis of existing studies on external policy advice and combine this with a primary analysis of the effects of Europeanization on the practice of external advice-seeking. We draw on survey data of national senior civil servants in the Netherlands and conduct an analysis of secondary sources for both Belgium and the Netherlands. In the final section, we reflect on the degree to which the expectations we formed are supported by the empirical evidence.