chapter  9
Day- to-day EU coordination in the Benelux: from domestic consensus politics to consensual EU coordination
ByPETER BURSENS, KATHLEEN HIELSCHER
Pages 20

Introduction This chapter deals with the domestic politics of European policymaking. The introduction of mechanisms to coordinate the formulation and representation of national positions at the European level can be labelled as direct Europeanization, as it refers to the bureaucratic interconnection between the European Union (EU) and the national level, also called linkage adaptation (Goetz 2000). This is, in a way, a rather trivial instance of Europeanization (Haverland 2006). Nevertheless, EU policy coordination is a relevant place to look for effects of European integration on consensus politics: establishing national positions is inherently characterized by consensus seeking. By exploring the current practices of European policymaking in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, this chapter examines to what extent the domestic EU coordination systems – both formal procedures and informal practices – are characterized by consensual modes of policymaking. We will treat consensus politics as a dependent variable and will sketch the conditions under which it takes place in the case of domestic EU coordination mechanisms. The multi-layered institutional structure of the EU provides us with an interesting puzzle. On the one hand, some institutional features of the EU, such as the need to speak with one voice in the European arena, may provide an impetus to compromise-seeking practices among domestic stakeholders. On the other hand, the EU policy arena itself increasingly offers exit options for domestic stakeholders who may prefer to bypass complex and cumbersome domestic policymaking processes. While the EU supplies domestic stakeholders with exit options, it also invites single ‘national positions’, and not ‘multiple domestic positions’, as input for the policymaking process. How do the coordination systems of the Low Countries deal with or adapt to these conflicting pressures? And to what extent do their EU coordination mechanisms and the two core features of consensus politics – inclusiveness of actors in a cooperative style and the avoidance of policymaking by simple majority – correspond? To answer these questions the chapter proceeds as follows. The first section describes the establishment and evolution of the coordination systems in the

three Low Countries. It explains that these are marked by Dutch ministerial autonomy, Luxembourgish informality and pragmatism and Belgian formalized cooperation, respectively. In the second section, based on the theoretical framework of this volume, we elaborate on a number of specific propositions in order to assess EU coordination in terms of consensus politics. Finally, we compare the way that EU policy coordination in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg is established and assess the fit with existing domestic consensus-seeking arrangements.