The European Union – traditional division of power and new trends of political systems

Basically, the European Union as institutional systems shows many patterns of a traditional political system as it is – for so-called Western Democracy very much shaped by the ideas of Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu.

As mentioned elsewhere (see the text on European Integration as part of last years notes, and the documentation of some general definition)

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the European Commission can be seen as executive power

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the Council and to some extent the European Parliament (the latter the only Institution with a full democratic legitimation) have the role of legislator and

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the European Court of Justice executing the judicative power.

However, despite these institutions we find at least the following additional »pillars« or »strands« of policy making.

The one are the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee, as advisory institutions with some representative functions (the first representing political spaces, the second representing specific interest groups).

Another strand consists of European Agencies, Observatories, and advisory bodies as for example the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Dublin. These have an advisory and assisting function, being themselves manifold linked to various actors (scientists, NGOs, trade unions and employers organisations etc.).

Furthermore, we find an increasingly acknowledged role of social actors – be it individuals who are contacted in their capacity as experts, NGOs and NPOs, enterprises and business organisations and the like. Here there is a huge field of lobbyism that is more and more included in the official procedures of policy making. Hearings and expert meetings, conferences, surveys and the like can be seen as part of this strand or pillar.

Finally, we find an increasing meaning of the fact that general, vague regulations, political recommendations etc. are left to projects and programmes (and their administrative bodies outside of the official institutional system) for implementation.

If carefully read, the following general consequences can be made out:

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  The first general consequence is the shift from politics to policies – the dealing with more and more technical aspects as which the administration of politics in the form of policies can be seen. This can largely be described as the orientation on departmentalised policies, administering certain areas of interest rather than arguing on the basis of fundamental values, developing general strategies and considering changes of the overall situation.

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   Second, we find an increasing meaning of organisations and institutions that are traditionally not part of the institutional political system that play an officially recognised role.

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   This, this goes hand in hand with the growing role of policy making by implementation. As regulations etc. can only be vaguely formulated, considering very general patterns, there is increasingly space for »interpretation by implementation«.

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   Fourth, thus a wide and general formulation and the extensive space for »interpretation by implementation« opens as well the space for contest: the judicative system is shifting more and more away from the traditionally limited role of controlling lawfulness, the compliance of political decisions with the law to a policy making role: the definition of the meaning of political decision.