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See detailAvoiding the Inappropriate: The European Commission and Sanctions under the Stability and Growth Pact
Sacher, Martin

in Politics and Governance (2021), 9(2), 163-172

Fiscal policy surveillance, including the possibility to impose financial sanctions, has been an important feature of Economic and Monetary Union since its inception. With the reform of fiscal rules in the aftermath of the financial and sovereign debt crisis, coercive provisions have been made stricter and the Commission has formally gained power vis‐à‐vis the Council. Nevertheless, sanctions under the Stability and Growth Pact for budgetary non‐compliance have so far not been imposed. This article asks why the Commission has until now refrained from proposing such sanctions. Using minimalist process‐tracing methods, three post‐crisis cases in which the imposition of fines was possible, are analysed. Applying an adaptation of normative institutionalism, it is argued that the mechanism entitled “normative‐strategic minimum enforcement” provides an explanation of why no sanctions are imposed in the cases studied: Given that the Commission does not perceive punitive action as appropriate, it strategically refrains from applying the enforcement provisions to their full extent.

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See detailMacroeconomic Conditionalities: Using the Controversial Link between EU Cohesion Policy and Economic Governance
Sacher, Martin

in Journal of Contemporary European Research (2019), 15(2), 179-193

The reform of EU economic governance since the outbreak of the euro area crisis has not stopped at the borders of Economic and Monetary Union. With the introduction of macroeconomic conditionalities in all European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), EU cohesion policy is now closely linked to the Stability and Growth Pact. The European Commission is expected to propose the suspension of ESIF funding in case of non-compliance with the Excessive Deficit Procedure. This article focuses on Portugal and Spain, which were nearly sanctioned under the macroeconomic conditionalities in 2016. It will address the question of why the application of this sanctioning procedure was softened compared to the hardness of its legal provisions. Drawing on the ‘usage of Europe’ approach and on the concepts of hard and soft law, this article argues that the usage actors make of a procedure has an influence on its legal character at the enforcement stage. This article finds that the hard law character of the procedure was softened by the European Commission’s flexible application of the provisions and by the European Parliament’s strategic usage of the rules.

See detailIntroduction - Recent Changes in EU Economic Governance: Methodological and Institutional Dynamics
Chang, Michele; Sacher, Martin; Tkalec, Igor

in Journal of Contemporary European Research (2019), 15(2), 134-142

A decade after the outbreak of the Euro crisis, enough time has passed to assess its impact on EU economic governance. This Special Issue aims to identify the institutional dynamics that have occurred since the crisis by using methodological approaches that reflect the rising complexity of decisionmaking under Economic and Monetary Union. The ambition of the contributing authors is to provide new theoretical insights and empirical findings and thereby to contribute to our understanding of the long-term ramifications of the Euro crisis for EU economic governance. This Special Issue addresses two broad research areas: power relations, institutional dynamics and decision-making practices, and the processes, efficacy and effectiveness of fiscal and economic policy coordination in the reformed setting of economic governance.

See detailThe future of federalism - intergovernmental financial relations in an age of austerity
Sacher, Martin

in Regional & Federal Studies (2018), 28(1), 102-105