Archivi categoria: Just published

Politicization and EU economic governance

Does politicization – the expansion of the scope of national conflict – shape EU policy design? Are the functional pressures shaping design disrupted?

We address these questions with regard to the EU economic governance regime in this @jepp_journal article.

We reach the following conclusions:

a) This regime, based heavily on Council-centred enforcement, is clearly not in line with standard liberal-intergovernmental expectations about policy design, especially given significant noncompliance.

The first figure below illustrates how enforcement-related prerogatives are pooled within the Council, rather than delegated to the Commission, as liberal-intergovernmentalism suggests, despite the extensive noncompliance. The second figure shows the patterns of noncompliance with this regime across time and member states.

b) We argue that this design has more to do with salience and severe implementation uncertainties, related to somewhat arbitrary criteria, like the reference values, and to unobservable quantities, whose measurement depends on uncertain estimates, THAN with politicization.

For instance, the Council is unlikely to heavily rely on Commission enforcement if the measurement of the output gap is highly uncertain.

c) Yet, problems of compliance and commitment, threats of exclusion and veto, issue linkages, path dependencies, and supranational involvement remain central in explaining the overall direction of reforms toward national tightening, limitation of Council authority and delegation to the Commission, despite recent politicization

d) Note however that this was a case where mass domestic politicization was triggered BY noncompliance and elite conflict. So we should not conclude that politicization is necessarily epiphenomenal for policy design.

Thanks to the special issue editors: C. Reh, C. Koop, and E. Bressanelli.

Franchino, Fabio, and Camilla Mariotto (2020) ‘Politicisation and Economic Governance Design ‘ Journal of European Public Policy, 27:3, 460-480.

Your prejudices about law observance are (sometimes) wrong

Italy more law observant than Denmark and Finland? Spain more compliant than Germany? You hardly hear this in the news, but these are the surprising patterns of noncompliance with the regulation on state aid in the European Union between 2000 and 2012. We report the results from a research conducted by Fabio Franchino and Marco Mainenti that explains how electoral institutions shape the incentives of governments to comply with international obligations.

Check out this figure.


It illustrates the proportion of unlawful measures out of the total number of state aid measures adopted by the countries of the European Union (EU) (measures are unlawful if they do not comply with the EU provisions on state aid). Existing explanations of compliance and implementation in the European Union cannot satisfactorily describe these patterns.

These data not only display surprising patterns across countries but the simple fact that a government decides in the first place to avoid these rules is puzzling since the likelihood of being detected is high and the costs associated with noncompliance are not trivial (an unlawful aid must be recovered, including the accrued payable interests). Notice that certain state aid measures are compatible with EU law.

To explain why countries are willing to take these risks, we use the recent literature on how compliance with international obligations is affected by the types of electoral institutions employed in a country. These institutions can shape the incentives of governments to comply because of the misalignment they may engender between the collective objectives of a government party and the individual objectives of its members in the legislature.

We find that an increase of district magnitude improves compliance (district magnitude is the number of seats available in an electoral district). The higher the magnitude the less politicians are pressured to cater to constituency-specific interests and the less likely they will press their government to circumvent the EU provisions on state aid.

However, where either party leaders have no control over the ballot rank or other electoral rules strengthen the incentives to search for a personal vote, compliance decreases with higher magnitude. These electoral rules  increase competition among candidates in a multi-member district.  The higher the number of candidates, the toughest the competition and the need for politicians to distinguish themselves from copartisans, the higher the pressure to evade the rules.

Our work also provides evidence for the effects of electoral reforms on compliance.

The article is available here

Franchino, Fabio, and Marco Mainenti. “The Electoral Foundations to Noncompliance: Addressing the Puzzle of Unlawful State Aid in the European Union.” Journal of Public Policy 36, no. 3 (September 2016): 407–436. doi:10.1017/S0143814X15000343.

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Personal websites: Fabio Franchino, Marco Mainenti

How we value honest and competent politicians (so long as they share our views)

How we value competence, honesty and other valuable traits depends on how close politicians are to our ideas. If they are distant, we tend to dismiss those qualities. We may even prefer unsavory politicians if the alternative is someone supporting policies we deeply dislike. We report the results from an experiment conducted by Fabio Franchino and Francesco Zucchini with the research assistance of Alessandra Caserini of the Laboratorio Indagini Demoscopiche, Università degli Studi di Milano.

 Un brigante onesto è un mio ideale. Giuseppe Garibaldi

Competence, like truth, beauty and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. Laurence J. Peter

‘Honesty is the best policy’.  How can we disagree with Benjamin Franklin? Right? But how do we actually value honesty and other universally cherished traits, such as competence and dedication, when we choose politicians?

In 2012–13, we have conducted experiments in which participants were asked to choose between candidates who vary along three character-based valence (education, income and honesty) and two ideological (attitudes toward taxation and spending and the rights of same-sex couples) attributes.

Our results indicate that education and integrity, but not income (unsurprisingly), indeed behave like valence issues in which voters prefer more to less. More interestingly, the degree to which a valence attribute like education, which is a proxy for competence, influences the propensity to choose a given candidate depends on the proximity between the political views of the respondent and the political views of the candidate.


In other words, we do value competent politicians, so long as they share our views. If they do not, we tend to dismiss these traits.

In awkward situations where participants have to choose between one politician with whom they share the political views, but there are issues concerning his integrity, and a second politician who is clean but supports disliked policies, they tend to prefer the  (at least integrity-wise) unsavory candidate.

Honesty is the best policy, if you support the best policies.

The article is available here

Franchino, Fabio, and Francesco Zucchini (2014) ‘Voting in a Multi-Dimensional Space: A Conjoint Analysis Employing Valence and Ideology Attributes of Candidates‘, Political Science Research and Methods, 3,2: 221-241

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Links to websites: Fabio Franchino, Francesco Zucchini, Alessandra Caserini , Laboratorio Indagini Demoscopiche

Conciliation Committee Negotiations

Franchino, Fabio and Camilla Mariotto (2013) ‘Explaining Negotiations in the Conciliation Committee‘, European Union Politics, 14.


The conciliation committee is the ultimate bicameral dispute settlement mechanism of the ordinary legislative procedure of the European Union. Who gets what, and why, in this committee? We argue that its institutional setup is biased in favour of the Council of Ministers. Employing the Wordfish algorithm, we show that the joint text is more similar to the Council common position than to the parliamentary reading in almost 70 percent of the dossiers that reached conciliation up to February 2012. The European Parliament is more successful in the post-Amsterdam period, when the Council decides by qualified majority voting, the rapporteur comes from a large party, the European Commission is supportive, and when national administrations are more involved in the implementation process than the Commission.

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Electoral Institutions and Distributive Policies

Franchino, Fabio and Marco Mainenti (2013) ‘Electoral Institutions and Distributive Policies in Parliamentary Systems: An Application to State Aid Measures in EU Countries‘, West European Politics, 36.


Electoral institutions should systematically affect the propensity of a country to rely and spend on distributive measures. Supporting evidence is however still rare because of the difficulty in finding comparable cross-national data, the employment of dummy variables to account for the electoral systems, and the failure to recognise the interacting effects of different electoral rules on policy outcomes. Employing national data on state aid expenditure and a number of measures across European Union countries, the article provides evidence that legislators elected in higher magnitude districts spend less. More interestingly, it shows the interlocking policy effects of electoral institutions. Where high district magnitude is combined with ballot control, party-based voting and pooling, these rules conjunctly dampen politicians’ incentives to cultivate a personal vote and lead to lower spending on, and use of, distributive measures. Where high district magnitude is not combined with these rules, results are inconclusive. With one exception though, if leaders do not have control over the ballot rank, higher magnitude increases reliance on distributive measures. Results are robust to several alternative political-economy explanations of fiscal policy outcomes.

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Social bases of nuclear energy policies in Europe

The social bases of nuclear energy policies in Europe: Ideology, proximity, belief updating and attitudes to risk

Fabio Franchino, Università degli Studi di Milano

European Journal of Political Research, Volume 53, Issue 2, pages 213–233, May 2014

A summary of this article is available on the EUROPP blog of the London School of Economics and Political Science

This article analyses the social bases underpinning the widely different trajectories of nuclear energy policies across Western European countries. Employing a set of surveys carried out in the last thirty years, it examines the conditional effects of ideology and geographical proximity to a nuclear power plant on attitudes toward nuclear energy, as well as the long- and short-term dynamics of belief updating after the occurrence of major accidents. Results highlight how proximity can strengthen, weaken or have no effect on the ideological component of these attitudes. Moreover, the publics of most countries with experience in nuclear energy display the traits of Bayesian dynamics of belief updating, especially in the vicinity of a plant. The article also shows the fairly exceptional traits of French public opinion. In conclusion, the broad social constraints within which governments operate, across time and space, shed light on the different policy trajectories of European countries.

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