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The Commission's Strategy to Respond to the Crisis: Nothing New on the Internal Market Front

Isabel Camisão, Helena Guimarães

In recent years, partly due to its continued "incompleteness", the internal market (IM) ended up relegated to a secondary position among EU priorities. The economic and financial crisis opened a window of opportunity to place the IM back on top of the European agenda. Its revival was part of a two-tiered crisis response, which also included reinforced financial markets supervision and stronger economic policy coordination. The latter tier resulted in a breakthrough in the Commission's economic governance functions that eventually substantially strengthened its supervision and administrative powers. In contrast, the Commission's response in the IM front appeared to be one of mere continuity of its past course, based on existing policy instruments with no marked policy innovation or gaining new functions or powers. Thus, to tackle the crisis, the Commission revealed a Janus-face like nature: one that involved "transformative change" in economic governance, and one of continuity in the realm of the IM. Using process tracing analysis our goal is to analyse the Commission's crisis response through the IM tier until 2014, in order to answer the question: Do the Commission's IM proposals and initiatives denote "conservative continuity", in contrast with the "reformist impetus" that characterizes its new economic governance functions? Our hypothesis is that there is differentiated change in the Commission's role in crisis response depending on the policy area. While the Commission took the opportunity prompted by the crisis to gain new functions in financial supervision and surveillance of economic policies, the nature of its role in revitalizing the IM to respond to the crisis was markedly conventional. Therefore we dispute the argument that there was an overall change of the Commission´s functions and powers, if one accounts for the two policy windows it embraced to respond to the crisis.

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