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Dismantling the Acquis? 20 Years of Environmental Policy Reform

Viviane Gravey

European integration has been built on the pooling of competence and creation of common rules at EU level. But the recent crisis has rekindled fears that the EU has gone too far, with a multiplication of calls for the renegotiation and repatriation of certain powers. Is policy dismantling, i.e. the weakening or removal of existing policy, taking place at EU level? To address this question, this paper focuses on EU environmental policy, a sector that has repeatedly been targeted for dismantling.This paper compares recent pressures put on EU environmental legislation since the onset of the crisis with earlier attempts at dismantling the green acquis - in the 1990s with the subsidiarity debate and in the mid-2000s under the Better Regulation agenda. First, it analyses how much dismantling resulted from these two early attempts. To do so it uses a new coding tool to study the changes (expansion and dismantling) that took place during the reforms of directives and regulations targeted for dismantling. Second, it compares who were the actors pushing for dismantling and the strategies they used, using elite interviews and press accounts. It contributes to a better understanding of what drives actors to policy dismantling - credit claiming, blame avoidance - at EU level, as well as whether policy dismantling is possible within the EU's highly consensual political system.

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