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Austerity and the Green Acquis: Learning from Earlier Policy Dismantling Attempts in the 1990s and 2000s

Viviane Gravey

This paper sheds light on the impacts of austerity on the existing stock of EU environmental policies, the green acquis. Building on the renaissance of policy dismantling studies on both sides of the Atlantic, it investigates a level of governance conventionally left out of dismantling studies - the EU - to ascertain whether austerity has changed the way existing EU legislation is revised and potentially dismantled, i.e. cut, diminished or removed. It brings together three chronological case studies of dismantling attempts at EU level: in the 1990s - in the wake of the difficult ratification of the Maastricht Treaty and the ensuing subsidiarity crisis -, in the mid-2000s - with the re-launch of the EU Better Regulation agenda with a focus on competitiveness -, and in the 2010s - under the second Barroso Commission's Smart Regulation programme and the new Juncker Commission's work programme. Based on archival work and elite interviews the case studies identify the dismantling actors, rationales, targets and results of these dismantling attempts. Comparing the three time periods reveals key similarities, in terms of actors, rationale and even dismantling strategies, bringing new insights in the evolution of EU environmental policy. It further demonstrates the gradual strengthening of dismantling pressure at EU level as new dismantling attempts build on the success of earlier ones in changing the way EU environmental policy is agreed on.

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