What is it about?

The paper shows that the European Semester has influenced the domestic budget institutions and the governance structure of the NRP process in Italy, although in a way that reflects the centrality of fiscal stability and economic growth as the fundamental goals of EU governance during this period. As to the content of the reforms, the interplay between Semester and domestic reform points to the importance of material rewards and the consistency between EU prescriptions and the governments’ own reform agenda, especially at a time when the legitimacy of the EU has been on the wane in Italy as in several other Member States.

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Why is it important?

Findings have practical implications for the reform of the European Semester. Going down the road of strengthening the corrective arm of the MIP as recommended by the ‘‘Five-Presidents’ Report’’ is unlikely to be helpful. Conditionality, in the form of both rewards and sanctions, is always mediated by the manifold uses domestic political actors make of it and depends on the domestic legitimacy of its prescriptions, namely on their correspondence with domestic norms. More enforcement capacities at the EU level would not automatically facilitate the domestic implementation of the desired reforms and might indeed make it more difficult by reducing their legitimacy in the eyes of voters. Especially important for Member States with relatively weak public administrations, like Italy, the Commission should increase the scope of its influence on the domestic governance structure; in other words, it should help reshape the domestic institutional framework beyond the current focus on ensuring the delivery of fiscal stability, by improving the domestic formulation and monitoring of reforms and their coordination, also across different levels of government.

Perspectives

I hope this paper encourages more research on the European Semester!

Fabrizio Di Mascio
University of Turin

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Influence of the European Semester on national public sector reforms under conditions of fiscal consolidation: The policy of conditionality in Italy 2011–2015, Public Policy and Administration, April 2019, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/0952076718814892.
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