When Europe Hits Home: Europeanization and Domestic Change(*)
Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse
European Integration online Papers (EIoP) Vol. 4 (2000) N° 15;
Date of Publication in EIoP: 29.11.2000
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1. Introduction to contents list

For decades, European studies have mostly been concerned with explaining European integration and Europeanization processes themselves. Debates between neofunctionalism, (liberal) intergovernmentalism, and the ”multi-level governance” perspective centered around the question of how to account for the emerging European polity. This research, therefore, adopted a ”bottom up” perspective, in which the dynamics and the outcome of the European institution-building process are the main dependent variable (see e.g. Puchala 1972; Wallace and Wallace 1996; Stone Sweet and Sandholtz 1998; Moravcsik 1999; Héritier 1999). More recently, however, there is an emerging literature analyzing the impact of European integration and Europeanization on domestic political and social processes of the member states and beyond. This move toward studying ”top down” processes is desperately needed in order to fully capture how Europe and the European Union (EU) matter. It fits nicely with recent developments in international studies in general which increasingly study the domestic effects of international institutions and norms. As far as the EU is concerned, we can only hope for getting a more comprehensive picture if we study the various feedback processes among and between the various levels of European, national, and subnational governance.

This paper self-consciously restricts itself to the ”top down” perspective, while we are aware of the various feedback loops. How do European integration and Europeanization more generally affect domestic policies, politics, and polities of the member states and beyond? To answer this question, we review the emerging literature with the aim at developing some preliminary hypotheses on the conditions under which we would expect domestic change in response to Europeanization. We seek to simplify various propositions made in the literature and to point out where further research is needed. Our arguments can be summarized as follows.

Whether we study policies, politics, or polities, there are two conditions for expecting domestic changes in response to Europeanization. First, Europeanization must be ”inconvenient,” i.e., there must be some degree of ”misfit” or incompatibility between European-level processes, policies and institutions, on the one hand, and domestic-level processes, policies and institutions, on the other. This degree of fit or misfit constitutes adaptational pressures, which is a necessary but not sufficient condition for expecting change. The second condition is that there are some facilitating factors – be it actors, be it institutions – responding to the adaptational pressures.

Theoretically speaking, there are two ways of conceptualizing the adaptational processes in response to Europeanization which leads in turn to different emphasis concerning these facilitating factors. From a rationalist institutionalist perspective following the ”logic of consequentialism” (March and Olsen 1998), the misfit between European and domestic processes, policies and institutions provides societal and/or political actors with new opportunities and constraints in the pursuance of their interests. Whether such changes in the political opportunity structure leads to a domestic redistribution of power, depends on the capacity of actors to exploit these opportunities and avoid the constraints. Two mediating factors with opposite effects influence these capacities:


Thus, the logic of rationalist institutionalism suggests that Europeanization leads to domestic change through a differential empowerment of actors resulting from a redistribution of resources at the domestic level.

In contrast, a sociological institutionalist perspective emphasizes a ”logic of appropriateness” (March and Olsen 1998) and processes of persuasion. European policies, norms, and the collective understandings attached to them exert adaptational pressures on domestic-level processes, because they do not resonate well with domestic norms and collective understandings. Two mediating factors influence the degree to which such misfit results in the internalization of new norms and the development of new identities:

Thus, sociological institutionalism suggests that Europeanization leads to domestic change through a socialization and collective learning process resulting in norm internalization and the development of new identities.

Yet, the two logics of change are not mutually exclusive. They often occur simultaneously or characterize different phases in a process of adaptational change. Our paper concludes with some suggestions how to link the two mechanisms and to specify conditions when which logic dominates.

The paper proceeds in the following steps. First, we discuss the concept of Europeanization and specify what we mean by ”domestic impact”. Second, we develop the concept of ”misfit” and distinguish between differential empowerment and socialization as the two theoretical logics of domestic adaptation to Europe. Third, we discuss the degree and direction of domestic changes to be expected by the two logics and causal mechanisms focussing on the question whether we are likely to see convergence or divergence. We conclude with propositions how differential empowerment and socialization relate to each other.

2. What is Europeanization and What Does it Do to Us? to contents list

Scholars who adopt a ”top-down” perspective have used the concept of Europeanization in two different ways, which gave rise to considerable confusion in the literature.

  1. On the one hand, scholars have used ”Europeanization” to describe the ”emergence and the development at the European level of distinct structures of governance, that is, of political, legal, and social institutions associated with political problem-solving that formalizes interactions among the actors, and of policy networks specializing in the creation of authoritative rules” (Risse, Cowles, and Caporaso 2001: 2). Others have referred to this process as ”Europeification” (Andersen and Eliassen 1993) or ”Vergemeinschaftung” (communitarization). Here, Europeanization is the independent variable which impacts upon domestic processes, policies, and institutions.
  2. On the other hand, Europeanization depicts a ”[an] incremental process re-orienting the direction and shape of politics to the degree that EC political and economic dynamics become part of the organizational logic of national politics and policy-making” (Ladrech 1994: 69). Here, Europeanization connotes the processes and mechanisms by which European institution-building may cause change at the domestic level.(1)


For pragmatic reasons and since we are interested in understanding both the processes by which European integration affects domestic change and the outcome of this change, we follow the first conceptualization of Europeanization as a process of institution-building at the European level and explore how this Europeanization process impacts upon the member states.

We distinguish three major dimensions along which the domestic impact of Europeanization can be analyzed and processes of domestic change be traced (see figure 1 below):

There are more and more policy areas that are affected by policy-making in Brussels. The European Union produces around 500 policy decisions per year. The current body of Community Legislation comprises over 5.000 Directives and Regulations. The Europeanization of some policy areas, such environment and agriculture, reached a degree where more than 80% of existing policies are made at the European level. The implementation of European policies leads to substantial changes in the policy fabric of the member states. Such Europe-induced policy changes can affect the policy style, the general problem-solving approach, the policy instruments used, and the policy standards set (Knill and Lenschow 1998; Haverland 2000). Policy changes, however, often have broader repercussion on legal and administrative structures, patterns of interest intermediation, and policy narratives and discourses (Héritier et al. forthcoming; Schneider 2000; Caporaso and Jupille 2001; Radaelli 1997; Schmidt 2000; Liebert 2000).

If policies are increasingly made at the European level, this is likely to have consequences for domestic processes of societal interest formation, aggregation, and representation. There are many studies on how domestic actors strive to channel their interests into the European policy-making process (Mazey and Richardson 1993; Marks and McAdam 1996; Aspinwall and Greenwood 1998). Less has been done on the Europeanization of electoral and party politics (Greven 1992; Featherstone 1988). But we hardly know anything about how the emergence of a European structure of political and societal interest representation impacts on processes of political contestation and interest aggregation in the member states. While Mair, for example, argues that Europeanization contributes to de-politicization, indifference, and political disengagement (Mair 2000), Radaelli and Harcourt contend that European policy-making causes an increasing politicization at the domestic level (Hartcourt and Radaelli 1999). Yet, there is a growing literature on how Europeanization affects public discourses (Schmidt 2000; Marcussen 2000; Liebert 2000).


Most works on the impact of Europeanization focus on domestic institutions, both formal and informal. They analyze whether and to what extent European processes, policies, and institutions affect domestic systems of interest intermediation (Schmidt 1996; Cowles 2001; Héritier et al. forthcoming), intergovernmental relations (Jones and Keating 1995; Hooghe 1996b; Jeffery 1997; Börzel 2001), national bureaucracies (Page and Wouters 1995) and administrative structures (Wright 1994; Rometsch and Wessels 1996; Knill forthcoming), regulatory structures (Majone 1997; Schneider 2000), the relationship between executive and legislature (Andersen and Burns 1996; Norton 1996; Börzel 2000a); judicial structures (Conant 2001; Caporaso and Jupille 2001), state traditions (Kohler-Koch 1996; Kohler-Koch 1998b), macro-economic institutions (Dyson and Featherstone 1996; Dyson and Featherstone 1999), and national identities (Risse 2001; Checkel 2001). These studies focus either on specific policies and explore changes in the political, legal, and administrative structures that interpret and carry out policies. Or they are concerned with ”system-wide” institutions pertaining to the member-states, their societies and economies as a whole.

Figure 1

Whether the focus is on policies, politics, or polity, the general proposition that Europeanization affects the member states is non-controversial. Against earlier approaches, there is also an emerging consensus that the domestic impact of Europeanization is differential (see Cowles, Caporaso, and Risse 2001; Héritier et al. forthcoming; Kohler-Koch 1998b). Hence, the issue is no longer whether Europe matters but how it matters, to what degree, in what direction, at what pace, and at what point of time.

3. How Europeanization Matters to contents list

The literature has identified several mechanisms through which Europeanization can affect the member states. Christoph Knill and Dirk Lehmkuhl distinguish between institutional compliance, where the EU prescribes a particular model which is ”imposed” on the member states, changing domestic opportunity structures, which leads to a redistribution of resources between domestic actors, and policy framing, which alters the beliefs of domestic actors (Knill and Lehnkuhl 1999; on framing see also Radaelli 1999; Kohler-Koch 1996). Others emphasize judicial review, i.e. the right of any affected party to challenge deficient implementation of Community Law before national courts (Weiler 1991; Conant 2001; Tesoka 1999). A more indirect mechanism of domestic change is regulatory competition, triggered by the dismantling of trade barriers which provides firms with exit options from national jurisdictions (Majone 1996; Sun and Pelkmans 1995).

Most studies draw on one or several of these mechanisms to explain the domestic change they observe (see e.g. Héritier, Knill, and Mingers 1996; Héritier et al. forthcoming; Hooghe 1996a; Börzel 1998; Haverland 1999). Below, we argue that the different causal mechanisms can be collapsed into two logics of domestic change.


3.1 Misfit as the Necessary Condition of Domestic Change to contents list

While focussing on different causal mechanisms, most studies share the common proposition that Europeanization is only likely to result in domestic change if it is ”inconvenient”. There must be some ”misfit” (Börzel 1999; Duina 1999) or ”mismatch” (Héritier, Knill, and Mingers 1996) between European and domestic policies, processes, and institutions. The ”goodness of fit” (Risse, Cowles, and Caporaso 2001) between the European and the domestic level determines the degree of pressure for adaptation generated by Europeanization on the member states. The lower the compatibility between European and domestic processes, policies, and institutions, the higher the adaptational pressure. If European norms, rules, and the collective understandings attached to them are largely compatible with those at the domestic level, they do not give rise to problems of compliance or effective implementation more generally speaking. Nor do they provide new opportunities and constraints to domestic actors which could lead to a redistribution of power resources at the domestic level. European policy frames which resonate with domestic policy ideas and discourses are unlikely to trigger collective learning processes which could change actors’ interests and identities. The European system of judicial review only empowers national courts and citizens in member states whose legal systems are alien to judicial review. The Single Market, finally, only provides exit options for firms which used to operate within closed and protected markets.

Ultimately, adaptational pressures are generated by the fact that the emerging European polity encompasses structures of authoritative decision-making which might clash with national structures of policy-making and that the EU member states have no exit option given that EU law constitutes the law of the land. This is a major difference to other international institutions which are simply based on voluntary intergovernmental arrangements. There are two types of misfits by which Europeanization exerts adaptational pressure on the member states. First, European policies might cause a ”policy misfit” between European rules and regulations, on the one hand, and domestic policies, on the other. Here, policy misfits essentially equal compliance problems. European policies can challenge national policy goals, regulatory standards, the instruments or techniques used to achieve policy goals, and/or the underlying problem-solving approach (Héritier, Knill, and Mingers 1996; Börzel 2000c). Such policy misfit can also exert adaptational pressure on underlying institutions (Caporaso and Jupille 2001; Schneider 2000; Sbragia 2000; Börzel 1998). As policy misfits produce adaptational costs at the domestic level, member state strive to ”upload” their policies to the European level. This ”regulatory competition” particularly among the more powerful member states gave rise to a ”regulatory patchwork” of EU rules and regulations (Héritier 1996; Héritier, Knill, and Mingers 1996). As a result, all member states – including the ”Big Three” – may face significant, albeit different degrees of adaptational pressures when they have to ”download” European policies (Cowles and Risse 2001; Börzel 2000c).

Second, Europeanization can cause ”institutional misfit” challenging domestic rules and procedures and the collective understandings attached to them. European rules and procedures, which give national governments privileged decision powers vis-à-vis other domestic actors, challenge the territorial institutions of highly decentralized member states which grant their regions autonomous decision powers (Börzel 1999). The accessibility of the European Commission for societal interests challenges the statist business-government relations in France and the corporatist system of interest mediation in Germany (Cowles 2001; Conant 2001). Europeanization might even threaten deeply collective understandings of national identity as it touches upon constitutive norms such as state sovereignty (Risse 2001; Checkel 2001). Institutional misfit is less direct than policy misfit. Although it can result in substantial adaptational pressure, its effect is more likely to be long-term and incremental (see below).

Policy or institutional misfit, however, is only the necessary condition for domestic change. Whether misfits produce a substantial effect at the domestic level, depends on the presence of some factors facilitating adaptation as the sufficient condition of domestic change.


3.2 Facilitating Factors as the Sufficient Condition of Domestic Change to contents list

The domestic effect of Europeanization can be conceptualized as a process of change at the domestic level in which the member states adapt their processes, policies, and institutions to new practices, norms, rules, and procedures that emanate from the emergence of a European system of governance (Olsen 1996, 1997). Rationalist Institutionalism and Sociological Institutionalism identify two different mechanisms of institutional change, which can be equally applied to the change of policies and politics.(2) The two mechanisms or logics of change stress different factors facilitating domestic adaptation in response to Europeanization.

Domestic Change as a Process of the Redistribution of Resources to contents list

Rationalist institutionalism embodies a ”logic of consequentialism” (March and Olsen 1989, 1998), which treats actors as rational, goal-oriented and purposeful. Actors engage in strategic interactions using their resources to maximize their utilities on the basis of given, fixed and ordered preferences. They follow an instrumental rationality by weighing the costs and benefits of different strategy options taking into account the (anticipated) behavior of other actors. From this perspective, Europeanization is largely conceived as an emerging political opportunity structure which offers some actors additional resources to exert influence, while severely constraining the ability of others to pursue their goals. Liberal intergovernmentalists suggest that European opportunities and constraints strengthen the action capacities of national executives enhancing their autonomy vis-à-vis other domestic actors (Moravcsik 1994). Neofunctionalists come to the opposite conclusion that Europeanization provides societal and subnational actors with new resources, since the EU enables them to circumvent or by-pass the national executives (Marks 1993; Sandholtz 1996). Proponents of multilevel governance approaches in turn argue that Europeanization does not empower one particular group of actors over the others but increases their mutual interdependence giving rise to more cooperative forms of governance (Kohler-Koch 1996; Grande 1996; Rhodes 1997). The three resource dependency approaches predict convergence albeit around very different outcomes.

Neither can account for the differential impact of Europeanization observed at the domestic level: Europeanization does not systematically favour one particular group of domestic actors over others. For instance, while French firms gained more autonomy vis-à-vis their national government by circumventing (Schmidt 1996), Spanish firms did not (Aguilar Fernandez 1992). The Italian regions have been far less able to ascertain their domestic power than their Austrian or British counterparts (Desideri and Santantonio 1997; Morass 1997; Rhodes 1996). While the Spanish territorial system is undergoing profound change, German federalism has been reinforced by Europeanization. Whereas the equal pay and equal treatment directives empowered womens’ groups in Great Britain, they had virtually no effect in France (Caporaso and Jupille 2001).

We argue that Europeanization only leads to a redistribution of resources and differential empowerment at the domestic level if, first, there is considerable misfit which provides actors with new opportunities and constraints. And second, domestic actors must have the capacities to exploit new opportunities and avoid constraints. Two mediating factors influence these action capacities (cf. Risse, Cowles, and Caporaso 2001: 11-12).


  1. The existence of multiple veto points in a country's institutional structure can empower actors with diverse interests to avoid constraints and, thus, effectively inhibit domestic adaptation (Tsebelis 1995; Haverland 2000; Héritier et al. forthcoming). The more power is dispersed across the political system and the more actors have a say in political decision-making, the more difficult it is to foster the domestic consensus or "winning coalition" necessary to introduce changes in response to Europeanization pressures. A large number of institutional or factual veto players thus impinges on the capacity of domestic actors to achieve policy changes and qualifies their empowerment. The European liberalization of the transport sector, for example, empowered societal and political actors in highly regulated member states, which had been un-successfully pushing for privatization and deregulation. But while the German reform coalition was able to exploit European policies to overcome domestic opposition to liberalization, Italian trade unions and sectoral associations successfully blocked any reform attempt (Héritier et al. forthcoming; Kerwer and Teutsch forthcoming).
  2. Existing formal institutions can provide actors with material and ideational resources necessary to exploit European opportunities and thus promote domestic adaptation. The European political opportunity structure may offer domestic actors additional resources. But they are not able to deploy them when they lack the necessary action capacity. Direct relations with European deci-sion-makers provide regions with the opportunity to circumvent their central government in European policy-making. But many regions do not have sufficient resources (manpower, money, expertise) to be permanently present at the European level and, thus, to exploit the new opportunities. While Bavaria or Catalunya are strong enough to maintain regular relations with EU institutions, Estremadura or Bremen simply lack the action capacity to do this. Many re-gions then rely on their central governments to channel their interests into the European policy process (Jeffery 2000). In the UK, public agencies and related complementary institutions helped women's organizations with the means to use EU equal pay and equal treatment direc-tives in furthering gender equality. In the absence of such a formal institution, French women were not able to overcome domestic resistance to implement the EU equal pay and equal treat-ment policies (Caporaso and Jupille 2001; Tesoka 1999).

The existence of multiple veto points and formal facilitating institutions determine whether policy and institutional misfit lead to the differential empowerment of domestic actors as a result of which domestic processes, policies, and institutions change. This rationalist institutionalist logic of domestic change combines various Europeanization mechanisms identified in the literature. It captures and qualifies the propositions on changing opportunity structures arising from the European system of judicial review, the implementation of European policies, or regulatory competition.

Domestic Change as a Process of Socialization and Learning to contents list

Sociological institutionalism draws on the ”logic of appropriateness” (March and Olsen 1989; March and Olsen 1998) which argues that actors are guided by collectively shared understandings of what constitutes proper, i.e. socially accepted behavior in a given rule structure. These collective understandings and intersubjective meaning structures strongly influence the way actors define their goals and what they perceive as rational action. Rather than maximizing their subjective desires, actors strive to fulfill social expectations in a given situation. From this perspective, Europeanization is understood as the emergence of new rules, norms, practices, and structures of meaning to which member states are exposed and which they have to incorporate into their domestic structures.


Sociological institutionalism offers two potential explanations for domestic change in response to Europeanization, one more structuralist, the other more agency-centered. The first account focusses on institutional isomorphism suggesting that institutions which frequently interact, are exposed to each other or are located in a similar environment, over time develop similarities in formal organizational structures, principles of resource allocation, practices, meaning structures, and reform patterns (Meyer and Rowan 1991; DiMaggio and Powell 1991; Scott and Meyer 1994a). Institutional isomorphism explains process of homogenization of organizational structures over time. Thus, it ultimately rests on a form of structural determinism assuming that actors will strive to match institutions to environmental changes. Rather than adapting to functional imperatives, organizations respond to changes in their normative and cognitive environment giving rise to institutional isomorphy. The conditions for isomorphy can vary. Isomorphy appears to be most likely in environments with stable, formalized and clearcut organizational structures (Scott and Meyer 1994a: 118). Yet, provided that institutions are exposed to such an environment, they are supposed to respond by similar changes in their institutional structure. This poses serious problems in explaining variation in institutional adaptation to a similar environment. In sum, this version of sociological institutionalism is as unable to account for the differential impact of Europe as the resource dependency approaches discussed above.

But there is a second, more agency-centered version of sociological institutionalism which theorizes precisely differences in the degree to which domestic norms and institutions change in response to international institutional arrangements. This version focusses on socialization processes by which actors learn to internalize new norms and rules in order to become members of (international) society ”in good standing” (Finnemore and Sikkink 1998). Actors are socialized into new norms and rules of appropriateness through processes of persuasion and social learning and redefine their interests and identities accordingly (cf. Checkel 1999a, b). This perspective generates expectations about the differential impact of Europeanization, since ”misfit” constitutes the starting condition of a socialization process. The more European norms, ideas, structures of meaning, or practices resonate (fit) with those at the domestic level, the more likely will they be incorporated into existing domestic institutions (Olsen 1996: 272) and the less likely they are to produce domestic change. While Council of Europe’ citizenship norms resonate well with traditional citizenship practices in France, they directly contradicted the historical understandings of citizenship in Germany (ius sanguinis), thus creating a serious misfit (Checkel 2001). The idea of cooperative governance emulated by the European Commission fits German cooperative federalism but challenges statist policy-making practices in Italy and Greece (Kohler-Koch 1998b). Yet, cognitive or normative misfit does not necessarily result into domestic change. Domestic actors and institutions often resist change despite significant pressure for adaptation.

We argue that two mediating factors account for the degree to which misfit leads to processes of socialization and learning which lead to the internalization of new norms and the development of new identities:


  1. ”Change agents” or norm entrepreneurs mobilize at the domestic level. In contrast to rationalist institutionalist arguments, norm entrepreneurs do not only mobilize to pressure policy-makers to initiate change by increasing the costs of certain strategy options. Rather, they persuade actors to redefine their interests and identities engaging them in processes of social learning. There are two types of norm- and idea-promoting agents. Epistemic communities are networks of actors with an authoritative claim to knowledge and a normative agenda (Haas 1992a). They legitimate new norms and ideas by providing scientific knowledge about cause-and-effect relationships. Epistemic communities are the more influential in inducing change, the higher the uncertainty about cause-and-effect relationships in the particular issue-area among policy-makers, the higher the consensus among the scientists involved, and the more scientific advice is institutionalized in the policy-making process (Haas 1990, 1992b; Adler and Haas 1992). In case of the single currency, the coalition of central bankers and national technocrats successfully advocated a monetarist approach which produced dramatic changes in domestic monetary policy, even in countries like Italy and Greece which had to undergo painful adaptation (Dyson and Featherstone 1999; Radaelli 1998). Advocacy or principled issue networks are bound together by shared beliefs and values rather than by consensual knowledge (Keck and Sikkink 1998). They appeal to collectively shared norms and identities in order to persuade other actors to reconsider their goals and preferences. Such processes of complex or ”double-loop” learning (Agyris and Schön 1980), in which actors change their interests and identities as opposed to merely adjusting their means and strategies, occur rather rarely. They usually take place after critical policy failure or in perceived crises and in situations of strong uncertainty (Checkel 1999). While persuasion and social learning are mostly identified with processes of policy change, they can also have an effect on domestic institutions. As Checkel argues, Germany underwent a profound and constitutive change of its citizenship norms resulting from a learning process instigated by an advocacy network (Checkel 2001).
  2. A political culture and other informal institutions exist which are conducive to consensus-building and cost-sharing. Informal institutions entail collective understandings of appropriate behavior (March and Olsen 1989) that strongly influence the ways in which domestic actors re-spond to Europeanization pressures. First, a consensus-oriented or cooperative decision-making culture helps to overcome multiple veto points by rendering their use for actors inappropriate. Cooperative federalism prevented the German Länder from vetoing any of the European Treaty revisions which deprived them of core decision powers (Börzel 1999, 2001). Likewise, the liti-gational culture of Germany encouraged its citizens to appeal to national courts for the deficient application of Community Law, while such a culture was absent in France where litigation is much lower (Conant 2001). Second, a consensus-oriented political culture allows for a sharing of adaptational costs which facilitates the accommodation of pressure for adaptation (Katzenstein 1984; Katzenstein 1985). Rather than shifting adaptational costs upon a social or political minority, the "winners" of domestic change compensate the "losers". The German gov-ernment shared its decision powers in European policy-making with the Länder to make up for their Europe-induced power losses. Likewise, the consensual corporatist decision-making cul-ture in the Netherlands and Germany facilitated the liberalization of the transport sector by of-fering compensation to the employees as the potential losers of the domestic changes (Héritier 2001; Héritier et al. forthcoming). A confrontation and pluralist culture, on the other hand, may inhibit domestic change, as the example of the Spanish regions in response to Europeanization pressures documents. The competitive institutional culture initially prevented the regions from cooperating with the Spanish central state in order to reap the benefits of Europeanization and to share its costs, respectively (Börzel 2001).

The existence of norm entrepreneurs and consensus-oriented cultures affect whether European ideas, norms and the collective understandings which do not resonate with those at the domestic level, are internalized by domestic actors giving rise to domestic change. This sociological institutionalist logic of domestic change embodies the cognitive and normative Europeanization mechanisms such as policy framing and norm diffusion, which the literature has identified so far. It also incorporates mimetic processes whereby institutions emulate others to reduce uncertainty and complexity (DiMaggio and Powell 1991; Radaelli 2000).


The two logics of domestic change which are summarized in figure 2, are not mutually exclusive. The often work simultaneously or dominate different phases of the adaptational process. We come back to this point in the concluding part of the paper.

Figure 2

4. Where Do the Effects of Europeanization Take Us? to contents list

The two logics generate different propositions about the degree and direction of domestic change. Both take misfit as the necessary condition of domestic change and converge around the expectation that the lower the misfit, the smaller the pressure for adaptation and thus the lower the degree of domestic change. But the two logics depart on the effect of high adaptational pressure.

4.1 Absorption, Accommodation, or Transformation? to contents list

Europeanization can cause three different degrees of domestic change:

The rationalist institutionalist perspective suggests that the more new opportunities and constraints Europeanization provides (high adaptational pressure), the more likely is a redistribution of resources, which may alter the domestic balance of power and which may empower domestic actors to effectively mobilize for policy change by overriding domestic veto points. Medium adaptational pressure is also likely to result in domestic transformation if there are supporting formal institutions. In the presence of multiple veto points, however, medium adaptational pressure will be at best accommodated if not absorbed, even if this means non-compliance in case of policy misfit. Finally, the mere absorption of low pressure of adaptation may be prevented by formal institutions which support domestic actors in exploiting albeit modest new opportunities.


Sociological institutionalism, by contrast, argues that high adaptational pressure is likely to meet strong institutional inertia preventing any domestic change. New norms, rules, and practices do not simply replace or harmonize existing ones. Profound and abrupt changes should only be expected under conditions of crisis or external coercion (Olsen 1996). Actors are more open to learning and persuasion, if new norms and ideas, albeit ”inconvenient”, are compatible with collectively shared understandings and meaning structures. Therefore, medium pressure for adaptation is most likely to result in domestic transformation, at least in the long run. Processes of adaptation evolve along institutional paths.

In sum, the two logics predict opposite outcomes under conditions of high adaptational pressure. Moreover, sociological institutionalism would expect domestic change beyond absorption only as the result of a long-term process of incremental adaptation (cf. figure 3).

Figure 3

4.2 Convergence or Divergence? to contents list

The question of convergence and divergence is the trickiest one. Answers may vary according to the level at which one looks for convergence (Knill and Lenschow forthcoming) and the issue supposedly subject to convergence. What looks like convergence at the marco-level, may still show a significant degree of divergence at the micro-level. The Economic and Monetary Union gave rise to policy convergence among the 11 members with regard to inflation and budgetary restraints as well as to institutional convergence concerning the independence of central banks. But it did not lead to similar institutional arrangements in the economic and fiscal policy area. And the means by which the member states reduced their budget deficits varied enormously. While member states responded to the liberalization of telecommunication by creating independent regulatory agencies, they adopted different institutional setups, reflecting variation in administrative structures (Schneider 2001; Böllhoff 2000). In any case, policy convergence seems to be more likely than institutional convergence as policy changes are more easily achieved (see the chapters in Cowles, Caporaso, and Risse 2001). Moreover, EU rules and regulations require convergence in policy outcomes (such as low inflation or budgetary restraint in the case of EMU), while they leave quite some discretionary power to the member states with regard to the means how to ensure compliance. Thus, we need to specify what we mean by ”policy convergence”, convergence in outcome (which equals compliance with EU law and, thus, is not particularly interesting to observe) or convergence in policy processes and instruments. This is often confused in the literature as a result of which we know surprisingly little about the degree of policy convergence not related to policy outcomes.

As to the degree of institutional convergence, resource dependency and sociological institutionalist approaches generally lean towards convergence. Resource dependency predicts a redistribution of resources strengthening one group of actors over the others or reinforcing their mutual dependence. Sociological institutionalist arguments about institutional isomorphism suggest that institutions which frequently interact, are exposed to each other, or are located in a similar environment, become more similar over time (Meyer and Rowan 1991; DiMaggio and Powell 1991; Scott and Meyer 1994b). Yet, by now, we have sufficient empirical evidence which shows that the outcome of the domestic effect of Europeanization is diverse.


The most comprehensive empirical study on the domestic institutional effects of Europeanization so far showed that most of empirical instance of domestic institutional change fall in the ”mixed” category whereby some countries converged toward similar policy or system-wide structures, while others retained their specific institutional arrangements, state society relations, or cultural understandings (Cowles, Caporaso, and Risse 2001; cf. Kohler-Koch 1998a; Héritier et al. forthcoming; for the following see Cowles and Risse 2001). Convergence did not mean the homogenization of domestic structures. There is no evidence that domestic institutional change meant the complete rejection of national administrative styles, legal cultures, societal relationships, and/or collective identities. France did not shed its national identity per se when adopting a European one. The meanings of ”Europe” differed in the German and French political discourses, even though the elites in both countries have incorporated Europeanness into their collective nation-state identities (Risse 2001). The traditional tensions between the Spanish regions and central government did not disappear as a result of a more cooperative arrangement in territorial matters (Börzel 2000b). Moreover, there is no general convergence toward cooperative federalism in Europe, just a movement toward such structures among federal states such as Germany and Spain.

These findings disconfirm those schools of thought that expect strong structural convergence. According to the economic convergence school, we would expect increasing similarities in institutional arrangements in areas exposed to global market forces, i.e., mostly areas of negative integration. While the case of telecommunications confirms the argument, the EMU case does not (see above). Others have argued, in contrast, that EU policies of positive integration prescribe concrete institutional models for domestic compliance which should then result in institutional convergence (Knill and Lehnkuhl 1999; Radaelli 2000). The studies cited above disconfirm this proposition, too.

Irrespective of the pressures of adaptation, every member state has a different set of institutions and actors facilitating or inhibiting change in response to these pressures. Multiple veto points, supporting formal institutions, norm entrepreneurs, and cooperative formal institutions mediate between the adaptational pressures and the outcome of domestic change. Thus, the facilitating factors identified by our two logics of domestic change can explain the absence of full convergence and should lead us to expect only partial or, at best, some ”clustered convergence” (Börzel 1999) where some member states converge toward similar policies or institutions, but others do not. Member states facing similar pressure for adaptation, are likely to converge around similar outcomes, because similar actors are empowered and are likely to learn from each other in searching ways of how to respond to adaptational pressure. Thus, the regions of federal and regionalized member states by now rely on cooperation with their central government to inject their interests into the European policy process, a finding which does not hold for less decentralized member states (Börzel 1999).

5. Conclusions: Toward Integrating the Two Logics of Domestic Change to contents list

We have argued in this paper in favor of a rather parsimonious theoretical approach to the study of the domestic impact of Europeanization. Whether we study policies, politics, or polities, a misfit between European-level and domestic processes, policies, or institutions constitutes the necessary condition for expecting any change. However, adaptational pressures alone are insufficient. There must be mediating factors enabling or prohibiting domestic change and accounting for the empirically observable differential impact of Europe. We have then introduced two pathways leading to domestic changes which are theoretically grounded in rationalist and sociological institutionalisms, respectively. On the one hand, rationalist institutionalism follows a logic of resource redistribution emphasizing the absence of multiple veto points and the presence of supporting institutions as the main factors facilitating change. On the other hand, sociological institutionalism exhibits a socialization and learning account focussing on norm entrepreneurs as ”change agents” and the presence of a cooperative political culture as the main mediating factors. We claim that Europeanization might lead to convergence in policy outcomes, but at best to ”clustered convergence” and continuing divergence with regard to policy processes and instruments, politics, and polities.


However, the two pathways identified in this paper are by no means mutually exclusive. They often occur simultaneously or characterize different phases in processes of adaptational change. Future research has to figure out how the two pathways and causal mechanisms relate to each other. In conclusion, we offer some suggestions. We essentially build upon March and Olsen’s (1998, 952-953) interpretations of how the logic of consequentialism and the logic of appropriateness may be linked. First, a clear logic dominates an unclear logic. In the case of Europeanization, this would mean that the ”socialization/learning” pathway is the more likely to be followed, the more actors are uncertain about their preferences and strategy options, but are clear about their identities. In contrast, the ”resource redistribution” pathway is likely to prevail if actors’ preferences are well-defined and the available strategy options known.

Second, the two pathways might relate to each other in a sequential way. E.g., norm entrepreneurs might be empowered by supportive institutions, but then start a socialization process of persuasion in order to overcome multiple veto points in the domestic system. In contrast, if domestic change in response to Europeanization involves high redistributional costs, a socialization process might be necessary to overcome stalemate and to develop new rules of fairness on the basis of which actors can then bargain over the distribution of costs.

Finally, the logic of consequentialism exogenizes preferences and identities, while the logic of appropriateness endogenizes them. As a result, the more Europeanization exerts adaptational pressures on constitutive and deeply embedded institutions (such as citizenship rules) and collective identities, the more the socialization/learning pathway is necessary to induce constitutive change.

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Endnotesto contents list

(*) We thank Klaus Goetz, Gerda Falkner, Christine Ingebritsen, and Christer Joensson for their helpful comments.

(1) For an attempt to integrate both approaches see Radaelli 2000.

(2) The following draws on Olsen 1996; Börzel 2001; Checkel 1999.

©2000 by Börzel/Risse
formated and tagged by MN, 27.11.2000