We will reduce borrowing consistently also in the 2014 budget, (…). This is a substantial contribution of the German Federal Republic to fulfil to the obligations of the European Stability and Growth Pact and the fiscal agreement’
(Wolfgang Schäuble, Bundestag, Germany, 11 September 2012)
‘This stance on our fiscal policy is accompanied by the gradual reduction of net debt, and it makes use of the fiscal space made available by the flexibility clauses defined by the European Commission’
(Pier Carlo Padoan, Camera dei Deputati, Italy, 4 November 2015)
These excerpts taken from parliamentary speeches of recent German and Italian finance ministers are examples of how the fiscal rules of the European Monetary Union (EMU) have become an important decision-making criterion in the drafting of governments’ yearly budgets. The growing importance of supranational rules for national fiscal and spending policies has raised questions about the potential consequences for the functioning of national democracies. In particular, the theory has been advanced that under the new European economic governance rules, governing parties can no longer be responsive to the demands of their voters, and that instead they must be increasingly responsible towards European institutions. In other words, governments can no longer pursue socio-economic policies on the basis of their political preferences, as they are strictly bounded by the commitments undertaken at the European level.
In my research I explore the extent to which governments shape their spending and taxation policies on the basis of financial sustainability criteria or on the basis of responsiveness towards domestic demands. I investigate whether this balance changes in different contexts and try to understand the drivers behind this variation. In my findings so far, I have found that the EU fiscal rules per se have not altered the balance between what I call financial responsibility and democratic responsiveness. At the same time, there are striking patterns across different European countries, suggesting that there is a common cause shaping the possibilities that governments have to be responsive towards their constituencies.
My research has appeared in various journals, including Journal of European Public Policy, Journal of Common Market Studies, Party Politics and West European Politics.
I also have a forthcoming monograph under contract with Oxford University Press, entitled:
Between voters and Eurocrats: How do governments justify their budgets?