Council Checks of the Commission under the European Semester: Does Politicization Still Matter?
(with Mark Hallerberg)
The European Union evaluates the economic plans of all member states. Does politicization affect the process? The first step is that national governments submit economic plans to the Commission. The Commission drafts an annual commentary. The Council of Ministers then produces the final version that is given to governments, which includes country-specific commentary and recommendations. The goal was to identify problems early and to generate interest in member states. Previous work suggests, however, that the commentaries were not equally critical across member states. Both large member states and those with euroskeptic populations were more likely to have the Council of Ministers weaken the original Commission text. A goal of the European Semester introduced in 2011 was to apply the process evenly across member states. We therefore examine the determinants of the Council's editing of the Commission's evaluation in the period 2011-18. Consistent with the pre-2011 period, we find that the Council edits more texts meant for large states than for small states. However, unlike before the edits themselves are not substantively important. Our findings suggest that the reform did make it more difficult for states to change the Commission's recommendations.