Thomas König, Lars Mäder
The Myth of 80% and the Impact of Europeanisation on German Legislation

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Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 118
ISSN: 1437-8574

Ever since Jacques Delors’s famous speech in front of the European Parliament in July 1988, the myth of an 80%-influence of Europe on the legislatures of the member states was born. For Germany, two empirical studies reveal a much lower impact of Europeanisation on German legislation, but it remains an open question on how Europe affects the democratic principles of the German legislative process. Following Moravcsik (1997), the executive can exploit Europeanisation and increase governmental agenda-setting power which should raise the adoption rate of governmental proposals. This prompts the question on the reaction of parliament which may feel threatened by increased governmental power. Recent parliamentary research points to an inherent principal agent-problem of coalition government, according to which coalition partners share the common interest in forming government and often agree on a common program, but must delegate portfolio powers to ministers in order to implement their programmatic goals. But when ministers are tempted to pursue their own interests at the expense of the common goals, legislative review becomes a key resource for the coalition partner to scrutinize governmental proposals in the event of ministerial drift (Martin and Vanberg 2005). Hence, when Europe increases governmental agenda-setting power, the question is whether the risk of ministerial drift will also increase and whether parliament will accordingly increase scrutinizing activities and amend more governmental proposals to solve principal agent-problems. In order to answer this question this article explores the effects of European impulses for the adoption rate of (governmental) bills and the level of parliamentary amendment activities in German legislation in the period from 1978 to 2005. Our findings reveal that government cannot profit from Europeanisation in terms of a higher adoption rate. Rather, because the governmental adoption rate is already very high in German legislation, the indication of a European impulse only increases the likelihood for success of other legislative agenda setters. Moreover, parliament is obviously more aware of hostile proposals when a European impulse is mentioned. We find more parliamentary amendments and longer duration, both indicating more parliamentary scrutiny in the event of proposals with European impulse independent of the type of initiator.