Politicization, Issue Salience and the Consumer Policy Output of the European Commission

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Christian Rauh, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB)

    At least during the recent decades we witness the public politicisation of European integration. EU activity is much more visible, public opinion diversifies, and political demands are publically advanced towards the supranational level. This paper scrutinizes the policy effects of this societal development. It argues that higher levels of contestation render the diffuse European public a more relevant stakeholder for the European Commission because any future transfer of competences is more likely to be scrutinized in the public realm. For the Commission and its individual DGs, this creates incentives to pander public interests in their policy choices, in particular where a regulatory initiative is publicly salient at the time of drafting. Yet, since politicization invokes various cleavages among the European publics – both, along the left-right but also along a value and identity based dimension – the Commission has only little room for manoeuvre left and will resort to individual rights based policy rather than to re-distributive measures or outright value choices. In empirical terms, the paper thus focuses on European consumer policy. Based on novel politicisation and salience indicators and an analysis of regulatory proposals between 1999 and 2008, it shows that the Commission alters its consumer policies to the advantage of the diffuse mass of European consumers when high levels of politicisation and issue salience meet.