Customized implementation of European Union food safety policy: United in diversity?

Date01 September 2019
Published date01 September 2019
AuthorValérie Pattyn
Customized implementation of European Union
food safety policy: United in diversity?
Eva Thomann
Palgrave Macmillan,2019, 228 pp., £54.99 (hb), ISBN: 978-3-319-92683-4
United in diversityhas been the central leitmotif driving European integration. The European Union (EU) is particularly
anchored in the idea of reconciling integration with doing justice to differences in national preferences. While the tension
between discretion and control of policy implementation can be said to be inherent to the nature of the EU, it is only
understood in a limited way. As Eva Thomann rightly argues, EU policy implementation scholars have been biased towards
investigating merely (non-)compliance. However, even when states legally comply with EU directives, EU rules frequently
undergo a process of vertical regulatory change, resulting in a diversity of domestic solutions to common policy problems.
Thomann calls this phenomenon customized implementation.IfweconceiveoftheEUasthejointgovernanceofcom-
plex cross-border problems, having empirical insight into customization is key. In her book, Thomann brings a series of
studies together in which she systematically investigates the patterns, causes and consequences of customization in five
countries (four EU member states: France, Austria, the UK, and Germany, plus Switzerland) in the field of food safety
policy. The book could not have been more timely with the process of European integration being under severe attack.
Thomanns contribution is innovative, not at least in conceptual and methodological terms. With the concept of
customization, she introduces an empirically more comprehensive and less normative notion than gold-plating.
Drawing on the regulatory output literature, customization captures the change that EU rules undergo in both density
and restrictiveness during legal transposition, within different categories of policy content. The analysis of customization
equally triggers conceptual reflections about the very notion of unity in diversity’—the subtitle of the book.
Also in methodological terms, Thomanns research is cutting-edge: she demonstrates the full potential of set-
theoretic methods to capture the complexity of policy implementation. Throughout the book she presents a state-
of-the-art application of different set-theoretic techniques to identify the conditions that yield extensive or limited
customization; or successful and unsuccessful implementation. Set-theoretic methods are particularly apt to account for
the conjunctural patterns underpinning customization and policy implementation; they can identify different country- and
policy-specific conditions that characterize policy implementation patterns (equifinality), and can model asymmetric cau-
sality. In the empirical chapters, the cross-case comparisons are complemented with a targeted analysis of typical and
deviant cases, which also help in understanding unexpected patterns. Thomanns application of set-theoretic methods
qualifies as best practice in multiple respects. I highlight, for instance, the configurational way in which hypotheses are
consistently formulated; and the compellingly comprehensive presentation of the (still relatively complex) set-theoretic
findings, also in terms of clear policy advicebeing exceptional both for policy implementation and QCA researchers.
Academics and policy-makers not familiar with the set-theoretic approach can thus easily grasp the essence.
The evidence about the causes and consequences of customization challenges us to profoundly rethink what
better regulationinvolves, and puts the EUs no gold-plating policy into perspective. As convincingly argued, it
would be unwise to avoid over-implementation at all costs. Instead, in some situations, granting discretion to mem-
ber states can play an important role in successful policy implementation. This turns out to be especially the case for
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12601
Public Administration. 2019;97:721722. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd 721

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT