Multilevel regulatory coordination: The interplay between European Union, federal and regional regulatory agencies

Publication Date01 Jul 2021
AuthorJan Rommel,Joery Matthys,Koen Verhoest,Emmanuelle Mathieu
SubjectSpecial Issue Articles
Special Issue: Agencies
Multilevel regulatory
coordination: The
interplay between
European Union, federal
and regional regulatory
Emmanuelle Mathieu
Institute of Political Studies, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Joery Matthys
Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs, Institute of Security
and Global Affairs, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Koen Verhoest
Department of Political Science, Research Group on Politics
& Public Governance, University of Antwerp, Belgium
Jan Rommel
Federal Agency for Asylum Seekers, Belgium
We know that European regulatory networks tend to broaden the gap between reg-
ulators and executives in the member states. But what is their impact on inter-agencies
relationship at the national level? The scope of issues addressed by European regulatory
networks may cover the competences of several independent regulatory agencies in
the domestic arena. Who is competent to participate in the European regulatory net-
work? What happens with the independent regulatory agency that cannot participate?
This can trigger confusion, competence conflicts, but can also be an opportunity to
Corresponding author:
Emmanuelle Mathieu, Institute of Political Studies, University of Lausanne, Ge
´opolis, Lausanne, VD 1015,
Public Policy and Administration
2021, Vol. 36(3) 343–360
!The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0952076719886736
develop coordination among the concerned independent regulatory agency. This situ-
ation is particularly delicate in federal states when the concerned independent regula-
tory agencies are located on different governmental levels. Against the background of
interdependent regulatory competences across levels, this article examines the con-
ditions for the rise of inter-independent regulatory agencies coordination regarding
their participation in European regulatory networks. Theoretically, we engage with
the literature on coordination between federal and subnational governmental actors
for European Union affairs and extend its application to regulatory actors. Based on a
longitudinal case study on energy regulation in Belgium, we bring three key findings.
First, the federal regulator’s acceptance to coordinate is explained by the rising inter-
dependencies between regulators across levels. Second, the regional regulator’s move
from a contentious strategy to a more cooperative one is explained by learning. Third,
bilateral coordination arrangements may pre-empt the emergence of multilateral ones.
Energy regulation, European Union regulatory networks, federalism, regulatory
agencies, regulatory coordination
In the European Union (EU), the dispersion of regulatory powers and the resulting
interdependency between regulatory actors across levels have led to a boom of
interactions and coordination practices (Aubin and Verhoest, 2014; Jordana and
Sancho, 2004). Yet, coordination is anything but automatic (Bouckaert et al.,
2010). It requires regulatory actors’ acknowledgement of their mutual interdepend-
ence and agreement about how to deal with this in a cooperative manner.
Variations in the degree of multilevel regulatory coordination across sectors
(Mathieu et al., 2017) and countries (Aubin and Verhoest, 2014) indicate that, at
the very least, some sector or country specif‌ic factors inf‌luence the extent to which
regulatory actors engage with coordination. Against this background, explaining
the rise of multilevel regulatory coordination is a promising research endeavour.
In the literature on regulatory coordination, we can f‌ind studies focussing on
inter-independent regulatory agencies (IRAs) coordination within member states
(Bouckaert et al., 2010; Koop and Lodge, 2014) and coordination among IRAs
across member states via European regulatory networks (ERNs) (Coen and
Thatcher, 2008; Eberlein and Grande, 2005; Maggetti and Gilardi, 2014;
Mathieu, 2016). Yet we do not know how the coordination practices along these
two axes interact. What is the impact of IRAs’ participation to ERNs’ on coor-
dination practices among national actors? While we know that ERNs has contrib-
uted to the disconnection between IRAs and their governments (Bach and Ruff‌ing,
2013; Egeberg, 2006), we do not know how ERNs affect IRAs’ relationship with
344 Public Policy and Administration 36(3)

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