Eva G. Heidbreder, European Union governance in the shadow of contradicting ideas: the decoupling of policy ideas and policy instruments, European Political Science Review / Volume 5 / Issue 01 / March 2013, pp 133-150
The institutional architecture of the European Union is based on two fundamentally competing ideas: supranational rule and national sovereignty. These two underlying ideas are not reconcilable and work at different levels in the background of the policy debate. While on the normative level public sentiments remain strongly linked to the idea of state autonomy, on the cognitive level the paradigm of a functional necessity to cooperate is decisive for actual policy making. Only in some policy domains, such as the single market program, have policy-makers attempted to re-couple normative and cognitive ideas. In contrast to this, the central argument is that policy-makers mostly adhere to an alternative strategy: the systematic decoupling of normative and cognitive ideas. Focusing on public administration, it is shown how deft policy instrumentation allows actors to realize program ideas that satisfy demands for increased supranational governance. At the same time, however, these instruments are in dissonance with how policies are framed against the background of public sentiments that assume domestic bureaucratic independence.