Dr. Arnoldussen delves into the leader-laggard dynamics and regulatory competition in European environmental policy-making in an article published by International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, investigating how national events can influence state positions on the spectrum and highlighting the potential implications for policy outcomes. The ‘leader–laggard spectrum’ and ‘regulatory competition’ are recurring themes in the field of EU policy making.
The leader-laggard spectrum categorizes countries based on the level of their environmental regulations. Regulatory competition within the realm of EU environmental policy refers to the phenomenon where countries engage in a competitive process to ensure that their domestic legislation is incorporated into the EU framework. This spectrum depicts the dynamic nature of European environmental policy, driven by certain states assuming leadership roles and successfully advocating for their preferred regulatory solutions within the relevant European policy-making institution.
Throughout the policy process, these leaders encounter “laggards,” which refer to states that are less inclined to support ambitious regulations and tend to impede progress. It is important to note that the positions of states on the leader-laggard spectrum are not fixed and can change over time and depending on the specific issue at hand. The article focuses on the influence of relatively small-scale national events on the positioning of states within the leader-laggard spectrum.
The regulatory competition inherent in this spectrum can lead to an amplification effect on national problems. When a state is affected by a particular issue, it gains a European dimension through its efforts to address the problem, which it might not have otherwise had. This heightened European dimension can trigger an exceptional interest from member states in a specific policy area and type of regulation for a temporary period, significantly shaping the policy landscape. However, once the specific national problem is resolved or subsides, the state may withdraw from its active role, creating an opportunity for new contenders to emerge. Consequently, yesterday’s champions can become tomorrow’s laggards, and vice versa.
Arnoldussen, T. (2019). The role of national problems in European air quality regulation: the process of amplification. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 19(2), 207-224.