13 Colum. J. Eur. L. 679 (2007)

Imelda Maher.
University College Dublin School of Law, Dublin, Ireland.

The aim of this Article is to explore the challenges posed for conventional accountability mechanisms by “new governance, ” understood as the wide range of processes with a normative dimension that do not operate through the formal mechanism of traditional legal institutions. It examines at what level of government and to what extent there should be accountability mechanisms and what those mechanisms should be, taking economic (specifically fiscal) governance as a case study. Economic governance in European Economic and Monetary Union is hybrid in form in many senses, including the way it combines “old” and “new” governance. This binary classification is examined as a starting point for the analysis of the framing function of law in governance before turning to an outline of the original and revised economic governance structures under Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), in particular the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). The Article then asks what forms of accountability are to be found or should be found within this governance structure where there are clear legal frameworks in the Treaty Establishing the European Community (EC Treaty) and legislation with procedures supported by case law and yet where the emphasis is on soft law governance designed to push strict procedures, time limits and sanctions into the background Having reviewed current debates about the nature of accountability, the article engages in a largely functional exercise using Mashaw’s questions to ask: (1) Who is accountable? (2) To whom? (3) According to what standards? (4) About what? (5) Through what processes? (6) With what effects? The nature of the accountability regime-public, market or community-in economic governance is also addressed. The Article concludes that in economic governance we see both a hybridity of governance processes and of accountability regimes-this is to be expected given the mix of hard and soft norms and their re-balancing following reforms. What is not articulated by the legal provisions and is emerging organically is the extent to which law can or cannot wholly identify standards, roles, responsibilities and accountability mechanisms that underpin the values and goals articulated in economic governance.