Linking the levels of governance in the EU

Briefing 29-07-2020

The coronavirus crisis has further underlined the need for a more cohesive European Union (EU). Previous ideas about how best to link the levels of the EU's system of multilevel governance have become even more important, while new paths of cooperation have been opened by changes triggered by the crisis itself. Every level of governance, from the EU to the local, via the national and regional levels, has been affected by the crisis and all are involved in the response. This crisis has shown that coordination between the levels can improve and should be improved. EU decision-making could become even more effective, efficient and legitimate if it draws appropriate lessons from the crisis. The first part of this paper focuses on the rationale for, and form of, an EU strategy to better connect the different levels of the multilevel system of governance in Europe. The second part assesses the consequences of the current crisis for the links between EU governance levels, reflecting on the various lessons to be drawn, for each level, and suggesting different practical implications for the process, such as the need to adjust the network of key partners and seize the moment to further incorporate digital technologies in partnership-building. Finally, the paper highlights the historic opportunity provided by the forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe to develop and establish a more permanent system to link the levels of our Union. Concrete proposals are summarised in a table of potential initiatives.