One of the most striking economic governance trends of recent years has been the increased resort to fiscal rules. In the EU as a whole, the number of fiscal rules recorded by the European Commission in its fiscal rules database has risen nearly tenfold since the early 1990s. Such rules have varied considerably across countries. Nearly all EU Member States have also now established Fiscal Councils as independent agencies to monitor the conduct of fiscal policy.
Starting with the Stability and Growth Pact, the EU has been a prime mover in stimulating rule-based governance. Many of the reforms enacted in response to the years of crisis since 2008 were intended to tie the hands of governments even more by establishing norms not only for fiscal discipline, but also for curbing other macroeconomic imbalances. The changes also provide for more intensive monitoring of national policy-making by the EU level and undeniably constitute a far-reaching package.
The national case studies provide a detailed examination of fiscal and other rules in four EU Member States: Italy, Poland, Slovakia and the UK. Two of these are members of the Euro Area, Poland is a non-Euro signatory of the Fiscal Compact, but the UK, even before the Brexit referendum result, was bound much more loosely by EU rules.
The case studies have examined the application of the rules, drawing on a range of documents and on interviews with public officials responsible for the implementation of the rules and with experts knowledgeable about the respective countries. They sought to explore how the processes and mechanisms of fiscal governance function, the interplay between national and EU rules and what they imply for the coherence of the policy system and, more generally, to investigate the political economy of rules.