The debate about the future of European governance revolves around three main questions: the finalité, i.e. the overall goals of integration; the attribution of competences between EU institutions and the member states; and differentiated integration. These questions rest on a diagnosis of the European malaise that highlights the clash between widening and deepening, i.e. the difficulty of reconciling the social, cultural, and political diversity within the Union of 27, and the degree of shared sovereignty that is required in order to properly manage the multifarious EU competences. Illustrating the case of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and its far failed reform, the present contribution suggests a different interpretation of the institutional impasse that currently beset the EU. Such impasse results from the ongoing pursuit of a regulatory model of governance. Despite being meant to allow member states to keep control over the integration process, such a model results, instead, in a number of unintended constraints on member states’ political autonomy. Additionally, it also undermines the Union’s political legitimacy. The limits of the model become patent whenever common policy areas have redistributive implications. In these cases, of which the CEAS is a chief example, efficiency and joint responsibility for the achievement of common purposes go hand in hand. Focused on the prevention of externalities, the regulatory model is unable to solve the collective action problems that arise in such policy areas.
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