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Heinkelmann-Wild, Tim; Rittberger, Berthold and Zangl, Bernhard (2018): The European Blame Game. Explaining Public Responsibility Attributions in the European Union. In: Kruck, Andreas; Oppermann, Kai and Spencer, Alexander (eds.) : Political Mistakes and Policy Failures in International Relations. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 171-189

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Who is held publicly responsible for mistakes in EU policies? We argue that in complex policy-making systems responsibility tends to be attributed to implementing actors. To test this expectation, we analyse public responsibility attributions (PRAs) for two alleged mistakes in EU financial policies: The absence of sanctions against countries that violated the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) and harmful tax competition between EU member states. Our analysis corroborates that PRAs reflect the structure of policy implementation: PRAs for the SGP target the EU, while PRAs for harmful tax competition are predominantly attributed to EU member states. In complex policy-making systems, it is thus not the politically superior actor who assumes responsibility for the subordinates’ mistakes but the implementing actor himself.

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