ZEW and Bertelsmann Stiftung Present Suggestions for a New EU Competence Catalogue


In 2018 the new German government should start pushing for the EU to redistribute responsibilities between Brussels and the Member States. For example, responsibilities such as safeguarding farmers’ income should return to the remit of the individual countries. On the other hand, EU institutions should be assuming far greater responsibility for development aid, defence and asylum policy. These are the main findings of a study initiated by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and conducted in cooperation with the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), Mannheim.

“The EU needs to regain the trust of its citizens by proving its added value. The fact that at least one third of the Brussels budget is still being squandered in the form of transfers overwhelmingly made to large agricultural enterprises can no longer be justified,” argues Professor Friedrich Heinemann, head of the ZEW Research Department “Corporate Taxation and Public Finance” and leader of the project. “On the other hand, more EU resources being spent on development or migration policy would save the Member States a lot of money. In these policy areas, pursuing a shared EU policy is more cost-effective than each of the individual countries implementing their own slightly different policies,” says Heinemann.

“The current division of responsibilities between the EU and the Member States is the result of political compromises rather than careful consideration of which level of government would actually be more effective at fulfilling the task in question,” adds Stefani Weiss, EU expert at the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

A combined European army would have many advantages

The study conducted by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and ZEW applies a uniform, data-based method to eight different areas of policy ranging from education to unemployment insurance. In doing so, the study aims to identify which features of each policy area indicate that it should be dealt with at the national or European level. The results vary greatly depending on the policy area.

The results clearly suggest that an expansion of the EU’s role in defence would be advisable. Due to its greater size, a combined European army, for example, would bring many benefits and help to improve the relation between available soldiers and total armed forces. Meanwhile, the study shows that in the case of agricultural policy a shift in the opposite direction is necessary. The results clearly show that subsidising farming at the EU level is highly imprecise and as a result unnecessarily costly since it does not specifically help those farmers most in need of protection. In the case of development policy, replacing the relatively small contributions made by national projects with consistent EU financing could help to increase Europe’s global influence.

“One of the problems with the current discussion surrounding EU reform is that many of the suggestions boil down to giving the EU more money without considering where this money is actually creating added value. This is where our research findings can serve as a guide,” says Professor Heinemann.

The study and its findings will be presented at the next ZEW Lunch Debateheld at the Representation of the State of Baden-Württemberg to the European Union in Brussels.

For further information please contact:

Prof. Dr. Friedrich Heinemann, Phone +49 (0)621/1235-149, E-mail friedrich.heinemann@zew.de