In Chapter 2, we looked at challenges to the supposed integrity and impermeability of the traditional European nation state. We discovered that the latter was under pressure from both within and without. Not every country was affected by minority nationalism, but all had conceded important powers to the EU, not least in the economic and legal domains. Those worried by such developments can perhaps derive some comfort from the fact that, notwithstanding such concessions, each country still retains its unique constitution. This formal legal framework sets out the rules of the game for politicians, citizens and the institutions by which they govern and are governed. As well as defining the rights (and sometimes the duties) of the citizen, the fundamental feature of most constitutions is a so-called ‘separation of powers’ between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary (see Box 3.1). This chapter focuses primarily on the bureaucratic side and the policymaking of the second of the ‘three branches’, the executive. This is the body that traditionally ‘runs the country’ or ‘governs’, albeit under the supposed direction of democratically elected politicians who form the government of the day and who are themselves meant to be under the watchful eye of parliament (see Chapter 4). And although the media often pays less attention to it than it does to say party politics and elections, it undoubtedly matters to citizens: as one recent cross-national study (Dahlberg and Holmberg, 2014; see also Linde, 2012; and Svallfors, 2013) notes, when it comes to how satisfied they are with the systems they live in, ‘[i]mpartial and effective bureaucracies matter more than representational devices.
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