The role of national problems in European air quality regulation: The process of amplification

Tobias Arnoldussen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Recurring themes in the literature on European environmental policy-making is the leader-laggard spectrum and regulatory competition. European environmental policy is driven towards expansion because certain states take up leadership roles and manage to have their preferred regulatory solution adopted by the relevant European policy-making institution. During the policy process, leaders face laggards', states that do not favour ambitious regulation and drag their feet. The leader-laggard spectrum is volatile. States play different roles depending on the issue of interest, and over time their roles shift as well. This article investigates the role of relatively small-scale national events on the position of states on the spectrum. The regulatory competition involved in the leader-laggard spectrum may create an amplification effect of national problems: Through the efforts of the state afflicted by it, they acquire a European dimension they might otherwise not have had. They can cause member states to exhibit an extraordinary interest in a certain policy field and certain type of regulation for a brief period of time, shaping it considerably. After that, specific national problem has been solved or has blown over though they withdraw, leaving a gap for new contenders to fill. Yesterday's champions may be the laggards of tomorrow and vice versa. New champions bring their specific regulatory styles, their favourite solutions and their policy-making philosophy to bear on EU environmental regulation, exacerbating the already patchy character of this policy field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-224
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmental policy
  • Air quality
  • Leader-laggard spectrum
  • EU policy-making
  • Environmental problems


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