How a court, a commissioner and a lobby group brought European transport policy to life in 1985

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Until the mid-1980s, transport policy was considered by many as one of the least successful domains of the European integration project. However, from the early 1990s onwards, there are clear signs of a single European transport policy, along with the accompanying implementation of infrastructure projects. What is the explanation for such a change in pace? This paper aims to offer insight in these processes by looking at the mechanisms which form and transform this policy domain. To understand the state of a policy domain and its dynamics over time an institutional approach is taken. Two concepts in political science, ‘policy arrangements’ and ‘supranational governance’ are combined and used as a framework to analyse the European transport policy domain. This analysis describes the development of several elements: organisations, rules, the transnational society, power, resources, and the central transport discourse. It demonstrates that all of these elements have developed from an intergovernmental setting towards a more supranational one. This development was slow in the first decennia when European transport policy was rather passive, but it picked up speed in the 1980s and 1990s. In the pivotal year of 1985, pressure from the transnational society resulted in a rapid change of the rules, the resources and the discourse.

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