Fischer argues that `common laws can be a highly integrative force.' The current IGC, consistent with the legal tradition of the EU, also focuses on formal-legal aspects such as the composition of the Commission, the weighting of votes in the Council and the extension of majority voting. In contrast, from an institutional perspective, comprehensive change in a political order involves not only affecting human conduct and formal-legal institutions, but also affecting peoples' inner state of mind, their moral and intellectual qualities, their identities and their sense of belonging (Mill 1861, 1962:32).
An institutional/gardening perspective reveals doubts that democratic reformers can be successful independent of the properties of the population. In other words, it doubts whether it is possible to develop democratic institutions without democrats, or a European federation without Europeans, so that the legitimacy of institutional arrangements is based solely on a continuous proof of their functional efficiency (Olsen 1997:222). Political gardening requires knowledge of the mechanisms through which different institutions and processes of opinion-and formation of will-may influence the mentality and identity of individuals and collectivities. On the one hand, such changes can be the result of a political community making decisions and debating the challenges and opportunities they face, and the principles, rules and procedures by which they want to live. On the other, changes can be traced back to processes of socialisation in educational institutions, both universities and mass schooling (Soysal & Strang 1989, March & Olsen 2000).
From this perspective, political leadership includes affecting how Europeans come to think about what constitutes unity or disunity, as well as the reasons for establishing and changing political borders, common purposes and projects, institutions and forms of governance. The EU also has numerous arenas for interaction, argumentation, problem solving and conflict resolution, and the gaining of experience through interaction may create habits of working together, friendship, group loyalties and knowledge about others. These may create convergence, mutual confidence and positive trust spirals. However, they may also create awareness of differences and produce conflicts and confrontations (March & Olsen 1998). Political gardeners can use such arenas to push the system in a consistent direction. They may stabilise attention, develop a shared vocabulary, shared interpretations of experience, criteria of assessment and aspiration levels, and may also improve institutional adaptability.
Stabilise attention. Fischer has focused attention on major institutional reform, but he also emphasises the importance of different time scales. His own time horizon is `far beyond the coming decade and the intergovernmental conference.' From this time perspective, there are many possible future distractions. Comprehensive change in institutions and identities may take decades or generations, and because large scale reforms are weakly institutionalised, they usually attract a variety of issues, often loosely coupled to the reform itself.
As argued by March and Olsen in a study of comprehensive administrative reforms in the United States, `[A]lthough it is hard to predict what specific crisis, scandal, or war will divert presidents from the reorganisation arena, it is easy to predict that something will' (March & Olsen 1983:286). The result is that reformers are frequently distracted and disappointed. However, persistence may pay off. Sometimes, short-run failures turn into long-run successes, as old plans are reactivated under new and more favourable circumstances (March & Olsen 1983:287).
A possible first lesson, therefore, is that the realisation of a large-scale vision of reform requires an ability to stabilise and institutionalise attention and resources around comprehensive reforms, so that incremental steps can be tied together into a long-term consistent plan.17
Develop a shared vocabulary. Fischer is well aware that some words have to be used with caution. For instance, the term `federation' irritates many Britons. He does not want to irritate anyone, yet, he has not been able to come up with another word. Simultaneously, he feels a need to avoid the misunderstanding that he is really suggesting a `re-nationalisation'. Likewise, he wants to avoid scaring anyone: `Let us not misunderstand each other: closer co-operation does not automatically lead to full integration.'
These expectations have turned out to be realistic. The reform proposal has come to mean different things to different actors. Consider, for instance, the idea of `a federation of nation-states' with a sharing of sovereignty, and clear demarcation of powers between levels of governance. In Britain federalism is, in spite of Fischer's caution, associated with a hierarchy between levels of government.18 For others, `division of sovereignty' means that Fischer `distances himself from the concept of a European super-state transcending and replacing the national democracies.'19 More generally, `federalism', `constitution', `democracy', `sovereignty', `enhanced co-operation', `Europe', etc., are words without a shared meaning across EU Member States, a fact that makes fruitful deliberation less likely.
A possible second lesson, therefore, is that implementation of a reform vision will depend as much on leadership through reconceptualisation, as through reorganisation. Success will be facilitated by the development of a shared vocabulary and concepts, or, at least, a repertoire of such vocabularies and concepts, so that actors can `translate' between different interpretations of key concepts.
Develop shared interpretations of experience. In fairly stable periods, institutions provide languages, concepts and repertoires of legitimate accounts. They help participants to make sense of an ambiguous, uncertain and changing world, and present rules of appropriate, or exemplary, behaviour (March and Olsen 1989, 1995, Powell & DiMaggio 1991: 15). In periods of transformation, the organising power of institutionalised concepts, schemas and scripts is weakened. There are competing institutions and interpretations. Questions are raised as to why the code of conduct, as well as the forms of organisation and governance, are different in one country, or in one context, from another (Elias 1982).
Major reform projects provide an opportunity for developing shared interpretations, affirming legitimate values and institutions, and changing the climate of opinion. A public discourse about the adequacy, or inadequacy, of existing institutional arrangements can be a process of civic education through which European citizens develop an understanding of what constitutes a good society and system of governance, i.e., the legitimate constitutional principles of authority, power and accountability, and the normative-ethical basis, and value commitments and beliefs, of the polity (March & Olsen 1983, Olsen 1992:259).
A possible third lesson, in this perspective, is that an important aspect of political leadership, and a way to avoid the utopian trap, is to provide adequate accounts of the past and visions of the future. Clearly, agreement is by no means guaranteed. Struggles over belief-systems and causal models may be as fierce as conflicts over normative criteria.
Develop shared criteria of assessment. The prospects of avoiding the utopian trap will also depend on what reformers aspire to achieve through constitutional reforms. A political institution can be assessed instrumentally on the basis of its contribution to substantive (policy) results. Alternatively, a structural arrangement can be evaluated deontologically, i.e., on the basis of specific properties of the institution itself. The test, then, is not an issue of precise calculation of the effectiveness and efficiency of alternative designs for policy outcomes in specific situations. Instead, it is a question of whether the institution is seen as the appropriate means to cope with certain classes of tasks and situations within a culture (Olsen 1997). The issue is whether institutional practices and rules are consistent with basic principles of reason and morality in a culture-possibly involving general conceptions of good and evil, just and unjust, right and wrong, legal and illegal, and true and false-so that it becomes a duty for citizens to follow its rules and prescriptions. For instance, support for representative institutions is a commitment to a long-term institutional arrangement, not to a specific outcome (Pitkin 1972:234). Likewise, the rule of law, the prohibition of retroactive laws and recruitment based on merit, exemplify legitimising principles that are not linked to the immediate substantive outcome of specific decisions. Such principles and institutions structure and discipline-policy making processes. They encourage some types of behaviour and inhibit others. Yet, they do not determine precise policy outcomes.
Fischer's proposal has elements of a deontological approach, for instance, through its emphasis on democracy and transparency. It aims more to develop basic principles for a workable system more than to achieve an immediate policy outcome. In comparison, the British tradition has been described as instrumental. Political institutions, and reform plans, are primarily assessed as instruments to achieve policy outcomes. There is a preference for substance to determine form, and a standard question is, will this reform lead to better policy outcomes? In the context of the EU, this leads to a preference for pragmatic, case-by-case co-operation, and to local experimentation rather than a single blueprint.20
A possible fourth lesson is that visionary leaders should clarify whether reforms aim to change the basic principles and rules of the organisation of political power, thus providing a framework for policy processes, or to achieve specific policy outcomes. It is the latter approach that is probably more likely to generate frustration.
Clarify aspirations. Political leaders also have different aspirations when it comes to which kind of relationships should bind the people in Europe together, and, as a consequence, what kind of polity the EU should become. Aspirations have also changed over time. The revolt against the Maastricht Treaty created a perceived need for `heightening the sense of belonging to the Union and enhancing its legitimacy' (Commission 1995:7). Furthermore, debates over the Rights Charter and the Austrian crisis have reactivated a debate over the cultural identity of the EU.
The general issue is how flexible political identities are, and through what processes they are created, maintained and changed? Within the EU, there is an awareness that building trust and cohesion among European peoples and governments will take time (Commission 1992:8). In the short run, identities are unlikely to change in the absence of dramatic external shocks which create one of the `great mentality-shaping controversies' (Habermas 1988:12). In the face of cultural heterogeneity, it is also questionable whether a shared programme of civic education is possible in the short run. What should be the content and who should be in charge of developing the programme? What institutions are needed in order to develop a feeling of a democratic, European identity? Given that identities change only slowly, the leadership challenge is to influence perceptions of the desirability and capability of multiple identities, and with it the perceived compatibility among competing identities among Europeans.
A possible fifth lesson is that visionary leaders need to clarify the assumptions made about the role of shared identities and a sense of belonging-that which they assume binds people in Europe together and keeps them apart. Likewise, they need to clarify their assumptions about how fast, and through what mechanisms, identities may change. A Europe constituted solely as a market community of exchange and as a functional-utilitarian unit, may not provide an adequate foundation for further integration. In contrast, a Europe constituted as a cultural community based on shared values is likely to be beyond reach in the near future. In comparison, plans for further integration based on Europe as a legal community of shared rights and duties, and a political community based on shared institutions of governance, are less likely to be utopian dreams (Olsen 1998).
Improve institutional adaptability. Visionary leaders in the EU have to `take the law seriously' (Joerges 1996), yet, they have to avoid becoming overly legalistic and formalistic. The problem of non-effective constitutions and institutions is well known. Constitutions can be written and re-written and organisational charts can be drawn and re-drawn. However, such changes may have a modest impact on the `living institutions' of a society (Olsen 1996, Laffan 1999). Formal treaties and constitutional provisions alone cannot explain the Union's dynamics (Dehousse & Majone 1994:92). Change has often been both incremental and part of the daily practice of governance and adjudication, later codified in treaty form by intergovernmental conferences (Jachtenfuchs & Kohler-Koch 1996a, Kohler-Koch & Eising 1999).
The distribution of formal-legal authority is only a limited part of the distribution of power resources. Thus, visionary leaders have to make realistic assessments concerning what modifications of practices can be achieved through changes in formal-legal institutional arrangements. They have to consider both to what degree and under what circumstances institutions can be deliberately restructured, and what the likely effects of changing formal organisational charts and rules are in a world where many resources other than formal-legal authority count (Olsen 1996:238).
Likewise, avoiding the utopian trap may depend on the leaders' understanding of what makes some institutions able to learn and adapt continuously, while inertia in other institutions creates large gaps between existing structures and underlying realities. Experiential learning has been suggested as the basis of governing the future polity (Deutsch 1981:338). Success may, however, depend on insight into the many ways in which such processes are less than perfect,21 and how the imperfections of mundane processes of learning and incremental adaptations allow for comprehensive institutional reform. In general, the more inefficient ordinary processes of adaptation are, the more likely that an institution or a regime may collapse like a house of cards and be replaced by a new one (Olsen 1992:256, 1997:209).
A possible sixth lesson for visionary leaders, then, is that they have to take an interest in the dynamics of `living' institutions and not only formal-legal arrangements. A precondition for willed radical reforms may be a better understanding of why ordinary processes of learning and adaptation sometimes succeed and sometimes fail.
17 The argument is relevant in the EU-context because, on the one hand, outcomes are rarely entirely anticipated by those who strike strategic bargains (W.Wallace 2000). On the other, the short-term preoccupation of institutional designers has led them to make decisions that have undermined their long-term control (Pierson 1996:156).
18 See, H.Wallace, in this Volume.
19 See, Börzel & Risse in this Volume, at 45.
20 See, H.Wallace in this Volume. The differences should not be exaggerated. During the Thatcher-period, reforms were, to a considerable extent, driven by principles and ideology, without clear evidence about exact policy impacts (Hood 1996).
21 Levitt & March (1988); March (1991,1994,1999), Levinthal & March (1993).