Partnership in  Practise - Exploring the participatory patterns of the partnership principle (Ph.D. project)

  • Kristensen, Helle Hjortnæs (Project Participant)

    Project Details



    Multi-level governance in regional policy is generally based on the guiding principle that regional policy making (in particular the implementation of the Structural Funds) should be carried out in 'partnership' with as many relevant actors as possible in order to ensure an efficient regional development. Several evaluations, analyses and reports have been made examining how this partnership transpires in reality (to measure the success of the implementation of the Structural Funds in the regions). Many analyses are made on behalf of the Commission which has an interest in overviewing how the member states and their regions spend the Funds: do they comply with the rules? I also assume that the Commission is interested in proving that its policies and initiatives are regarded as successful. Therefore, I suspect that the evaluations reflect a positive outlook of the working of the partnership principle, as they are made on behalf of the Commission which does not want to be portrayed in a negative manner. Some scholars also claim that the Commission has a certain interest in keeping tight control on the implementation phase although it does not have any assigned powers in this phase. They further claim that the Commission uses the partnership principle as a devise to ensure that it is involved in the implementation anyway. This claim is to some extent supported by one scholar, Michael W. Bauer who has done some research on the adoption of the partnership principle in Germany (a member state with a highly complex institutional structure with authority distributed at various levels of government). It could be expected that the adoption of the partnership principle in Germany would be a smooth process as the institutional set-up is very similar to the one portrayed by the EU (for instance in the EU White Paper on Governance). However, Bauer's research has proven that to some extent partnerships are not working as intended by the Commission. For instance, in Germany there is some resistance to working along the Commission prescribed guidelines (the principles on which EU regional policy is based).


    This one piece of research is very much in contrast to the rest of the research that I have read. It seems that there is a field of tension between the reports, evaluations and analyses, on the one hand, reflecting the institutional interests of the Commission, and on the other, the institutional interests of the Germans portrayed by Bauer. Thus, a number of questions arise: is the German case a singular case or can it be expected to find more of the same nationally influenced position regarding the adoption of the partnership principle in other member states? Which research is the more correct version of the adoption of the partnership principle? How are the partnerships composed? Who determines the partners involved in the partnerships? How do these partners interact and what determines this? Is there variation in the composition of the partnerships across member states? If yes what determines this variation? Is there variation over time?


    In short, I am interested in conducting research regarding the governance of the partnership principle as the title of my project indicates: 'Partnership in Practise - exploring the participatory patterns of the partnership principle'. Based on the various questions raised above, I make the assumption that one thing is programmatic statements produced by the Commission and the EU in general another is the practise and adoption of the partnership principle within the member states. The intention of the Commission and the EU to introduce new governance structures (in Commission terms 'partnerships') might not play out the way it has been intended, exactly because of the compulsory presence of and interaction with other actors in the partnership.


    According to this framework, my research will be carried out in two interrelated steps: the first one investigates the EU level in general. For instance, the background to the establishment of the partnership principle, the environment in which the partnership principle operates (European regional policy), the definition of the partnership principle, the evolution of the partnership principle, the added value of the partnership principle according to the Commission, the role of the Commission as a player/partner, Commission documents and speeches (rhetorical sense), the intentions of the Commission, the EU as a whole (the EU White Paper on Governance) will be analysed in order to illustrate the programmatic background, or in other words, the intentions of the Commission regarding the guidelines of EU regional policy making.


    The second step regards the member states. The individual national context (individual member states' institutional structure) is important in order to understand the different ways of adopting the partnership principle. I assume that the adoption of the partnership principle reflects the national institutional structure; i.e. the adoption of the partnership principle in a decentralised state will be different from that of a centralised. In support of this I will conduct my own interviews within two member states: Denmark and Britain have been selected so far based on their different (and opposing) institutional outlooks. I assume that given their different institutional structures (in terms of the level of centralisation/decentralisation), their experience with the adoption of the partnership principle will differ accordingly. I will conduct interviews with central actors at both the national, regional and sub-regional levels in order to portray the viewpoints of all the involved actors in the partnerships in terms of how they perceive the partnerships to be functioning. These interviews will in the analysis be related to the other findings of the project mentioned above.


    My analysis will be based on a number of theories that will help me explain the adoption of the partnerships and the functioning of these. I will be using Multi-Level Governance (MLG) as a guiding framework, as this perspective argues that decision-making authority has been diluted from the national level towards both the regional and supra-national levels. Thus the governance of European policies has become more complex. In this complex setting, different actors seek to influence the process such as networks. In being able to explain the interaction between and among the involved actors and supporting the MLG framework, the policy networks theory is applicable. This theory can be further supported by discourse analysis in an attempt to understand also the interaction between and among the involved actors and the rhetoric of the Commission in determining the guiding principles of European regional policy.

    Effective start/end date01/01/200731/12/2009


    • Spirit og Europæiske Studier


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