Regional Institutions and Governance in the European Union

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Multi-level or multilevel governance is an approach in political science and public administration theory that originated from studies on European integration. Political scientists Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks developed the concept of multi-level governance in the early s and have continuously been contributing to the research program in a series of articles see Bibliography. Multi-level governance gives expression to the idea that there are many interacting authority structures at work in the emergent global political economy. It "illuminates the intimate entanglement between the domestic and international levels of authority".

Note that there is a difference between multi-level governance and multi-level government. Multi-level government is when different levels of government share or transfer responsibility amongst each other. Whereas multi-level governance analyses the relationship of different state levels and interaction with different types of actors. The first efforts to understand this were descriptive, spawning concepts that have generated an extensive literature. Multi-level, polycentric, and multi-layered governance emphasize the dispersion of decision making from the local to the global level.

In recent years these concepts have cross-pollinated subfields of political science including European studies and decentralization , federalism and international organization , public policy e. Though scarcely recognized at the time, this research revives a rich tradition in political science represented by Karl Deutsch on the effect of societal transactions on government structure, Robert Dahl on the virtues and vices of multilevel democracy, and Stein Rokkan on identity and territorial politics.

The study of the European Union has been characterized by two different theoretical phases. The first phase was dominated by studies from the field of international relations ; in the second phase these studies were revised and insights from among others, public policy were added. The most straightforward way of understanding this theoretical shift is to see it as a move away from treating the EU as an international organisation similar to others e. NATO to seeing it as something unique among international organisations. The uniqueness of the EU relates both to the nature and to the extent of its development.

This means that in some areas of activity the EU displays more properties related to national political systems than to those of international organisations. The theory of multi-level governance belongs to the second phase. Multi-level governance characterizes the changing relationships between actors situated at different territorial levels, both from the public and the private sectors.

How does the European Union work? - OPEN Media Hub

The multi-level governance theory crosses the traditionally separate domains of domestic and international politics and highlights the increasingly fading distinction between these domains in the context of European integration. Multi-level governance was first developed from a study of EU policy and then applied to EU decision-making more generally. An early explanation referred to multi-level governance as a system of continuous negotiation among nested governments at several territorial tiers [4] and described how supranational, national, regional, and local governments are enmeshed in territorially overarching policy networks.

As such, multi-level governance raised new and important questions about the role, power and authority of states. No other international form of cooperation is characterized by such far-reaching integration as the European Union. This becomes evident by the number and scope of policy areas covered by the European Union and the way policy is developed. The European Union can be characterised by a mix of classic intergovernmental cooperation between sovereign states and far-reaching supranational integration.

Multi-level governance within the EU is understood as respecting competences, sharing responsibilities and cooperating between the various levels of governance: the EU, the Member States and the regional and local authorities. In this context, it refers to the principle of subsidiarity , which places decisions as close as possible to the citizens and ensures that that action at Union level is justified in light of the possibilities available at national, regional or local level. This entanglement is one of the basic principles of the multi-level governance theory.

The multi-level governance theory describes the European Union as a political system with interconnected institutions that exist at multiple levels and that have unique policy features. These layers interact with each other in two ways: first, across different levels of government vertical dimension and second, with other relevant actors within the same level horizontal dimension.

Concerning with the changes of the institutional design of the European Union, the current model governance has been shaped as a setup of constraints upon political margin of discretion, applying the central tenet of ordoliberalism with the aim to use strong rules in order to reduce the discretionary exercise of powers by institutions so as to avoid an arbitrary use of them. This principle has achieved an extreme effect at the European level, that one not to avoid arbitrary use of political powers but to keep political responsibility and participation out of the decision-making process.

As Laruffa concludes: "It is quite clear that such a model of governance, which is made only by rules without any role for a democratic policy-making process, imposes a de facto limit to on the political rights of the European citizens. This means that there is a control exercised by rules over the European citizens rather than a control by the European citizens over rules and policies.

Within the European Union nearly 95, local and regional authorities currently have significant powers in key sectors such as education, the environment, economic development, town and country planning, transport, public services and social policies. They help ensure the exercise of European democracy and citizenship. Special rights and competences for regions, cities and communities are supposed to enable and preserve diversity of governance at local and regional level.

In a broader sense, this concept also includes the participation of non-state players like economic and social partners and civil society in the decision making process of all levels of governance thus taking up the vertical and horizontal dimensions of multilevel governance. The Treaty of Lisbon represents an important step towards institutional recognition of multi-level governance in the way the European Union operates. It strengthens the competences and influence of local and regional authorities in the Community decision-making process giving roles to national and regional parliaments and the Committee of the Regions and enshrines the territorial dimension of the European Union, notably territorial cohesion as part of the process of European integration.

The Committee of the Regions has established a system to monitor the compliance with the subsidiarity thorough the whole EU policy and law making process. Nevertheless, multi-level governance within the EU is a dynamic and ongoing process. On 16 June the Committee of the Regions adopted a White Paper on multi-level governance which recommended specific mechanisms and instruments for stimulating all stages of the European decision-making process.

As a follow up to the White paper on Multi-level Governance, the Committee developed a "Scoreboard on Multi-level Governance" to monitor on a yearly basis the development of multi-level governance at European Union level. On 3 April the Committee of the Regions adopted a Charter for Multi-level Governance calling public authorities of all levels of governance to use and promote multi-level governance in their future undertakings.

The EU Model

The point of departure for multi-level governance was Europe, but recent books and articles have dealt with the dispersion of authority away from central states in Latin America, Asia, and North America. Decentralization has been at least as marked in Latin America as in Europe over the past two decades, and several Asian countries have decentralized in the past decade. A recent survey counts 32 regional IGOs pooling authority over quite wide areas of policy and which cover all but a handful of states in the world today.

The "vertical" dimension refers to the linkages between higher and lower levels of government, including their institutional, financial, and informational aspects. Here, local capacity building and incentives for effectiveness of sub national levels of government are crucial issues for improving the quality and coherence of public policy. The "horizontal" dimension refers to co-operation arrangements between regions or between municipalities.

INTERPOL and the European Union

These agreements are increasingly common as a means by which to improve the effectiveness of local public service delivery and implementation of development strategies. There has been an intensification of research on the consequences as well as the character of multi-level governance. The concept was developed as a tool of pure research, but it now motivates policy makers.

From the late s the European Commission began to refer to its own mission as one of achieving multilevel governance, especially in cohesion policy. International organizations have also taken positions on the issue. However, the consequences of multilevel governance are debated. Research on both causes and consequences of multi-level governance is ongoing and more and more information about the subnational as well as the international dimension of multi-level governance is available in the context of larger data sets. Global climate change is being contributed to by ever increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions emanating from decisions and activities of individuals and organisations at local, regional, national and international levels.

It has become increasingly clear that nation-states will be unable to commit to and meet international targets and agreements for offsetting climate change without engaging with the activity of sub-national and local action. Greenhouse gas GHG emissions stem from certain activities that originate from specific places, bringing about thought that the local scale is the most appropriate political scale to produce necessary offsets in emissions.

The levels of governance authority handed down to local governments within cities has been perceived to out-do policy goals within the national and international arena, [31] with some local governments taking on their own initiatives for tackling urban climate change.

Institutions of the European Union

This sets an important stance to which the local scale of multi-level governance is important for tackling global climate change within the urban arena. Four distinct modes of governance exist within the dynamics of climate change in cities.


Each stems from the local level with the ability of being implemented on multi-scales to mitigate and adapt to urban climate change. Self-governing is the capacity of local governments to govern its own activities [32] such as improving energy efficiency within a designated city, without the burdening pressure to meet targets of increased energy efficiencies set by national governments. A form of self-governing within multi-level systems is horizontal collaboration where cities may collaborate with regions demonstrating multi-levels of governance to tackle urban climate change, [33] imperative to the success of city climate change policy.

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Governing through enabling is the co-ordination and facilitation of partnerships with private organisations by the local government. Governing through provision, a form of vertical collaboration along with governing through enabling, applies itself to the multi-levels of governance. Climate change in cities is tackled here through the shaping of and delivery of services and resources, with additional support aided to local governments from regional and national authorities. Such regulation characterises traditional forms of authoritative governance, exemplifying local to nation-state relations, [36] almost nearly covering the entirety of the multi-level governance scale.

The SNI-WG realizes several activities at global and regional levels including organizing panels at multiple regional and global forums, hosting peer-learning discussions, publishing reports and case studies, along with facilitating technical workshops, webinars and providing advisory Remote Expert Assistance on LEDS REAL support upon request.

This process has generated observations, feedback and insights on the potential of the vertical integration and coordination of subnational climate actions to accelerate and scale-up both local and global emission reductions. As a result, a study on Institutionalised citizen participation: assessment of existing mechanisms in Georgia , with recommendations, was developed and contributed to proposals for the amendment of the Code of Local Self-Government.

The European Commission explained

It was a stock-taking event for participants to exchange on ways to enhance the quality of local democracy in the region, in the framework of local self-government and territorial reforms.

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