The Impact of Policy Complexity on Policy Outcomes: An Assessment of Cohesion Policy’s Contribution to the Creation of Positive Images about the EU through a Qualitative Analysis of Selected European Regions
Queen Mary University London, Greece
Cohesion Policy is one of the main economic policies of the Union and aims at bringing economic, social and territorial convergence across and within EU regions. The fact that this ‘material’ goal is pursued through the redirection -via the EU budget- of financial flows from wealthier member states to less developed ones reveals that the policy also has a strong federal and redistributive dimension while it embodies the notion of solidarity to a much greater extent compared to other European policies. Moreover, as it gets operationalized through regional interventions relating mainly to infrastructure and social projects, Cohesion Policy is the most tangible, visible and ‘as close as it gets to the EU citizens’ supranational policy. Therefore, apart from a material goal, it also pursues a ‘normative’ or ‘cognitive’ one, namely the development and diffusion of EU values and pro-European perceptions, and the enhancement of the European identity. Nevertheless, the recent and still ongoing developments and crises in Europe and elsewhere have proved that the policy has not been particularly successful in creating lasting positive images about Europe and countermanding -at least to some extent- the ever-increasing level of Euroscepticism. It is in the light of this background context that the paper explores the reasons behind the limited success of Cohesion Policy in achieving its normative or cognitive goals.
To that end, the paper takes a top-down approach to the study of policy implementation and posits that, apart from country- and region-specific factors, the main reason explaining suboptimal policy outcomes consists in the level of complexity embedded within the policy from as early as its design stage. Thus, it discusses different policy design variables relating to each of the polity, politics and policy dimensions of the EU that have produced such complexity. The paper concludes that the limited success of Cohesion Policy in achieving its indirect goals is to be attributed to a greater or lesser extent to i) multi-level governance in practice, ii) the level of policy ambiguity -in terms of both policy goals and policy means, iii) the intensity of policy conflict and the subsequent implications for policy change, iv) the lack of an integrated policy communication strategy, and v) the excessive bureaucratic burden that has resulted from policy layering. Empirical data in support of these claims have been gathered through on-site fieldwork and elite interviewing in selected EU countries/regions, in particular Wales (UK), Silesia (Poland) and Crete (Greece).
Social Integration in the Visegrad Countries
Perhaps the most significant impediment to the social integration in the EU follows from the diversity of national social and employment law models and their particular institutional setups (Leino, 2017). The problems and concerns posed by this diversity have been subject to extensive analysis within the ‘varieties of capitalism’ strand in the discipline of political economy (Hall & Soskice, 2001). As a part of this discourse it is argued that after the fall of Socialism an “embedded” neoliberal cluster emerged in the Visegrád countries (Bohle & Greskovits, 2007; Farkas, 2016). While protecting local interest, it is assumed that nations belonging to the same cluster develop complementary practices and act together to maximise benefits on national level. It has been widely disputed whether V4 countries belong to the same cluster (Hörcher, 2017; Hörschelmann, 2015; Szűcs, 1983) from institutional point of view, however there is no evidence that social and employment law solutions of V4 countries justify the cluster, even though occasionally similar interests are expressed.Therefore to predict scenarios for the prospect of social integration in the region it is necessary to examine whether V4 countries form a cluster from a regulatory point of view, ie, whether their social and employment law institutions important for the EPSR demonstrate sufficient level of similarities. This paper - as a part of my post-doctoral research - examines whether V4 countries form a cluster in an Esping-Andersenian way by analysing national regulations concerning pension, sickness anad unemployment benefits after the EU accession.