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Between innovation and error prevention: How regional administrations deal with conflicting requirements deriving from the EU-level
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53rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional Integration: Europe, the Mediterranean and the World Economy", 27-31 August 2013, Palermo, Italy
The European policy for rural development, the so called second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), has been strengthened considerably in the last decade. It brings with it even more complex multi-level governance structures than the 'old' CAP. For the implementation of the legal framework provided by the EU, the institutions on the different levels involved (EU, federal and state government, regions) are guided by their specific interests, normative orientation and institutional self-concept. The thereby resulting proper rules of conduct, priorities and interpretations are passed on to the next lower level. On the European level there are two countervailing rules of conduct. On the one side, there are ambitious demands for a better strategic orientation of rural policies, which is expected to contribute significantly to the achievement of the EU 2020 goals. Therefore, innovative, integrated, and local based approaches should be strengthened. On the other side, there is the audit with its aims of strengthened reliability, controllability and reduction of financial errors. Our empirical investigation aims at a better understanding of the effects that these tensions on higher governance levels have upon the regional administration. The analysis is based on in-depth interviews with representatives of regional administrations. Three different adaptation strategies in the handling of the conflicting requirements received from higher policy levels were distinguished. By the renouncement of activating tasks (1) regional administrations concentrate mainly on the sole execution of projects using the minimum personal resources possible. Public support is focussed on standardized projects with a high investment volume and professional beneficiaries. Prior criterion for project selection is the reduction of error risk rather than the expected effect on rural development. By the strategy of outsourcing (2) project development and supervision are delegated to the regional management and other advisory services or to local development initiatives. The key administration tasks are managed under the strict regime of the paying agency's directives in order to avoid any financial risk. Under the strategy of self-exploitation (3) the regional administrative staffs are actively engaged in rural development. This requires a high degree of personal commitment. Nevertheless, the intensive engagement in mentoring and acquisition conflicts with the audit?s requirement for a strict separation of advisory issues and administration/control. Though being aware of this inherent risk, the administrative actors are convinced that their engagement is crucial to drive forward the rural development via well developed and selected projects.
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