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The Partnership Principle in Cohesion Policy 2014-2020

Breaking New Ground in Multi-Level Governance?

Serafín Pazos-Vidal

This article takes stock of the evolution of the partnership and multi-level governance concepts to date under cohesion policy, particularly as seen by local and regional authorities. In particular it will assess how they have fared in the protracted policy formulation and legislative negotiation process of the 2014-2020 programming period. Drawing on the most recent available evidence it also anticipates how they are likely to be implemented through the 2014-2020 period, notably through an initial assessment of the Partnership Agreement negotiations and the formulation of the new territorial development instruments such as Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) and Integrated Territorial Investments (ITI). The central thesis is that these separate but interconnected negotiations illustrate both the potential and limits of the Partnership Principle and how Multi-Level Governance works in practice: Not as normative concepts that enable reaching rational policy outcomes via the interaction of actors, but rather as a descriptive paradigm of how EU institutions, Member States, local and regional authorities, and civil society stakeholders interoperate to maximise individual influence, limiting liabilities by either forming issue-based tactical coalitions, or more stable policy communities to achieve common interests. A further finding is the activist role of the Commission that drives policy innovations and delivery improvements rather than merely responding to demands from other actors.

Head of Brussels Office, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities; Chair, Cohesion Focus Group, Council of European Municipalities and Regions. While a significant amount of the research summed up in this article benefits from the author’s professional background, the conclusions and assessments formulated here are exclusively made in a personal capacity and therefore not necessary reflect the views of my employer nor my affiliates.


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