Deciding how to decide on agri-environmental schemes: the political economy of subsidiarity, decentralisation and participation in the European Union
Since 1992 the provision of agri-environmental schemes (AESs) has been obligatory for member states of the European Union. However, decisions concerning the actual design of schemes and measures are left to member states who have to integrate this policy within their administrative structures and to comply with the general rules laid down in the EU rural development regulations. Over time, the respective council regulations have increasingly encouraged member states to design agri-environmental policy in a sub-national, decentralised and participatory way. However, the response to these opportunities has been quite diverse amongst the member states. This paper presents the results of a unique expert survey in nine different member states, focusing on decentralisation and participation. The results show that the way in which decisions are made affects the environmental effectiveness of AES. In particular, the involvement of actors at a local level and the participation of environmental NGOs have a positive effect on the environmental effectiveness of AES. Therefore, it is not surprising that most actors involved in decision making surrounding AESs are in favour of further decentralisation and participation in order to tackle agri-environmental problems. However, actors from the agricultural administration and agricultural associations, which are the most influential groups in terms of the design of AESs, oppose extending participation to the local level and to environmental associations.
agri-environmental policy, decentralisation, participation, levels of decision, interest groups, European Union, EU member states, political economy, public transaction costs,
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