the value of framing concepts

Framing concepts are definitely very helpful for analysing - or in a first step heuristically describing - policy making processes in complex environments like the European Union.

Two important reasons stand out in this regard: Firstly the very limited amount of actual knowledge about the a given policy that exists among the relevant actors; and secondly the fact that policy processes and - even more so - policy documents are highly abstract in nature, which makes it very difficult to conceive many actors that have direct experience or schemata that could function as an a priori context for a policy message.

Thus, if almost nobody knows what exactly a policy tries to accomplish, and even fewer people have a preconceived idea how to judged such a policy, a policy frame (which defines the problem, identifies the cause, provides a value judgement and proposes a remedy to address the problem) becomes the most important cognitive basis for the policy making process. Applied to a concrete case, an interesting question is exactly how few people can be expected to know what a policy is about and why it is necessary.

time is running

It has again been many months since the last post here, and despite the fact that theory-building has to some extend been pushed onto to the backseat (at least in any direct, concretely manifested manner) due to more pragmatic, in-the-field research activities, a number of issues have emerged that will be reported here.

To start: It has become very clear that the moving-target quality of policy-making warrants specific attention. While any policy document has a prescriptive quality to it, ie. is meant to trigger certain developments or at least reactions, some documents seem to be little more than defensive instruments developed to essentially accomplish two things:

1. Fulfill a political promise that a certain measure would be taken by a specified time in regard to constructed problem or need

2. To provide a document that, while being broadly acceptable to the stakeholders involved in the issue, summarizes the questions at stake hinting in a certain direction without actually answering them.

Thus, such a document is meant to functionally clarifying a political issues in order to keep the drafting entity in business of coming up with follow-up documents and reports, thereby proving involvement and responsibility taken seriously (and hence proving its own relevance)


ETI - still alive

The ETI is still ravelling along. Proof of its existance are the contributions to a recently finished public consultation on a proposal for code of conduct for interest represenatives. To be found here:

European Commission - Consultation on a Code of Conduct for Interest Representatives - Contributions


quoted on euractiv.com

The RCIPM blog has been mentioned (or listed - to be honest :-) on a EurActiv.com article about "Blogs: Filling the EU's 'communication gap'?".


ETI update

I just attended a talk with a Cabinet Member of Commissioner Kallas who informed an interested audience about the ETI. As news, it was understood that the COM currently negotiates with the EP to broaden the scope of the register to cover lobbyists working with both EU institutions.

Interestingly, he summed the initiative up by stressing that it addresses transparency in three regards: (1) in terms of the identity of interest representatives; (2) as means to ensure balanced access to policy makers (or rather as defensive mechanism, so that the COM can proof it is not biased in its choices of conversation partners); (3) as a precaution to prevent “Abramoff” to happen in the EU.

According to his explanations, the ETI is also meant fight “deceptive” lobbying i.e. via front groups. Those front groups were also cited to support the argument that financial disclosure is necessary in the proposed lobby register. Another argument used was that companies might use funds to lobby against regulation instead of using the same money in R&D to develop new, compliant solutions.

Well, even if those arguments are rather poor, it is worrying that the discourse does now revolve around this question. Not only is it very difficult to define which financial information should be required for disclosure, the COMs position to leave companies much flexibility as possible risks to blur the whole argument itself. If it is not prescribed exactly how to measure the numbers required, the data is not comparable and rather worthless. Though even more important is the fact that the speaker could only refer to peer pressure arguments as he responded to the question why the register is not compulsory or why the voluntary register does not have better incentives to register. Indeed also the exclusion argument (i.e. a compulsory register would put non Brussels based organisations at an disadvantage) does not hold, because it is entirely a procedural question i.e. one could offer a fast track registration for interest that seek for the first time contact with institution and that are not based in Brussels.

Thus, even if the lobby ecosystem depends to a large extend on the individual companies reputation (which serves a vital precondition to operate), it is questionable if the register will create a sufficiently powerful social dynamic to effectively “force” companies to register. We’ll see next year, the register is expected to open in spring 2008.


berlaymonster blog

While staying here in Brussels, doing some field research in the nitty-gritty details of technology policy making in the EU, i came across a number of things that some people call the EU ecosystem in Brussels. Since this ecosystem is a hugely important stage for all issues addressed here, a lot needs to be said about this example of jargon, but first - as an appetiser - see this blog as one of the best examples of the cyberspace part of this ecosystem > Berlaymonster


inner dynamics of bureaucracies

Large bureaucracies are very complex organizations. Indeed, in terms of procedures, inner workings and resistance to change this is well known. But astonishingly, these complexities have a very serious impactl on the output capabilities of such an organization. This is to say, not only the individual motivation of employees is important (and because of their numbers and complex interdependencies really difficult to measure) but also the difference between levels of an organization. The cognitive distance between political management level and case officer/policy developer can be immense even though people work on the same issue/topic. One of the most important reasons for the distance is the variation in timelines/differences in timing considerations. Those are related to fundamental employment or term durations, but affect essentially every decision, especially those related to tactic and strategic planning. Essentially, the same issue/topic can not mean the same thing for employees on different level of a large organization or bureaucracy i.e. neither in administrations nor in private organizations.