political strategies as policy frames
The EU Commission fairly regularly publishes broad policy strategies that address specific societal concerns and define policy priorities accordingly. There are numerous examples for this among the current activities of the EU policy-maker. One could argue that the common market itself – and hence important parts of the political system – originates from such a strategy as formulated in the 1985 White Paper "Completing the Internal Market".
One interesting aspect of such strategies is the fact that they function as a frame of references for subsequent policies. However, the mechanism how this works is rather complicated.
(1) Strategies are derived from prior policies or rather the implementatory experiences of prior policies. Thus, one could think of them as a stock-taking and bundling exercise with regard to prior activities.
In addition, (2) strategies have a future oriented feature, by assessing future developments and the associated needs. That is, stock-taking and drawing lessons from prior experiences and then bundling activities to address the challenges that result from such an exercise.
Such a strategy (3) then defines the priorities in a policy field and proposes activities that should be undertaken to meet the challenges identified in the strategy. Thus, a cause or rational is created to achieve specific goals by specific means.
After such a strategy is adopted, subsequent policies and the strategy in the field stand in an interactive relationship to each other. On the one hand are specific policies necessary to implement the strategy. On the other hand the strategy defines what policies can be proposed and which goals should be pursued.
Hence, the question is: Are strategies instrumental in defining the content of subsequent policies, or do political strategies provide only the rational and the political justification for one sort of policies to be advanced rather than another one?
The answer seems to be related to two broader questions, namely: How are societal problems introduced in political systems? And: What is the relationship between the perception of a societal problem and the selection of policies to address it?