chapter  11
26 Pages

The Reform Agenda: Greece and the European Union Developing Infrastructure as a Learning Process in Greece

Unlike other policy areas, where the outcomes of the Europeanisation and modernisation processes in terms of public policy-making may be seen as ambiguous,1 the development of infrastructure2 in general and particularly of the transport infrastructure as a priority of overall development policy since the mid-1990s can arguably be regarded as a major achievement in a country like Greece, where the poor physical infrastructure has long been considered as a crucial facet of underdevelopment and simultaneously as an impediment to the development of other sectors of the economy and the society as a whole. Indeed, since the mid-1990s the development of infrastructure came to be viewed as the first step of the Europeanisation of the country and, simultaneously, as a prerequisite for the success of the modernisation process in other sectors of public policy. In the same vein, although, since its emergence on the domestic political arena and public

policy discourse in the early 1990s the notion of modernisation – an ambiguous concept in any respect especially in the area of public policy (Hood 1998)3 – has not always been clearly defined, thus having several connotations and meaning different things to different people, it has undoubtedly been viewed as a process closely linked to the increasing Europeanisation of almost any sphere of public policy. Additionally, both processes are, of course, intrinsically linked to the

problematique of governance in the EU, whereby the member states are facing the challenge of adapting their institutional and policy-making structures to a multi-layered policy-making environment. In particular, the notion of ‘multi-level governance’ in the EU (Marks 1993; Kohler-Koch 1996; Caporaso 1996; Marks et al. 1996) implies that sub-regional, regional, national and supranational authorities interact with each other in two ways: first, across different levels of government (vertical dimension); and, second, with other relevant actors within the same level (horizontal dimension). Although it could be argued that this system of governance might merely reflect the multiplicity of the governance structures among the member states, the multi-level system of governance in the EU is considered as an outcome of the Europeanisation of public policy-making. Given, however, that the notion of Europeanisation may take several meanings and refer to a wide variety of processes – historical, cultural, institutional (Featherstone 2003) – and therefore there is a need for definition/clarification, in the context of public policy-making Europeanisation is primarily viewed as a process of institutional and policy adaptation as a response to EU policies, but also as the process by which national policies are transferred up to the European level and become the objective of collective decision-making processes (Paraskevopoulos and Leonardi 2004). Thus, the Europeanisation process refers to the complementary notions of opening up the structures of the traditional nation state to informal and formal rules originating from the supranational level, and, consequently, to their adaptation to the EU multilevel system of governance. In that respect, the Europeanisation of public policy constitutes a rather enduring and long-standing challenge for the administrative structures of the member states and hence it is viewed as a positive external shock for promoting institution-building, learning and policy-making innovation at the domestic – national and sub-national – levels of government. In regional policy in particular – and especially in the cases of Greece and

the other Cohesion countries at large – Europeanisation is viewed as an independent variable that crucially affects and challenges well-established structures within the domestic systems of governance and plays an important role in the administrative restructuring and devolution processes within the member states by enhancing the institutional capacity at the subnational level. In particular, its impact on the regional and local policymaking arenas is supposed to be twofold: a direct one, by providing increased resources through redistribution and a new set of rules and

procedures for the formulation and implementation of development policies; and an indirect one, by shaping intra-regional interactions and thus promoting local institutional capacity through the creation of intra-, inter-and trans-regional networks that support local development initiatives. Given the complexity of the multi-level governance structures within

which the adaptation process takes place and the distinctive character of policy-making structures at the EU level,4 however, the degree of adaptational pressures facing the domestic institutions and policy-making structures in order to comply with the European rules and regulations in public policy in general and regional policy in particular is especially high in unitary and centralised states like Greece or other Cohesion countries. Yet the presence of a high degree of adaptational pressure constitutes a necessary but not sufficient condition for domestic institutional and policy change. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that the latter is crucially conditioned by the presence of specific institutional structures at the domestic level of governance that may facilitate or inhibit the adaptation process (Bo¨rzel and Risse 2000; Paraskevopoulos 1998a; 2001a; 2001b). In other words, although the Europeanisation process plays a key role in the transformation of the domestic systems of governance in general and the public/regional policy-making structures in particular, domestic institutions and especially specific features of the pre-existing institutional infrastructure at the national and sub-national levels of government matter for adaptation (Garmise 1995; Lenschow 1997; Jeffery 2000; Paraskevopoulos 1998a; 2001a; 2001b; Risse et al. 2001; Bo¨rzel 2001; Keating et al. 2003). Therefore, specific features of the domestic institutional infrastructure constitute a crucial intervening variable between Europeanisation and domestic policy and institutional change that can account for the pace of the Europeanisation process. There are two broadly different mediating mechanisms/logics in the new

institutionalist literature that can account for domestic institutional and policy change as a response to Europeanisation: the rational choice and the sociological (see inter alia Bo¨rzel and Risse 2000). The former is based on the logic of consequentialism and points to the role of redistribution of resources and subsequently differential empowerment of actors at the domestic level. Thus, for the domestic policy-making arena, the presence of multiple veto points and existing formal institutions are conceived as crucial mediating factors that affect domestic actors’ capacity for action and hence policy and institutional change. This process has been conceptualised as ‘single-loop learning’ (Argyris and Schoen 1978), whereby actors acquire new information, alter strategies, but pursue given, fixed interests. The latter focuses on the process of social learning as a fundamental mechanism of domestic change and identifies networks (either epistemic communities, or advocacy and/or issue-specific) and informal institutions, namely political and organisational cultures and

social norms, as ‘thick’ mediating mechanisms that affect actors’ preferences through the logic of appropriateness, leading to the reconceptualisation of their interests and identities and thus facilitating the learning and socialisation processes (Risse et al. 2001; Checkel 2001). In other words, the process of social learning emphasises the role of experts in the policy process as policy-change entrepreneurs through their increased capacity for the diffusion of new information and knowledge (Hall 1993; Checkel 1999) on the one hand, and informal conventions, namely social norms, as ‘glue providers’ for the re-stabilisation of the relations among actors involved in the learning process on the other (see Sabel 1994; Paraskevopoulos 1998a; 1998b; 2001a; 2001b). Thus, ‘single loop’ learning is significantly affected by the intended and unintended consequences5 of the redistribution of power and resources between the supra-national, national and sub-national levels of government within the EU, and subsequently by the degree of decentralisation and administrative restructuring of the state. Social learning, on the other hand, implies a continuous loop of interaction in that compliance with the EU policymaking norms and regulations is achieved through the transformation of actors’ identities and interests that the changes of the broad institutional environment bring about (Checkel 2001). As is obvious, this differentiation corresponds to the broader distinction (within the academic debate about how ‘paradigm change’ occurs in public policy) between interests, ideas/ norms and institutions as fundamental conceptual tools/variables affecting change in public policy styles in general (Hood, 1994). In that respect, given the evidence from Greece and other Cohesion countries suggesting that, however important the role of formal institutional structures and multiple veto points may be they do not seem to seriously impede policy change, what arguably matters for the learning process in regional policy in these countries is the presence and involvement in the policy-making process of networks of non-state actors, such as independent experts and private sector, and informal norms, namely social capital, conducive to the building of cooperative culture (see Paraskevopoulos 1998a; 1998b; 2001a; 2001b; Paraskevopoulos and Leonardi 2004). Additionally, given that time and space constitute crucial variables

affecting the learning process (Rose 1993; 2002), they contribute to another – beyond the ‘single loop’ vs. ‘social’ – conceptual dichotomy within the theory of learning, i.e. learning across time and space. While ‘learning across time’ refers to the process by which lessons are drawn from the past (that is, from one’s past successes and/or failures), ‘learning across space’ implies the drawing of lessons or policy transfers across/from other jurisdictions: either from within the same country, or from other countries or regions. Of course, both processes are intrinsic elements of the concept of learning and the notion of drawing lessons at large, as a means of catching up in public policy (Rose 1993). Thus, while it is clear that learning across time for Greece should refer primarily to its post-authoritarian period, learning across space

is overwhelmingly marked by the tendency/willingness towards policy transfer from the West in general and/or other Cohesion countries in particular. Within this theoretical framework, the paper views the development of

infrastructure in Greece as the outcome of domestic policy change and concentrates on the specifics of the learning process that may help to account for it. The next section critically examines the changes which occurred in regional development policy-making from the first (1989-93) to the second (1994-99) and third (2000-06) programming periods of the EU’s Community Support Frameworks (CSFs). Then the third section assesses the key qualitative features of the learning process, such as the role of non-state actors and particularly the private sector and expertise, in the policy process, while the fourth section views the Olympic Games of 2004 as an additional external challenge to improving the infrastructure, especially in the area of Athens. Further, given that physical infrastructure is considered a necessary but not sufficient condition for development, the article critically evaluates the way in which the emphasis on the development of physical infrastructure may not have been accompanied by the development of institutional infrastructure and discusses the possible implications of such a discrepancy (penultimate section). Finally, the paper draws the main conclusions and discusses the way in which the development of infrastructure in Greece over the last decade or so may be viewed as a lesson-drawing exercise with regard to the impact of the Europeanisation/modernisation processes on domestic policy-making structures and the role of the learning process.