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The reform of the 2003 Common Agricultural Policy: an advocacy coalition explanation

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This article addresses the core research question - how can we understand the policy processes leading to the 2003 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform? It utilizes the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) perspective as an explanatory framework for these purposes in a European Union (EU) policy area which normally lies outside ACF applications. In the ACF, it is assumed that advocacy coalitions will resist information that challenges the policy core beliefs of decision actors. This characteristic is even stronger in semi-federalist systems such as the EU. Hence, a high degree of consensus is required to change the policy core, as was the case with the 2003 CAP reform. The article shows that the ACF can be expanded to explain the CAP reform. It also demonstrates that the preconditions identified by the ACF for a successful consensus process were fulfilled in the reform process. The onset of the BSE crisis and the emergent international trade negotiations meant that the status quo was no longer unacceptable. Most of the negotiations leading up to the CAP reform were held in private and took a great deal of time. Commissioner Fischler was willing to act as facilitator in the process and strove to make the reform process as non-normative as possible. However, in order to accommodate the criticism of the ACF for not taking collective action problems serious, it is also observed that new forms of non-trivial coordination occurred, namely discursive coordination, which became the most frequently used form of coordination during the 2003 CAP reform process and which is much less problematic as far as collective action problems are concerned.
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Keywords: Advocacy Coalition Framework; Common Agricultural Policy; European Union; agricultural reform; collective action; policy analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: International Center for Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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