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Hard Questions, Hard Solutions: Proceduralisation through Impact Assessment in the EU

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An important proposition in public policy analysis is that the design and selection of policy instruments is a manifestation of power relations; in other words, 'politics determines instruments'. However, except where it degenerates into tick-the-box routines, instrumentation can also generate its own political effects at the implementation stage - the 'instruments determine politics' argument. Examining the impact assessment (IA) element of the EU's Better Regulation agenda of the European Union, this article argues that procedures and meta-instruments are chosen by policy-makers when there is disagreement on fundamental issues of power. Policy-makers activate meta-instruments that do not address fundamental issues directly, but change procedures of policy formulation. In so doing, however, they create a new structure of opportunity, which produces its own effects on politics. Our findings point to unintended effects of IA, such as administrative coordination and organisational learning, as well as strengthening of the Commission Secretariat General.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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