Table of Content
I. EU approach on the partnership
I.1 Historical development of the partnership principle
I.2 Partnership as a governance mechanism
I.3 Purposes of partnership
I.4 Partnership implementation framework 2007-2013
I.5 Assessment of the EU partnership approach
II. Institutional framework of the partnerships in Poland 2007-2013
II.1 Implementation system of Regional Operational Programs
II.2 Institutionalising partnership at the national level
II.3 Regional Operational Program 2007-2013 of the Mazovia region
III. Analysis of the partnership in Mazovia region in Poland
III.1 Partnership participants structure
III.2 Partnership institutional structure
III.3 Impact of partnership
III.4 Conclusions: meeting EU objectives by Mazovia Monitoring Committee
IV. Explaining the regional partnership implementation model
IV.1 Partnership as a public policy problem-solving
IV.2 Partnership as a power relation
Partnership has become a central principle of EU policies and is nowadays treated as a vital part of EU structural funds. The adoption of the partnership approach has been a challenge in the Polish public policy system throughout the 2004-2006 and 2007-2013 financial perspective periods. The thesis considers the adoption of the partnership principle at the regional level in Poland, focusing on the example of the Mazovia Monitoring Committee. It is concerned with the questions: How the expectations of the EU partnership approach are met in the regional practice? What is the actual role of social and economic partners in the decision-making process? How possible disparities between goals of the partnership policy and its outcomes can be explained?
The evidence presented suggests that there is significant resistance in adopting the partnership principle in the Mazovia Monitoring Committee. The implementation reality does not live up to the expectations of the partnership assumptions expressed in the EU cohesion policy. Partnership has more mechanistic character of fulfilling donor’s obligation than organic need of participatory working. In many aspects the partnership is a facade – it has an institutionalized form with limited content.
This can be explained by political mechanisms contained in the partnership principle. Partnership is not a neutral good governance tool that requires primarily managerial response; it is an inherently political vehicle influencing relations between stakeholders, their interests and positions in the decision-making structures. The crucial element of partnership implementation is an approach of authorities, their interests to engage in partnership mechanisms. Therefore, stimulating of motivation, commitment and willingness to achieve interests of both sides through partnerships is essential for the policy success. In the partnership policy-making it should be rather looked for motivation than further formalization of the process.
The term partnership refers to an idea of involving different entities as partners to cooperate and achieve common objectives. It concerns a non-hierarchical cooperation framework in which each actor has a veto right in policy-making and voluntarily complies with the decisions made, and involves private actors, both profit and non-profit in policy formulation and implementation. In the context of socio-economic development the partnership concept conveys an assumption that involving various actors can contribute to better effectiveness of public policies and improve socio-economic development.
Partnership was first introduced in the European Union in 1988 and is nowadays treated as a vital part of the EU cohesion policy. Along with additionality, programming and concentration principles it belongs to basic principles of the EU cohesion policy and implies both horizontal partnership between the European Commission and member states as well as vertical partnership between national governments, regional authorities, social and economic partners as well as other competent authorities. According to the Council Regulation each member state is obliged to organize a partnership with authorities and bodies such as regional, local, urban and other public authorities, economic and social partners, other bodies representing civil society, environmental partners, non-governmental organizations, and bodies responsible for promoting equality between men and women, throughout the whole program cycle. EU regulation provides a general framework of the partnership rule, whereas application remains in the hands of member states. Each country adopts partnership according to own decentralisation level, tradition of cooperation with non-governmental bodies and general attitude towards involving social and economic partners in the public decision-making. In practice member states have significant freedom in interpreting the principle by setting rules, definitions and providing mechanisms of partners’ involvement, which results in a differentiated implementation throughout the EU.
Since 2004 Poland is a member of the European Union and a participant of the cohesion policy, obliged to adopt all the EU legal and institutional framework. In the financial perspective 2007-2013 Poland is the largest EU beneficiary state of the EU cohesion policy, with the budget of 67,3 billion Euros to be distributed until 2015. The application of the partnership principle in new EU member states is a challenging task since partnership tradition and established means of identifying and involving partners largely lacked. The adoption of the partnership approach has been a novelty in the Polish public policy system and a challenge throughout the 2004-2006 and 2007-2013 financial perspective periods. After first seven years of experience with learning and implementing the partnership mechanisms, the institutional system in Poland took shape and formed certain patterns of conduct, with its strengths and weaknesses both at the national and regional level.
The primary institutional expression of partnership in the distribution of structural funds are monitoring committees responsible for co-management of EU-programs. Their functioning is obligatory for each operational program and is regulated by general framework at the EU level. The practice of monitoring committees functioning, quality of their work and fulfilling their role as a platform for partnership between stakeholders is a subject of debate in the public sphere. On the one hand monitoring committees are the first institutionalized form of a broad public-private-social cooperation on the execution of public policies and prove to be respected bodies through which representatives of different parties obtain a platform for cooperation and influence over funds distribution, that otherwise would not have existed. On the other hand concerns and criticism on monitoring committees role, responsibilities, effectiveness of work and actual impact are raised.
The purpose of the study is to analyze existing experience of the partnership approach in Poland against the expectation of the EU partnership principle. The thesis shall concentrate primarily on the functioning of monitoring committees as the most significant expression of the partnership policy. The relations between social and economic partners and public authorities will be in focus of the thesis. Specifically, the study will concentrate on the key questions:
1. How the expectations of the EU partnership approach are met by the way of the adoption of the principle at the regional level in Poland?
2. What is the actual role of social and economic partners in the decision-making process within monitoring committees?
3. How possible disparities between goals of the partnership policy and its outcomes can be explained?
The hypothesis is that the approach adopted in Poland, in particularly by the regional authorities does not live up to the expectations of the partnership assumptions expressed in the EU cohesion policy. While the capacity to absorb funds has been demonstrated in Poland, the capacity and willingness to engage in partnerships is limited. The adoption of the partnership has initiated some improvements in transparency, effectiveness and targeting of public policies financed by structural funds, however it is incomplete against assumptions and fails to meet expectations of the partnership policy. It does not empower and engage social and economic stakeholders in the extend that would make of them partners in real terms.
The possible explanation of the partnership resistant application is the power distribution mechanism contained in the partnership principle. Partnership is not a neutral good governance tool that requires primarily managerial response; it is an inherently political vehicle influencing relations between stakeholders, their interests and positions in the decision making structures. It raises questions about legitimacy, power balance and distribution of rights versus distribution of responsibilities among stakeholders. Especially in the system of structural funds where millions of Euros are transferred the partnership has intrinsically political character and is shaped by strategic interests of stakeholders.
Method of inquiry
The method applied to answer the research questions and verify the hypothesis consists of three stages:
1. Meta-analysis of evaluation studies and reports on the regional, national and EU level and analysis of the partnership and governance literature,
2. Analysis of the documentation related to the implementation of partnership principle in the Regional Operation Program, including evidence of activity within the Monitoring Committee,
3. Set of eleven interviews with stakeholders of the partnership representing social and economic partners (four non-governmental organisations, one academic partner and one representing employers’ organisation), Managing Institution of the program (three interviews), national authorities (one interview in Ministry for Labour and Social Policy liable for creation of national cooperation framework with NGOs) and European Commission (one interview with the observer in the Monitoring Committee).
The topic of this thesis will also be analyzed taking into account the theoretical framework offered by public policy analysis literature. The concepts of policy, politics and polity and actor-centered institutionalism will be applied to understand and explain processes taking place within partnership policy. Furthermore, we will try to analyze partnership implementation approach by using the concepts of three dimensions of power and organizational outflanking concept in order to enlighten the power relations within the program management in Mazovia. The theoretical framework should enable clarifying factors influencing the status of implementing the partnership principle.
Structure of thesis
The structure of the thesis includes four chapters. The first chapter will concentrate on presenting the EU approach on partnership, including its historical background, role as a good governance mechanisms, purposes of the policy and expected outcomes as well as forms of institutionalization of the principle. In the second chapter the institutional system of Regional Operational Programs and framework of partnerships’ application in the Polish context is presented. In the third part the case of monitoring committee of the Regional Operation Program 2007-2013 in Mazovia region will be analyzed to find out what is the practical approach to transmission of partnership and positioning of social and economic partners in the decision-making process of the committees. Assessment of partnership policy implementation and involvement of partners against the EU policy assumptions will be made on the example of the Mazovia case. In the final chapter an attempt to explain possible existing discrepancies will be made with the use of theoretical frameworks. The political dimension of the partnerships will be considered. As a conclusion a lesson learned will be drawn from the analysis and evaluation of partnership policy at the regional level in Poland.
I. EU approach on the partnership
I.1 Historical development of the partnership principle
The cohesion policy was introduced to the EU treaties with the objective to reduce the gap in levels of development between different regions, in order to strengthen economic and social cohesion of the EU. The partnership principle has become one of the key principles of EU cohesion policy setting down multi-level participation framework of supranational national and sub-national actors, and including regional authorities, private sector and civil society organizations in programming, implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages of cohesion policy.
Cohesion policy was expanded in the period of 1986-1993 as a result of establishment of common market with the Single European Act, accession of Spain and Portugal and rising pressure from the side of member states on more effectiveness and transparency in distribution of the EU budget. Partnership principle was introduced by the European Union in 1988 as one of the fundamental principles guiding structural policy along with programming, concentration and additionality principles. At that time partnership was considered primarily as the vertical relationship between the Commission and national, regional or local authorities. It was defined as follows: “Community operations shall be established through close consultations between the Commission, the Member State concerned and the competent authorities at national, regional, local or other level, with each party acting as a partners in pursuit of a common goal. These consultations are hereinafter referred to as the ‘partnership’. The partnership shall cover the preparation, financing, monitoring and assessment of operation”.
The period of 1992-1999 provided further changes in the EU structural funds as a result of introduction of the monetary union and rising pressure of less wealthy member states, which were afraid of the monetary union’s negative economic effects. In 1993 the definition of partnership was extended by including “economic and social partners designated by the Member State at national, regional, local or other level”. In the cohesion policy design for the period 2007-2013 the partnership principle has gained importance and explicitly includes civil society organizations, environmental partners, non-governmental organizations and entities promoting gender equality as partners.
Partnership principle encompasses two axis of partnership – vertical and horizontal ones. In the vertical dimension the partnership needs to contain representatives of the European Commission and a member state, whereas within the horizontal axis the partnership encompass public authorities and economic and social partners - private entities, civil society, academic sector. The horizontal understanding has been expanded over time in the praxis of the EU policy.
I.2 Partnership as a governance mechanism
Development of the partnership concept has taken place within wider debate on EU governance system. Generally the term “governance” refers to processes, structures, rules, norms and values by means of which collective activities can be steered and coordinated. In the governance structure decision-making is no longer dominated by administrative hierarchy but by complex relations between different actors: supra-national entities, national governments and institutions, public agencies, regional and sub-regional authorities, business entities, wide scope of civil society organizations, academic and research institutions, media.
The European Commission established its own concept of governance in White Paper on European Governance of 2001, in which the term "European governance" refers to the rules, processes and behaviour that affect the way in which powers are exercised at European level, particularly as regards five principles of good governance - openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence. Since the end of the 1990s, “new modes of governance” have been presented by academics and political actors as an answer to the EU's “democratic deficit”. The concept of civil society is “rediscovered” in the EU discourses concerning the relationship between democracy and governance in the EU. Governance has been interpreted as less central control and more network steering. Civil society and civil dialogue are developed to counteract the EU scepticism and resistance of citizens towards EU integration.
White Paper on European Governance has broaden the understanding of the participation’s role as a key principle of good governance: “The quality, relevance and effectiveness of EU policies depend on ensuring wide participation throughout the policy chain – from conception to implementation. Improved participation is likely to create more confidence in the end result and in the Institutions which deliver policies “. The European Commission expressed self-criticism by saying that the way in which the EU currently works does not allow for adequate interaction in a multi-level partnership. Civil society involvement is perceived as a chance to include citizens in achieving EU’s objectives, to offer a structured channel for feedback, criticism and protest and to broaden the debate on Europe’s role. The White Paper foresees that each member state adopts adequate mechanisms for wide consultation when discussing EU decisions and implementing EU policies. In policy sectors where consultative practices are already well established it is planned to develop more extensive partnership arrangements. It is at the same time underlined that with better involvement comes greater responsibility of civil society to follow the principles of good governance, in particularly accountability and openness.
The idea of partnership is contained in the key strategies for the implementation of European policies – Lisbon Strategy and Europe 2020, in which it is seen as an essential part of EU development process. In the Lisbon Strategy it is declared that a fully decentralized approach would be applied in line with the principle of subsidiarity in which the EU, member states, regional and local levels, as well as social partners and civil society will be actively involved, using variable forms of partnership. According to the renewed Lisbon strategy - Europe 2020 all national, regional and local authorities should implement the partnership, associating parliaments, social partners and representatives of civil society, contributing to the elaboration of national reform programs and to its implementation. “By establishing a permanent dialogue between various levels of government, the priorities of the Union are brought closer to citizens, strengthening the ownership needed to delivery the Europe 2020 strategy”.
With the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty the EU participatory dimension has been additionally extended. The Lisbon Treaty foresees that EU institutions maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society and that European Commission carries out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the EU actions are coherent and transparent. New mechanism of European citizens initiative has been introduced allowing one million citizens from a significant number of member states to invite the European Commission to submit a legal proposal.
I.3 Purpose of partnership
Structural funds are a public policy respond to broad challenges of economic, social and regional development of the EU, such as globalisation, enhanced economic and monetary integration, industrial restructuring, social exclusion. Partnership has been built into the cohesion policy to support achieving goals of the cohesion policy. Within the EU discourse on partnership, based on EU documentation, evaluations and literature, three main lines of argumentation on policy goals can be extracted:
1. Partnership as a mechanism of more efficiency and effectiveness of programs
Primary aims of the increased participation throughout the policy chain are quality, relevance and effectiveness of EU policies as well as creating more confidence in the end result and in institutions which deliver policies. Increased effectiveness and efficiency of programs within structural funds is one of major rationales of partnership. Partnership has most to do at the stage of programming when programs, priorities and objectives are defined and at the stage of implementation, when project selection for financing takes place. Through providing local knowledge and different perspectives partnership should support better targeting of action and improved focusing on local needs. Partnership is expected to increase quality of project selection, ability to absorb funds and achievement of project goals. Quality of decision-making and overlaps avoidance are assumed to be improved through coordinated action and communication of different institutions. Input of partners should help to identify problems and solutions through knowledge of the program operation on the ground. Although partnership requires time and effort investment at the start of the process, subsequently it is expected to generate savings of time and money and increased effectiveness in the long term.
2. Partnership as transparency and legitimacy mechanism
Another dimension of partnership is an expected increase in transparency and legitimizing of decision-making. More democracy and civic society involvement has an intension of bringing more openness and enhance democratic dimension of EU programs. The imperative is to increase ownership of program management and program outputs, bring value of mutual learning, trust and capacity building in regional development. Information on structural funds investments is expected to be better disseminated and reach relevant stakeholders.
3. Partnership as a structural change vehicle
The intension of the partnership is to bring institutional reform and capacity building in member states. Partnership policy is an attempt to restructure the decision-making patterns by transition from traditional government to governance structure in cohesion policy. It assumes a shift in the concept of the role of public authorities from a sole decision maker to a coordinator of decision-making processes of relevant stakeholders. Partnership is regarded as an activator of decentralisation and bottom-down approach replacing traditional top-down decisions-making. “The European Union has already shown that it can be a major force in transforming governance. By putting proposals into practice, it can use its transforming power in a manner consistent with the subsidiarity principle (...)”.
Partnership responds also to a trend towards decentralization, deconcentration and regionalization both at the EU level and in member states. In order to strengthen democracy and get closer to regions, localities and societies, partnership should create local response to local problems. Making programs more inclusive should allow partners to think beyond their own particular interests and come to a more strategic, “regional viewpoint”.
I.4 Partnership implementation framework 2007-2013
In the design of the financial and operational framework of regional policy for the period 2007-2013 the requirement to adopt partnership has been explicitly imposed on the member states in the Council Regulation. Partnership has gained importance by explicitly embracing civil society organizations, environmental partners, non-governmental organizations and bodies promoting gender equality in its definition. Article 11 of the Regulation lays down general implementation framework: “The objectives of the Funds shall be pursued in the framework of close cooperation (partnership) between the Commission and each Member State. Each Member State shall organize, where appropriate and in accordance with current national rules and practices, a partnership with authorities and bodies such as: (a) the competent regional, local, urban and other public authorities; (b) the economic and social partners; (c) any other appropriate body representing civil society, environmental partners, non-governmental organizations, and bodies responsible for promoting equality between men and women. Each Member State shall designate the most representative partners at national, regional and local level and in the economic, social, environmental or other spheres (partners), in accordance with national rules and practice ….”.
 Tanja Börzel, Sebastian Guttenbrunner and S. Seper, Conceptualizing New Modes of Governance in EU Enlargement, NewGov – New Modes of Governance Project, 2005, p. 6.
 Article 11 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999
 See: The thematic evaluation report of the partnership principle, John Kelleher, Sarah Batterbury & Elliot Stern, The Tavistock Institute, Evaluation Development and Review Unit, February 1999 http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/evaluation/doc/rathe/asec3.pdf (28.05.2011).
 Investing in Europe’s future. Fifth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion, European Commission, November 2010, p. 247. http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docoffic/official/reports/cohesion5/pdf/5cr_en.pdf, (26.06.2011).
 Article 63 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006, op.cit.
 Article 4 of the Council Regulation (EEC) NO 2052/88 of 24 June 1988, Official Journal of the European Union No L 185/9, 15.07.1988.
 Article 4 of the Council Regulation (EEC) No 2081/93 of 20 July 1993, Official Journal of the European Union No L 193 , 31.07.1993.
 Article 11 of of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006, op.cit.
 Governance and partnership in regional policy, Ad-hoc note, European Parliament, January 2008, p. iv, www.europarl.europa.eu/activities/expert/eStudies.do?language=EN, (1.07.2011).
 http://ec.europa.eu/governance/governance/index_en.htm, 1.07.2011.
 Paul Magnette, European Governance and Civic Participation: Beyond Elitist Citizenship? in: Political Studies, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp. 144–160, March 2003.
 Kenneth A. Armstrong, Rediscovering Civil Society: The European Union and the White Paper on Governance in: European Law Journal, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp. 102–132, March 2002.
 White Paper on European Governance, Commission of the European Communities, 25.07.2001, p. 10 http://ec.europa.eu/governance/white_paper/index_en.htm (15.07.2011).
 Presidency Conclusions, Lisbon European Council of 23 and 24 March 2000, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/summits/lis1_en.htm (17.07.2011).
 Europe 2020. A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, Communication from the Commission, 3.03.2010, p.29
 Article 8 B of the Treaty of Lisbon, Official Journal of the European Union C 306, 17.12.2007.
 See European Governance White Paper of the European Commission , 25.07.2001, p. 10.
 Report on governance and partnership at national and regional levels and a basis for projects in the sphere of regional policy, Committee on Regional Development, 18.09.2008, p. 12 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A6-2008-0356&language=EN#title1 (25.06.1011).
 Report on governance and partnership at national and regional levels and a basis for projects in the sphere of regional policy, Committee on Regional Development, 18.09.2008, p. 15 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A6-2008-0356&language=EN#title1, (25.06.1011).
 Based on: The thematic evaluation report of the partnership principle, op.cit., pp. 23-25.
 Investing in Europe’s future. Fifth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion, op.cit., p. 247