Partnership in implementation of the Structural Funds in Poland: 'shallow' adjustment or internalization of the European mode of cooperative governance?
The ongoing debate about the future of EU cohesion policy includes the voices of critics questioning its effectiveness, as well as those of proponents praising its praising its contribution to regional development policy. The proponents specifically acclaim its enhancement of inter-institutional cooperation and coordination in the delivery of the regional development policy through the partnership principle. However, the legacy of centralism, lack of traditions in collaborative policy-making, and weakly institutionalized sub-national authorities in Central and Eastern Europe prompt questions about the transferability of the partnership approach to the new member states, the main recipients of cohesion funding. What is the impact of EU cohesion policy's partnership at the sub-national level? What are the mechanisms of the sub-national actors' adjustment to this EU-imposed practice and what is the scope for its institutionalization? By investigating sub-national partnership arrangements in Poland, the paper sheds light on these under-researched issues. It also offers a valuable contribution to the debates on the future of EU cohesion policy and the logic of the domestic policy actors' adjustment to externally imposed policy norms. The paper draws on the concept of Europeanization, understood as the domestic impact of EU policies, to examine the implementation of a horizontal partnership in an unprecedented way by focusing on the strategies, preferences, and attitudes of the sub-national actors involved. It reveals that initially their adjustment to EU cohesion policy's partnership tends to be strategic and interest-driven. Nevertheless, there is also evidence that partnership can be internalized over time provided that it is in line with the actors' interests and there are specific incentives for cooperation. These findings show that strategic adjustment of domestic actors to European policy framework does not exclude socialization and internalization of the related norms and practices, as these processes can indeed be intertwined.
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