The implementation of European Community regional policy : a study of the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund in the United Kingdom
This thesis develops the argument that research on the European Community (EC) could be enriched by studies of how Community policies are implemented. The processes by which EC policies are formulated have been the subject of a great deal of research. However, the way in which these policies are subsequently put into practice and whether or not their objectives are achieved has received very little attention. Yet these processes may be highly complex, involving a large variety of institutions and actors at Community, national and regional levels. The complexity of implementation and of the Community's political system offers scope for a significant "implementation gap" between policy objectives and outcomes. This study is therefore about the implementation of EC regional policy. More specifically, it focus*is- on the operation in the United Kingdom of two Community Funds with regional objectives; namely, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). In particular, the activities of the two Funds in South West England are examined. The research also assesses the roles in implementation of the European Commission and national government departments in the UK. The research shows that the UK government is able to influence many aspects of the implementation process by means of its pivotal role in decision-making and its ability to control many financial aspects of the provision of EC grants. As a result, the objectives of the ERDF and ESF may be overwhelmed by the entirely national objectives of government. On the other hand, this study demonstrates that the European Commission can exert some control in order to pursue the Funds' "Community" objectives. The organisations at regional level which actually apply for EC grants are also shown to be of importance. Their involvement is determined by factors such as government restrictions on expenditure, assisted area status, the availability of information, local iniciative and the efficiency of organisational structurcs. The research, which coincided with a period in which EC regional policy is being reformed, calls for more explicit concern in the future with how the Community's increasingly prominent regional development objectives are put into practice. Moreover, it asserts that studying how Community policies operate can help to shed more light on the nature of the EC's political system.