'URBAN' : a critical case study of the formulation and operationalisation of a community initiative
The objective of this research is to produce a critical case study of the European Union's modus operandi in approaching urban issues through an analysis of the formulation and operationalisation of its Structural Fund Initiative for deprived neighbourhoods, URBAN (1994-1999). The key actors and major events in the decision-making process, together with their methods of determining URBAN's main objectives, are the focus of the empirical study. The member states' strategies to operationalise the Community guidelines are illustrated by four local URBAN projects in London (Park Royal), Merseyside, Berlin and Duisburg-Marxloh. The central research question addresses the decisions regarding URBAN at EU, national and local case study level. More specifically, the study investigates the inputs and processes of the URBAN Initiative by applying the theoretical framework of policy networks and multi-level governance to EU decision making at the conceptual level. The investigation was undertaken by means of qualitative "elite" interviews with EU representatives, central and local government officials, and local project staff in the UK and Germany. By intensive analysis grounded in the empirical accounts, the study aims to identify three main issues: i) do professional elites and policy networks determine the EU's structural funding framework; ii) do policy networks evolve and operate conditionally to European, national and local circumstances; and iii) are the nature and characteristics of policy networks and multi-level governance related to the policy output. In the analytical framework, the concept of Multi-level Governance is understood to comprise the three notions of Participation, defined as Network Actor, Partnership. perceived as Network Interaction, and Multi-dimensionality, considered as Network Range. Hence, the study illustrates the conceptualisation process of the URBAN programme at EU level, as well as the national and local variations in the URBAN projects' formulation and operationalisation. These are a function of the specific constellation of and interplay between Participation, Partnership and Multi-dimensionality. The outcome of this study is a critical analysis of EU decision-making processes and policy performance related to urban governance, a governance which advances, albeit in a limited way, the EU's cohesion policy. Additionally, existing bodies of literature for the European, national and local level were drawn together into one multi-layered analytical framework of policy making and policy implementation.