«Forthcoming in Lavian Stan (ed.) (2015) Post-Communist Romania at 25: Linking Past, Present and Future, Boulder CO: Rowman & Littlefield. ...»
ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORK GOVERNANCE IN ROMANIA:
TRANSNATIONAL NORM ENTREPRENEURS IN THE SHADOW OF THE EU
Cristina E. Parau
Forthcoming in Lavian Stan (ed.) (2015) Post-Communist Romania at 25: Linking Past,
Present and Future, Boulder CO: Rowman & Littlefield.
The ascendant practices of governance in contemporary Europe are known collectively as the new modes of governance. Their diffusion to the post-Communist periphery of Europe might therefore seem unproblematic, given the EU’s strong presence in that region. This diffusion is expected to be particularly observable in those policy domains where adjustment to EU standards incurs high material costs that normally raise resistance. Environmental policy is an exemplary case of this. Implementing the EU environmental acquis is enormously costly, which is only compounded by the severe scarcities of domestic material resources that characterise Eastern Europe. Rational, self-interested candidates for accession to the EU are supposed to have incentives to participate in new modes of governance and share these burdens with private parties (Börzel, 2009).
Empirical evidence to the contrary has brought this supposition into question. The new modes of governance have encountered barren ground throughout Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), from putatively progressive member-States like Hungary and Poland, to the usual stragglers in Southeastern Europe (e.g. Romania), to the keenest EU candidates in the Western Balkans (Börzel and Buzogány, 2010; Dezseri and Vida, 2008; Fagan, 2012). The canons of rationality notwithstanding, it is rather the local social norms and political culture that have prevailed, positively inhibiting the diffusion of network-based environmental governance norms. Both the State and civil society lack all the prerequisites of voluntary 1 networking for public policy ends: social trust to facilitate mutual cooperation; the capacity and willingness to mobilise privately; knowledge and expertise enough to warrant reciprocal consultation between private and public actors (Carmin and Fagan, 2010; Howard Morje, 2003; Parau, 2007). A tradition of steeply hierarchical State domination is a shop closed to civil society, whilst the political culture belittles consensus-building and cost-sharing (Fagan, 2012; Parau, 2009). If that is not enough, the acuteness of the material scarcity privileges and prioritises economic development, pushing environmental concerns to the margins of public policy.
The net result is that in Southeastern Europe in particular, reception of the environmental values so normal in the West is at best chequered, scarcely having made an impression on peoples or governments. A tough contest will likely ensue between the domestic public’s insatiable demand for development and the alternative transnational demand for environmental protection. Given these considerable challenges, the following
questions are posed:
In the exceptional cases in which environmental values prevail, what explains such an
What causes are at work, and to what preconditions are they subject?
And what causal nexus in particular makes possible the success of environmental
These are the questions addressed in this article via qualitative case study research undertaken in Romania during its accession negotiations with the EU.
The article is structured as follows. Section one overviews the main theoretical insights in the literature pertinent to this inquiry. Section two presents the causal explanation that emerged from my empirical research. Section three lays out the research design. Sections
subordination to State power even after the 1989 Revolution. Section five follows how ‘norm entrepreneurs’ exploited network resources to pursue their goals. Section six continues the analysis in section five to reveal how the same entrepreneurs strategically constructed and tactically deployed manifold discourses, which they brought to bear on the behaviour of the Romanian government. The Conclusion reviews the causes and preconditions that enabled environmental civil society to succeed and touches on the broader significance of the Romanian case.
External agency and EU accession conditionality The evolution of environmental civil society in CEE has been the subject of plentiful scholarly attention (Carmin, 2010; Carmin and Fagan, 2010; Hicks, 2004). By contrast, the literature on the diffusion of the new modes of governance into the region, and civil society’s role therein, is still undeveloped. The modes in question are collaborative networks within which public policy is made jointly by public and private actors who, though interconnected, are usually not hierarchically interrelated, and who operate outside the classical channels of democratic representation (Eberlein and Kerwer, 2004; Héritier and Lehmkuhl, 2008).
The research questions addressed in this article pertain to two bodies of literature:
environmental governance and Europeanization. The literature on environmental governance has to date offered no explanation of the success or failure of the new modes of governance in CEE. The question usually researched is not how or why, but just whether or not these modes of governance are emerging at all in the region (Börzel and Buzogány, 2010; Börzel, 2009; Fagan, 2012). A few exceptional contributions are to be noted. Inquiring into what conditions might determine the reception of the new modes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Fagan
Mechanisms like the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) do not translate easily into the social and political context of Southeastern Europe, as the local human capital is insufficient to support domestic initiatives, absent external intervention. The ‘external agency’ of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is shown to have played a ‘critical didactic role’ in building up the ‘knowledge capacity’ of the state administration (Fagan 2012:643). All the worse is the dearth of independent civil society capacity and initiative, as research on environmental movements and the Europeanisation of State-civil society relations in CEE has brought to light (Parau, 2009; Parau, 2010). But this enabling role of external agency itself stands in need of closer examination, to unpack the exact nature of the causation. Attributing agency to institutional structures such as the EBRD is only metaphorical; the concrete reality of it remains unexamined.
The EU has been a strong presence in CEE since the fall of Communism. Theoretical insights from the literature on Europeanisation fruitfully complement the literature on environmental governance. Europeanisation theory studies the causes and consequences of EU candidacy and eventual membership, and especially the continuing adaptation of national traditions to EU values and standards (Cowles et al., 2001; Featherstone and Radaelli, 2003;
Olsen, 2002). It finds that ‘positive reinforcement’, in the form of accession to the EU being deployed as a reward for compliance with more or less clearly specified conditions, is the ubiquitous causal mechanism behind the phenomena observed in CEE (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, 2005). This ‘behaviour modification’ mechanism, known in the literature as ‘accession conditionality’, obliges accession candidates to adopt the acquis communautaire – the quite substantial body of settled EU law – non-negotiably but for the timetable of implementation. Other, vaguer conditions promote important values and norms shared by the
and Madrid (1995) – the so-called ‘Copenhagen Criteria’ on legal-political norms and the ‘Madrid Criteria’ on administrative capacity. The literature on the Europeanisation of Eastern Europe tends to focus on State actors to the neglect of non-State. In this chapter the causal role of non-State actors is given the prominence it deserves, after empirical research found it to be indispensable.
The causal nexus of the success of environmental governance One capital distinction is necessary concerning the nature of causation, that between the causes themselves and the preconditions of their operation. I call ‘preconditions’ those contingent and often transient states of affairs which have the latent power to ‘make or break’ the causes effectually in play (which in contests over public policy are the principal political actors). Thus, preconditions can switch losers to winners and winners to losers. Such influences are often classified under the rubric of ‘structure’. I shall prefer the term ‘precondition’ as emphasising their contingency and transience, however (Shapiro and Bedi, 2007); whereas ‘structure’ typically applies to arrangements more durable than preconditions, such as political institutions, national characteristics (language, religion), party systems, etc.
The most significant preconditions found in this study are the following: (1) the prior existence of a transnational network of actors, and its ideological (or epistemic) consensus which knitted together like-minded persons and their diverse resources, and from which norm entrepreneurs sprang and drew sustenance; (2) the craving of practically all Romanians for acceptance by the West and for integration into the EU; (3) the manifold pressures of accession conditionality; and (4) the peaking of accession negotiations between the accession candidate and the EU.
all of them political actors, and classifiable under the rubric of ‘agency’. Excluded, however, is agency qua the prior acts, even if arguably influential, of agents who did not continue to make things happen throughout the chain of events leading to the outcomes observed in the cases studied. For example, norm entrepreneurs originating in the West seldom addressed the Romanian government directly. But for their continuing activism (and the Romanians’ relative passivity and ineptitude), which left little doubt of their being agent-causes, they might have been taken merely for ‘mentors’ of Romanian domestic civil society. By contrast, the network from which these entrepreneurs sprang, although it consisted of ‘agents’ as well – without whose acts and resources the entrepreneurs might have been becalmed – were yet too remote from the processes studied to count as ‘agent-causes’. The whole was a complex interaction between contingent preconditions and agent-causes that was more like a causal nexus than a linear causal mechanism.
A distinctive causal explanation thus emerges consisting of the diffusion of network governance into the domestic arena of a Southeast European country, to redirect its public policy. The process was driven by norm entrepreneurs who were ‘political actor[s] who might be able to exploit […] dissatisfaction with existing norms in order to bring about large-scale social change’ (Sunstein, 1996:929). If this happens in a voluntary process of transboundary interaction, whereby cultural, social, intellectual, and other influences cross over from one nation to another without being screened by a higher control or authorised by hierarchical power, it may be termed ‘transnational’ (Parau, 2013), in contrast to supranational or international.
The Western entrepreneurs ‘initiated’ Romanian civil society into their transnational environmental governance network. Their policy initiatives mobilised resources both
to contest public policy on a more equal footing with a starkly hierarchical State. Lacking the capacity and competence for network governance, especially, Romanian civil society depended almost entirely on the transnational network.
This network was far-flung and encompassed a vast array of State and non-State actors. Entrepreneurs were able to exploit their connexions with like-minded, networked-in actors inside the supranational organs of the EU and other international organisations as well as media corporations – viz. European Commission functionaries, Members of the European Parliament, journalists scripting internationally consumed media output – and ‘recruit’ them into their contest with the Romanian government. Steered by the entrepreneurs, all of these actors brought their diverse talents and resources to bear on that contest, causing the Romanian government to yield in its single-minded pursuit of economic development.
Their chief causal activity was the construction of discourses serving multiple, serial purposes, all bearing potential to reshape power relations, and classifiable in more or less temporal or causal order. The first purpose was to mobilise network actors, for whom the contest was not of proximate concern, to contribute to the effort. The second purpose was to motivate the Romanian government to desist, e.g. by using seemingly credible threats of Romania’s accession being set back or adjourned. The third purpose was teleological: to construct the compliance of the Romanian government with the norms preferred by the governance network. The most effective discourses were the ones that pursued one or more of these purposes while simultaneously serving other ends. ‘Informant’ discourses, for example, alerted the Parliament and the Commission to plausible allegations of the candidate government’s non-compliance with EU norms, with the ulterior motive of mobilising
Romanian government purported to alert interested international parties whilst really attempting to motivate domestic actors with negative publicity threatening international reputational loss. Discourses ‘legislating’ accession conditions for the domestic government were actually constructed by the entrepreneurs themselves, often with implicit collaboration by supranational officials – constituting in some cases an ‘extra-conditionality’ over and above what could plausibly be claimed had been legislated by the EU member-States even at the Copenhagen Council, let alone in the aquis (Parau, 2010). The participation of multiple actors in the same discourses lent a credibility otherwise unavailable if left to chance or to isolated individuals.