Table of Contents

Handbook on Cohesion Policy in the EU

Handbook on Cohesion Policy in the EU

Edited by Simona Piattoni and Laura Polverari

This Handbook covers all major aspects of EU Cohesion policy, one of the most significant areas of intervention of the European Union. Over five parts, It discusses this policy’s history and governing principles; the theoretical approaches from which it can be assessed; the inter-institutional and multi-level dynamics that it tends to elicit; its practical implementation and impact on EU member states; its interactions with other EU policies and strategies; and the cognitive maps and narratives with which it can be associated. An absolute must for all students of the EU.

Chapter 4: Cohesion policy, multilevel governance and democracy

Simona Piattoni

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, public policy, urban and regional studies, regional studies


This chapter seeks to draw the contours of a new ‘model of democracy’ for interconnected political settings such as the European Union (EU) and argues that Cohesion policy already foreshadows some features of this new model. Multilevel governance (MLG) is probably the most apt descriptor of the activity of governing in contemporary societies. Whether we look at subnational, national or international phenomena, it seems unavoidable to find multiple governmental levels and multiple actors simultaneously activated in making, implementing and assessing political decisions. The distinctive traits of this new way of governing are that public and private actors and multiple levels of government cooperate in the making of policy decisions by engaging in relationships and procedures which defy existing distinctions and hierarchies. Multilevel governance, in other words, calls into question two constitutive elements of the political order of the modern era: the distinction between the public and the private, and the hierarchical or nested nature of governments at different territorial levels. The separation between the public and the private sphere, so typical of political science discourse during the age of state-and nation-building, has crumbled under the impact of phenomena as varied as the taming of international anarchy after World War II – which derived from the acknowledgment of the existence of an international community with a legitimate interest in containing interstate anarchy – and the cultural revolution of the late 1960s which added ‘quality of life’ and ‘right to roots’ motivations to public mobilisation and spurred the massive involvement of civil society into public life. In different ways, both phenomena called into question the distinctiveness of the public from the private sphere both domestically and internationally and triggered transnational mobilisation (Keck and Sikkink 1998). While until World War II central governments of sovereign national states stood at the crossroads of these empirical, analytical and normative dimensions and guarded the gates between these boundaries, at the end of the 1960s the Westphalian sovereign, unitary and distinctive state was seriously challenged (Piattoni 2010).

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