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Implementing Urban Air Quality. The Role of Public Administrations

Andrea Lenschow, Stefanie Busch & Catharina Mehl

EU environmental policy increasing is characterized by a differentiation of policy instruments combining substantive standard setting and procedural rule setting as well as regulatory, economic and informational tools. This expanded tool kit serves to increase both the legitimacy and the effectiveness of European policy on the ground. In particular, EU environmental policy involves a wider range of potential addressees, including local policy makers (in charge of the application of policy measures) and the wider public (through information and participation procedures). This paper argues that in practice EU environmental policy reaching down to the local level may produce the side-effects of "de-politicization", which at least from the legitimacy perspective maybe unintended.The paper builds on a comparative case study analysis of Europeanization effects of the EU air quality policy in twelve cities in three countries (Germany, Netherlands, and Poland). We observe the empowerment of public administrations vis-agrave;-vis political decision makers at the local level, although the latter were given wide discretionary powers in the EU directive. In addition, we find that public involvement increasingly takes the form of legal action rather than participatory practices during local policy formulation and decision making, a trend further empowering administrative actors, but also changing power structures within administration. The paper builds on the regulatory governance literature and traces Europeanisation effects to the under-researched but normatively critical local level.

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