If Evaluation is the Solution, What is the Problem?
Reason for embargo
This is the author accepted manuscript. It is currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by Routledge
Over the years, there has been a proliferation of initiatives, methods and tools for evaluation in the European Union (EU). In 2015, the Commission produced a set of integrated guidelines and a single toolbox for better regulation, with the ambitious aim of closing the policy cycle, that is, to draw on evaluation methods systematically from the stage of policy formulation to (a) the end of a project or (b) the moment of ex-post regulatory review. The idea of ‘closing the policy cycle’ is intuitively attractive, but in practice it raises issues of who is exercising control and oversight of different evaluation approaches and tools inside the Commission, the relationship between the Member States and the Commission, and the inter-institutional relations that define power within ‘better regulation’. We examine across time the emergence of different types of evaluation (ex ante and ex post, regulatory evaluations and more traditional approaches to expenditure evaluation) as ‘solutions’, and associate them to problems. We find that the goal of closing the policy cycle is a very tall order for the Commission and the EU more generally, given the historical development of different problems-solutions combinations. The rise of ‘better regulation’ provides the ideational cement for this re-configuration of evaluation ‘to close the policy cycle’ but there are critical issues with tools, methods and scope of evaluation. In the end, today the pieces do not fall into place and the puzzle of ‘evaluation for whom and for what purposes’ has not been solved yet. This less-than-Cartesian puzzle, with its odd de-coupled pieces of different evaluations is not efficient if the problem is to close the policy cycle. But ambiguity is organizationally acceptable if the problem is to generate local power equilibria that can be exploited within the Commission and externally. Evaluation, in fact, is also a frame of reference and praxis where the Member States, the Sec Gen, the DGs of the Commission, the European Parliament test and constantly re-define the question of who has control over EU policy.
In The Routledge Handbook of European Public Policy. Edited by Nikolaos Zahariadis, Laurie Buonanno
Place of publication