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News from EU research projects on SSH

News from the following Projects:

  1. ENVIPOLCON - Environmental governance in Europe: the impact of international institutions and trade on policy convergence
  2. EUROSPHERE - Diversity and the European Public Sphere: Towards a Citizens' Europe
  3. FEMAGE - Towards a lifelong learning society in Europe
  4. SPReW - Generational Approach to the Social Patterns of Relation to Work
  5. EU KLEMS - Launch of the first public version EU KLEMS Growth and Productivity Accounts database


ENVIPOLCON

Project Acronym: ENVIPOLCON
Title of Project: Environmental governance in Europe: the impact of international institutions and trade on policy convergence
Coordinator and institution: Professor Cristoph Knill and Department of Politics and Management, University of Konstanz
Funded under: FP5
Web site

Subject: Empirical findings on environmental governance in Europe

ENVIPOLCONENVIPOLCON is the acronym of 'Environmental governance in Europe: the impact of international institutions and trade on policy convergence'. The project was carried out between 2003 and 2006 by University of Konstanz, University of Hamburg, Free University of Berlin (Germany), University of Salzburg (Austria) and Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands). ENVIPOLCON project was supported by the EU, RTD programme 'Improving the human research potential and the socioeconomic knowledge base' (contract no. HPSE-CT-2002-00103).

The purpose of ENVIPOLCON was to investigate a) to what extent a convergence of environmental policies across countries exists and b) towards which direction environmental protection is being developed and if there is an environmental 'race to the top' or a 'race to the bottom'? For the purposes of ENVIPOLCON research, a comparative study of policy development for 40 different environmental policies in 24 OECD countries over a period of 30 years (1970-2000), was carried out.

An overall conclusion of ENVIPOLCON is that environmental policies have generally grown more alike over time, but at the same time they have moved in an 'upward' direction, thus becoming more strict. Hence, a 'race to the bottom' due to regulatory competition - i.e. a lowering of environmental standards by countries as a consequence of engaging in competitive markets, as often predicted in the literature - does not appear to have taken place.

According to ENVIPOLCON's main findings, there are three factors related to globalisation that are considered responsible for the observed convergence of environmental policies:

  • international cooperation of countries and harmonisation of environmental law;
  • transnational communication within international institutions;
  • regulatory competition in increasingly integrated markets.

In order to determine which of these factors explain the convergence better, a statistical analysis of both policy similarity and the direction of policy convergence was carried out. This analysis yielded the following results:

  • International harmonisation contributes most to the explanation of convergence. The overall effects of transnational communication on environmental policy convergence are almost as strong as the effects of international harmonisation.
  • The explanatory potential of the mechanism of regulatory competition is much lower than that of international harmonisation and transnational communication. Moreover, the impact of trade is not more pronounced for trade-related policies than for those not directly related to trade.
  • Domestic factors also contribute to the explanation of environmental policy convergence. Among the factors controlled in the ENVIPOLCON project, the effects of income are most pronounced, whereas political demand exerted by green parties and environmental problem pressure shows weaker effects.

ENVIPOLCONENVIPOLCON has also recorded a number of findings that have important implications for policy makers.

  • Globalisation drives environmental protection. In contrast to often-feared scenarios of environmental 'races to the bottom', ENVIPOLCON pointed out that growing similarity of environmental policies coincides with a constant strengthening of environmental standards over time.
  • The positive effect of globalisation on environmental protection is to a considerable extent triggered by the fact that states increasingly communicate with each other and exchange their perceptions and regulatory solutions with regard to environmental problems. Governments watch each other very closely, either trying to avoid the impression of falling behind the others or because they seek to draw lessons from successful policies developed elsewhere.
  • There is no evidence that economic integration has negative effects on environmental protection. Regulatory competition drives international cooperation in environmental protection. To avoid downward pressures on environmental regulation, countries seek to harmonise standards by establishing international or supranational rules and regimes.
  • There is strong evidence that environmental leaders are able to motivate the laggards. The establishment of legally binding agreements at the international level typically implies that low-regulating countries adjust their standards to the level of environmental forerunner countries. However, this effect is also relevant to the absence of legally binding agreements. Mere communication and information exchange can motivate countries to raise their standards.
  • Finally, it is important to observe the implementation of environmental standards and agreements. While laggards have a strong interest in enhancing their international environmental reputation by adopting strict environmental standards, they have, at the same time, an incentive to "cheat" in the implementation of these standards. This is a result mainly of economic competitiveness; however effective implementation can be improved by the establishment of international control measures. Moreover, the mere existence of strict standards gives domestic pressure groups in these countries important leverage to push for effective implementation of environmental policies.

EUROSPHERE

Project Acronym: EUROSPHERE
Title of Project: Diversity and the European Public Sphere: Towards a Citizens' Europe
Coordinator and institution: Yngve G. Lithman; International Migration and Ethnic Relations Research Unit, University of Bergen (IMER Norway-Bergen)
Funded under: FP6-Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-based Society Project
Web site

Subject: Initiatory conference, Bergen, 14-16 February 2007

EUROSPHEREEUROSPHERE is the acronym for the programme 'Diversity and the European Public Sphere: Towards a Citizens' Europe', which started on 1 February 2007. It is a research project funded by the European Commission, the RTD Directorate, and the Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-based Society thematic area (FP6).

The main objective of EUROSPHERE is to create a comprehensive base of information that could operate as a source of knowledge for policymaking, and also serve as a vital knowledge bank for civil society organisations and scientific communities involved in the articulation of a European public sphere. Towards this objective, EUROSPHERE will examine the factors that weaken the fabric of European democracy, identify any ideas that are able to optimise citizens' involvement in European democratic process, and assess diversified strategies that could strengthen inclusive democratic institutions.

The research plan comprises data collection and analysis activities in 16 European countries and the creation of the Eurosphere Knowledge Base. For these purposes, EUROSPHERE will organize four conferences, two European forums for European stake-holders' institutions and four researcher training/PhD courses. A great number of researchers - approximately 150 - are expected to contribute to the project. The EUROSPHERE partnership consists of 17 European universities from 16 countries, and is coordinated by University of Bergen. Its duration will be from 1 February 2007 to 31 January 2012.

EUROSPHERE's first major event took place in Bergen, from 14 February 2007 to 16 February 2007. All 17 partners and European Commission officials gathered together in an initiatory conference, where they elected the steering committee of the project and discussed the plans for future activities in detail. Participants had the opportunity to exchange views on how EUROSPHERE could develop new ways to analyse and understand the public sphere; they also explored how this ambitious project will deal with the expected conflicts and contestations linked with future attempts to articulate a European public sphere.

According to the project schedule, after this first conference, three more large-scale international conferences will be organised. The second conference will be organised by the University of Bergen (28-30 October 2009), and it will aim to present the theoretical and methodological innovations that will have been achieved in EUROSPHERE. The third conference will be organised by the University of Osnabrück (2-4 August 2010) and its objective is to present the findings of the ongoing research on the social and political actors' contribution to the articulation of the European Public Sphere. The fourth conference will be organised by the University of Bergen in Brussels (26-28 October 2011), where the final results of the project will be presented to the public, to the academic fields and to the end users of the project.

More information on these future conferences will be announced on the EUROSPHERE site, in due course.

FEMAGE

Project Acronym: FEMAGE
Title of Project: Needs for female immigrants and their integration in ageing societies
Coordinator and institution: Prof. Charlotte Höhn; Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung - Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB, Wiesbaden Germany)
Funded under: FP6-Citizens
Web site

Subject: First findings on how European native citizens see foreigners, immigration and integration

FEMAGE'Needs for Female Immigrants and their Integration in Ageing Societies' (FEMAGE) is a pro-ject funded by the European Commission under the Specific Support to Policies-Work Pro-gramme (SSP4) of FP6. The project addresses the challenges of Europe's demographic fu-ture and social cohesion. Its main objective is to provide a knowledge base for relevant policy building at national and European levels by monitoring, tracking and elaborating the viewpoints of native and immigrant women as well as the perceptions of key policy stake-holders. More specifically, this innovative research focuses on the need for effective social integration, and the emancipation of female immigrants in European societies.

The first part of FEMAGE's research explored how European native citizens see foreigners, immigration and integration. Some 21.000 native citizens from 8 European countries, namely the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovenia and Finland, have been interviewed, and the FEMAGE project team has recorded the first find-ings of this survey. Respondents answered four critical questions, as follows:

  • Are there too many foreigners? Two thirds of the respondents in the Czech Repub-lic, Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia think that there are too many foreigners in their country. This opinion is held by one quarter of the Finns and nearly half of the Austrian respondents.
  • What do natives think about foreigners? In all 8 countries studied by FEMAGE, na-tives have negative viewpoints and attitudes towards foreigners, rather than posi-tive ones, especially on labour market issues. In Poland, the Czech Republic, east-ern Germany and Hungary, more than half the respondents believe that foreigners take jobs away from natives. In Austria and western Germany this proportion is lower, 25% and 30% respectively. More than 50% of western Germans think that presence of foreigners is positive because of the benefits of cultural exchange. In the Czech Republic and Estonia, only 30% of the respondents agree with this view-point. In western Germany, 13% of the respondents agree that there is no room for foreigners in their country, whereas in Hungary the proportion is much higher, at 40%.
  • FEMAGEWhat do residents think of integration of foreigners? The majority of respondents expect that foreigners should learn and speak the language of the host country, and also abide by the customs and laws of the host society. The majority also believes that those foreigners who do not integrate should return to their country of origin. Political participation of foreigners in local elections did not get majority approval in any country. There are significant differences among participating countries: at the upper end of the scale in Finland, 48% of respondents share the view that for-eigners should have the right to vote in local elections, while at the lower end of the same scale is Hungary, where only 20% of respondents approve this measure.
  • What shapes people's attitudes towards foreigners? One of the major differenti-ating factors for both positive and negative attitudes towards foreigners and immi-gration is the socio-economic, political and cultural context of each country. Edu-cation and income levels are quite significant factors. Those with a higher income and more education are more likely to have positive attitudes and express greater acceptance of foreigners. There is also a direct relation between traditional values in terms of gender roles and family relations, and negative attitudes towards for-eigners, immigration and integration. In addition, location is an important factor: residents from rural areas more frequently express negative attitudes towards for-eigners, migration and integration, than city dwellers. The FEMAGE team is now moving forward to the next step of the project, namely the analysis of the interviews of female immigrants. FEMAGE's overall report will be ready by the end of December 2007, and the final results of the project will be presented to the public in January 2008.

SPReW

Project Acronym: SPReW
Title of Project: Generational Approach to the Social Patterns of Relation to Work
Coordinator and institution: Patricia Vendramin ; Fondation Travail - Université (FTU), Work & Technology Research Centre - Namur, Belgium
Funded under: FP6-Citizens
Web site

Subject: Publication of a State-of-the-Art Report

SPReWSPReW is a two-year research project (June 2006-May 2008), funded under the 6th Framework Programme of the European Union, within priority 7 (Citizens and governance in the knowledge-based society, FP6). Its overall objective is to examine the factors that contribute either to solidarity or to tensions in intergenerational relations, in the specific areas of work and correlated fields. SPReW aims to provide an improved and updated understanding of how diverse generations relate to work, and to analyse the policy challenges and implications of these changes.

The research partnership of SPReW involves researchers from six countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal), and state and inter-state stakeholders (from the French Ministry of Labour and the Social Agency of the European Trade Union Confederation). The first deliverable work package of SPReW consists of a state-of-the-art report that introduces current research on the issue. It includes overviews of relevant literature carried out by each partner, and a cross overview of these contributions. Each team notes the hypotheses, analyses and conclusions that are relevant to the key areas of the project; these are set out below:

  • the relation of generations to diverse work components (precariousness, mobility, etc.);
  • the connection with lifestyles and family construction;
  • the intergenerational dimensions;
  • the social cohesion perspective, including gender and ethnicity issues.

In the state-of-the-art report, writers perform the following activities:

  • point out the convergences and divergences in the social context of different countries of the project;
  • investigate the continuity and changes in orientations towards work and in the intergenerational challenges it raises;
  • describe how changes in families and lifestyles are strongly intertwined with changes in work.

SPReWThis overview of existing research and debates in different European countries is a necessary step when preparing the finalisation of research questions, and the selection of hypotheses; these will be investigated using the empirical approach scheduled within the next work packages of the project.

An electronic version of this report is available at http://www.ftu-namur.org/fichiers/SPREW-D1-web.pdf

EU KLEMS
Launch of the first public version EU KLEMS Growth and Productivity Accounts database

EU-KLEMSOn 15 March 2007, the first version of an important new database and set of statistics, the EU KLEMS Growth and Productivity Accounts, was launched at a meeting in Brussels in the presence of the Commissioner responsible for DGs ECFIN and ESTAT, Joaquín Almunia, the Director General of ESTAT, Hervé Carré, and the Deputy Directors General of DG ECFIN, Marco Buti, and DG RTD, Zoran Stancic.

Opening the meeting Hervé Carré underlined the potential that EU KLEMS had to substantially increase the amount of data available to both researchers and policy makers alike on productivity. He confirmed ESTAT's interest in the project and ESTAT's role in bringing the EU KLEMS consortium together with the National Statistical Institutes. He also stressed the importance of this project being carefully followed-up both from the point of view of quality assurance but also and most importantly with regard to finding its place long term in the European Statistical System and thereby avoiding it being just a one-off exercise. Marco Buti then reminded the meeting that the idea for EU KLEMS came from DG ECFIN and was made possible by support from DG RTD under the Scienctific Support for Policies part of FP6. DG ECFIN continues to be very enthusiastic about the project given the potential of the new datasets, with the detailed insights they give, to become a key tool in monitoring the overall success of the revised Lisbon Strategy and thereby to significantly influence the EU structural reform agenda in the next few years.

Commissioner Almunia reiterated his support for EU KLEMS underlining the potential usefulness of the dataset in the Lisbon context through its provision of industry level statistics. The data will provide vital insights into the drivers of the knowledge economy. He emphasised that sensible policy changes are dependent on policy makers gainihg a deeper knowledge of the changes that have occurred at the industry level resulting from the creation of the euro zone and enlargement and globalisation processes. He said that it is important that industry level statistics be of high quality and that it is crucial to obtain better statistics on sectors such as market services. In this context he has asked ESTAT to explore with the NSIs the best way to ensure the maintenance and updting of the EU KLEMS data.

EU-KLEMSThe long awaited EU KLEMS database is the main result of the first stage of a major research project funded under Scientific Support for Policies part of the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. The database includes detailed measures of economic growth, productivity, employment creation and capital formation at the industry level for European Union member states, Japan and the United States from 1970 onwards. This work represents an important new input both for academic research and policy makers on sources of economic performance and on policy evaluation, for example for the assessment of the goals concerning competitiveness and economic growth potential as established by the Lisbon agenda. While the output measures are provided at detailed industry level, the input measures are broken down into various categories of capital (K, including ICT versus non-ICT), labour (L, including skills levels) and a breakdown of energy (E), materials (M) and service (S) inputs. The productivity measures have been developed on the basis of growth accounting techniques.

The EU KLEMS project is being led by Professor Bart Van Ark of the University of Groningen, NL, and Mary O'Mahony of the University of Birmingham and NIESR, UK. The 15 organisations from across the EU involved in the project include leading academic institutions and national economic policy research institutes. The project team has been supported by and interacted heavily with national statistical offices, Eurostat and other services of the Commission, and the OECD. In closing the meeting Zoran Stancic cited EU KLEMS as an example of why there is a need to support and strengthen social and economic research. The EU KLEMS data will open up new opportunities for research work for instance in modeling and on understanding the role of innovation and new technologies in different sectors and in fields such as environment policy. He went to talk about the future, underlining that one theme in FP7 is dedicated to socio-economic and humanities research and that the research undertaken will address economic issues such as the role of knowledge throughout the economy and strucutural changes in the European economy, and that other themes under FP7, such as sustainable development, Europe in the World and Socio-economic Indicators, address economic issues. He ended up by making two points: the first underlining the important contribution that the excellent cooperation between DGs, RTD, ECFIN and ESTAT had made to both the elaboration and implementation of this project, and secondly the help that research can give to policy making.

The first version of the EU KLEMS database is available free of charge via the EU KLEMS website: http://www.euklems.net. For further information please contact: g.ypma@rug.nl. A second version of the database is scheduled to become available in December.