ERC

CONSULTATIONEFFECTS

Effects of stakeholder consultations on the policy inputs, processes and outcomes of executive policymaking.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 804288).

Duration: April 2019 – June 2025

Funds awarded: 1,424856 Euros

Consultations with stakeholders (citizens and interest organizations) are frequently used by executive bureaucracies to design policies and formulate legislative proposals across political systems. Consultations constitute a direct communication link between decision-makers and affected actors, and represent an important channel through which feedback about the feasibility of policy measures, the legitimacy of adopted policies and the level of stakeholders’ support for their implementation is received by policymakers. Executive bureaucracies such as national ministries, regulatory agencies and the European Commission employ a variety of consultation practices (i.e. public consultations, online surveys, public hearings, stakeholder workshops, expert groups, advisory committees) to engage stakeholders in the design and formulation of policy proposals.

However, the scholarship intensely debates the extent to which consultations deliver the promised ‘democratic goods’, ameliorate existing biases in interest representation, increase the openness and inclusiveness of bureaucratic policymaking, and improve evidence-based decision-making. Because of their non-binding, advisory nature, consultations are criticised for being a ‘mere plebiscite’, a ‘window-dressing’ exercise organised to legitimise bureaucratic decision-making and policy choices. Yet, consultations are costly and require substantial administrative and manpower resource to organise and conduct, for which reasons scholars argue that policymakers have strong incentives to maximise their use and stakeholders’ input in the formulation of public policies. At the same time, stakeholder consultations significantly increase the amount of information policymakers must process within a limited amount of time, a fact which oftentimes leads to information overload and decision-making inefficiencies.

Despite their near ubiquitous use across modern democracies and levels of government, and the legitimising rhetoric accompanying them, there is currently no systematic, empirical analysis assessing the theoretical assumption that stakeholders’ participation in policymaking via consultations improves policymaking and results in better outcomes and more legitimate governance. The scholarship lacks a systematic, cross-national, comparative large-n analysis examining the effects of stakeholder consultations on the plurality and informational quality of policy input received by policymakers, the efficiency and legitimacy of the policy process, and the quality and legitimacy of policy outputs and outcomes.

Four overarching research questions guide the project: To what extent and under what conditions do stakeholder consultations improve bureaucratic policymaking processes and outcomes, across policy areas and systems of governance? When and how do stakeholder consultations improve the democratic quality of policymaking by increasing the plurality of policy inputs and the efficiency and legitimacy of policy processes and outcomes? Under what conditions do consultations increase the plurality and informational quality of stakeholders’ policy input in policymaking? What constitutes an optimal stakeholder consultation design that simultaneously enhances public legitimacy, accountability and representativeness of bureaucratic policymaking, as well as its policy efficiency and effectiveness?

European Research Council (ERC)
European Union

Publications

Idunn Nørbech (2023) “Does policy context matter for citizen engagement in policymaking? Evidence from the European Commission’s public consultation regime.” European Union Politics. Online first: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epub/10.1177/14651165231208995

Adriana Bunea & Sergiu Lipcean (2023) “Understanding the patterns of stakeholder participation in public commenting on bureaucratic policymaking: Evidence from the European Union.”  Regulation & Governance. Online first: https://doi.org/10.1111/rego.12551.

Adriana Bunea & Idunn Nørbech (2023): “Preserving the old or building the new? Reputation-building through strategic talk and engagement with stakeholder inputs by the European Commission.Journal of European Public Policy, 30(9): 1762-1792.

Adriana Bunea and Joe M. Chrisp (2023): “Reconciling participatory and evidence-based policymaking in the EU Better Regulation policy: mission (im)possible?Journal of European Integration, 45(5): 729-750.

Adriana Bunea, Raimondas Ibenskas, Florian Weiler (2022): “Interest group networks in the European Union,”European Journal of Political Research. 61(3), 718-739.

Raimondas Ibenskas and Adriana Bunea (2021): “Legislators, organizations and ties: understanding interest group recognition in the European Parliament,”European Journal of Political Research. 60(3), 560-582.

Adriana Bunea (2020): “Understanding the European Commission’s use of politicisation in the negotiation of interinstitutional agreements: the role of consultations and issue framing,” Journal of European Public Policy 27(3): 439-459. Part of a special issue on  EU Actors Under Pressure: Politicisation and Depoliticisation as Strategic Responses. Guest Editors: Edoardo Bressanelli, Christel Koop, and Christine Reh.

Adriana Bunea (2020): “Stakeholder Consultations,” In P. Harris et al. (eds.) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Interest Groups, Lobbying and Public Affairs. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.