The reflection of normative principles in catchment policies: lessons from the Rhine basin
Kruif, S. de
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Climate change adaptation is a transboundary problem that requires international cooperation on different levels of governance: the global scale, the European scale, the bilateral scale, and the regional level. Governance on these levels is always value-laden, because of underlying normative judgements based on world views and principles. This research project was about the reflection of normative principles in the practice of transboundary water management, with a focus on flood and drought issues. The central research question was: which factors explain the extent of reflection of international normative principles in catchment policies? To answer this question, a number of steps was performed. The method of analysis was constructed in three steps (chapters 2-3). Firstly, the concept of 'reflection' was defined and operationalised by relating the concept to literature on policy performance. Secondly, two fields of literature – Europeanisation theory and the theory on regime effectiveness – were used to derive a number of factors that might explain differences and similarities between the extent of reflection of normative principles. These factors were: institutional compatibility, configuration of interests, conception of problem and solution, fit between the problem and the regime, and flexibility. Thirdly, the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Flood Risk Directive were analysed, which resulted in a set of 9 normative principles: the precautionary principle, the principle of preventive action, the solidarity principle, the cost-recovery principle, the source principle, sustainable development, subsidiarity, proportionality, and public participation. These principles were operationalised using literature and an expert interview, resulting in a 'checklist' of 14 statements for the analysis. For the analysis of the reflection of normative principles, a case-study on the Rhine river basin was conducted (chapters 4-7). The checklist was used to assess practices at four levels – catchment level, the Netherlands (national level), Germany (national level) and a regional level (German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia) – concerning flood and drought issues in the Rhine river basin. This was done by means of a document analysis as well as by conducting interviews with experts on all levels. The extent of reflection of the 9 normative principles on the four levels was determined according to the checklist as well as in terms of their explicit mentioning, and linked to the explaining factors (chapters 8-9). It was found that the precautionary principle, the principle of preventive action, the source principle, sustainable development, and public particpation are well reflected at most levels, for which the factors conception of problem and solution, configuration of interests, and fit between the problem and the regime account. The cost-recovery principle and the proportionality were moderately reflected, possibly explained by the factors institutional compatibility and the configuration of interests. A low reflection of the solidarity principle was found, which might be explained by the factor configuration of interests. Also low reflected was the subsidiarity principle, possibly explained by the factor of insitutional compatibility. Besides the factors from Europeanisation theory and the theory of regime effectiveness, the document analysis and the expert interviews revealed various additional factors that might explain differences between the extent of reflection of a selected number of normative principles.