Europe-related activities of North Rhine-Westphalian municipalities – the evaluation and further development of a policy program
This project explored the Europe-related activities of North Rhine-Westphalian municipalities from an empirical perspective and derived recommendations both for the policy program Europe-active municipality in North Rhine-Westphalia (German: "Europaaktive Kommune in Nordrhein-Westfalen") and the accompanying award Europe-active municipality (German: "Europaaktive Kommune").
In 2012, the state chancellery of North-Rhine-Westphalia developed the policy program "Europe-active municipality". As part of the program, trainings as well as network and information events on European topics concerning the municipalities were created, along with an award for particularly active local authorities. The latter was established to provide incentives for the municipalities to strengthen their activities on European topics and to make good examples more visible.
The evaluation of the policy program was commissioned in order to develop further, with particular focus on the accompanying award for local authorities and the criteria for receiving the honour. The latter was reviewed and a number of changes was suggested. Furthermore, the evaluation of the policy program aimed to show the potential to enhance municipal activities related to Europe, explore the further development of support schemes and networks, and to strengthen the exchange of experience between the municipalities.
In a first step the research project examined the status quo of the European activities in North Rhine-Westphalian municipalities. Herein, a distinction was drawn between the reaction and anticipation of the local level to European legislation and policy programs ("downloading"), and activities aiming to influence the European decision making processes ("uploading"). Furthermore, inter-municipal cooperation in European affairs was analysed from a horizontal perspective. The data on municipal European activities were collected through a written survey distributed to all local North-Rhine-Westphalian entities. Herein, the questions focused on types of Europe-related activities and the distribution of European responsibilities within the local administration from an organisational perspective. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted in twelve municipalities including some municipalities which received the "Europe-active municipality" award. The evaluation aimed to highlight the experiences and learning effects from the first period of the policy program, which began in 2012. For this purpose it was necessary to analyse the empirical effects of the program in order to find out which measures worked well and where further action is required.
The project results were discussed in transfer workshops with municipal employees responsible for European affairs and representatives of relevant umbrella organisations. The results of these workshops were included in the recommendations for the policy program. In particular, various suggestions for the existing criteria for the award were made. As a result of the evaluation, further recommendations on future training measures as well as, - network and information events were also given. The project was closely connected to the research project Administrative styles and the discovery of leeway in the Europeanization process -, expanding its central state perspective with a subnational and municipal view.