ECPR 2009

European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR)

5th General Conference
Potsdam, September 10–12, 2009

Panel chaired:

Decentralisation in unitary states – the role of sub-national authorities

Scholarly debate on decentralization has been dominated by devolution in the United Kingdom but other unitary states, such as France and Italy, have also undergone processes of decentralization. In all three states recently administrative, legislative and fiscal competences were transferred to sub-national units via constitutional amendment. In France and Great Britain, the sub-national units were to some degree involved in the decisionmaking processes but in both cases they are discontent with the results. France will serve as a starting point for this panel.

In 2002 the Chirac/Raffarin government pushed through decentralization reforms within the first months after the election, apparently meeting little resistance from local politicians in the Senate or the political parties. Eventually, the communities, departments and regions were assigned too many tasks and provided with insufficient financial means. Thus, the question arises how this situation could come about despite the involvement of the sub-national units in the decision-making phase. One contribution should focus on local politicians in the 2002 constitution amendment process. Which motives did they have for assenting to the respective decentralization reforms? Which kinds of problems were to be solved by means of decentralization and what did they expect from the reform? How can the reforms be evaluated from this perspective today?

Another contribution focuses on the actual acceptance, implementation strategies and problems of the sub-national units in order to find out how predictable the problems of the reform for the sub-national units were. This means an in-depth empirical description of the different aspects of the decentralization laws: which competencies were assigned to whom and which consequences does this have in everyday politics? Finally, French decentralization is put into a comparative perspective with Italy and Great Britain. This helps reveal systematic regularities or differences in the role of sub-national units in decentralization processes of unitary states.


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