The Charter for Multilevel Governance in Europe calls for all levels of government (local, regional, national, European and international) to recognise the added value of multilevel governance and to acknowledge the legitimacy and responsibility of local and regional authorities for the implementation of public policies.
The Charter insists on the importance for a democratic Union to be built upon the current use of new forms of action and to rely on the participation of political and economic stakeholders, civil society and citizens in democratic life.
It defines MLG as an action principle based on concrete operational and institutional cooperation instruments and mechanisms for the drawing up and implementation of the European Union’s policies, and allows the connection of Charter principles and recommendations to a set of existing mechanisms and processes already promoted by the Committee of the regions White Paper on Multilevel Governance and follow-up opinion “Building Europe in Partnership”.
Sending a political message
In this context, the Charter for multilevel governance can be real as a genuine political manifesto, signifying the strong will of regional and local authorities all across Europe to become fully-fledged partners in EU policy making.
The Committee of the regions defines Multilevel governance as "based on coordinated action by the European Union, the Member States and regional and local authorities according to the principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and partnership, taking the form of operational and institutional cooperation in the drawing up and implementation of the European Union’s policies".
According to this definition and in accordance to the Charter text, applying multilevel principles involves working in partnership between the different levels of government (local, regional, national and European) and mobilizing a set of concrete instruments and practices aiming at efficient policy-making.
Multilevel governance involves participation, cooperation, openness, transparency, inclusiveness and the development of policy coherence, all of which are essential conditions to guarantee the success of public policies in the interest of the citizens.
Only by acting together can responsible actors at all levels of governance close the 'delivery gap' ensuring the EU meets its objectives on sustainable growth, quality jobs creation and territorial cohesion
Fostering the use of multilevel governance principles in EU policy-making
Applying the Charter means to develop a bottom-up approach when drawing up, implementing and evaluating European strategies and policies.
For national and European authorities, this implies setting up an efficient information and consultation policy before the preparation of any initiative with a territorial impact, systematic dialogue with the Committee of the Regions and Local and Regional Authorities and wide ranging decentralized communication efforts.
With regards to policy programming and implementation, the Charter is meant to foster the use of multilevel governance at the onset and upcoming revision of several multiannual programmes:
- A new Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 now applies, which reflects the current European economic downturn and will result into a relative scarcity of European funding for the use of local and regional authorities. In this respect, the installation of multilevel governance processes aiming at increasing policy coherence and promoting vertical synergies between local, national and European budgets can be seen as a critical Charter recommendation to foster policy efficiency.
- The Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 package was recently adopted, which provided for a better recognition of the importance of the sub-national level for the policy’s implementation.
Article 5 of the Common Provisions Regulation and the new European code of conduct on partnership now officially recognise multi-level governance as a vital element of effective policy delivery and call for Member states to work in partnership with the competent regional and local authorities for cohesion policy programming at national level. These new mechanisms, however, still need to be applied in practice and Charter recommendations are meant here to provide useful guidelines for action.
Multi-level governance ensures that differentiated territorial potentialities are taken into account. It allows policy agendas and timelines of different levels of government to be effectively coordinated and integrated, taking on board different levels of knowledge, involvement and capabilities existing at regional and local level. Multi-level governance is then a pre-condition for Europe 2020 to deliver while strengthening territorial cohesion.