Skip to main content
European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Trust in Governance and Regulation in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - TiGRE (Trust in Governance and Regulation in Europe)

Reporting period: 2022-04-01 to 2023-09-30

Trust operates across different levels of governance, forming a precondition and at the same time a consequence of well-functioning regulatory policies. It is therefore essential to explore the complex web of trust relationships between different actors within regulatory systems.
In TiGRE, we challenge the conventional view that trust solely pertains to the relationships between citizens and elected officials. Instead, we emphasize the need to scrutinize trust dynamics among various actors involved in the regulatory process, including regulatory agencies and the regulated industries, among others.
TiGRE scrutinizes the trust levels in the regulatory regimes of these sectors across various governance levels, including regional, national, and European scales. To achieve this, TiGRE deals with the complex interactions between different actors engaged in the regulatory process, including administrative bodies, politicians, regulatory agencies, courts, firms, businesses, consumer groups, and the general public. To comprehensively understand these complex relationships, TiGRE employs a diverse array of research methods. These methods include large-scale surveys conducted through questionnaires, experiments, in-depth case studies, focus groups, and media content analysis.
The central conclusions drawn from the TiGRE project are twofold: firstly, the research indicates that trust in the core actors within regulatory regimes is generally higher than anticipated. However, there are identifiable variations across sectors and countries. Remarkably, regulatory regimes seem to be relatively insulated from the broader trends of declining political and institutional trust, likely due to their partial detachment from day-to-day politics and the expert-based legitimization strategies employed by regulatory authorities.
Secondly, the TiGRE project underscores the nuanced nature of trust, revealing that maximizing trust is not unconditionally desirable. Instead, a balanced approach that incorporates both trust and a certain degree of distrust proves beneficial. This cautious skepticism, manifested as a vigilant attitude among actors engaged with or impacted by regulatory regimes, enhances the capacity of trustors to place faith in genuinely trustworthy trustees while ensuring that this trust is not misplaced. In essence, adopting a "trust but verify" stance, which combines trust with a healthy dose of watchfulness, emerges as a more suitable approach than “blind” trust.
As regards the main research tasks, in a first phase the project conducted a systematic review of the available literature on the topic, and of the existing empirical evidence on trust in democratic systems. As mentioned above, to study trust in regulatory governance, we then conducted a large-scale survey and in-depth interviews, organized experiments, set up focus groups, and also did documentary and media content analysis. We studied regulatory governance at a general level in the policy sectors and countries under consideration and thereafter deepened our knowledge with the inclusion of case studies.
As to the main results, the TiGRE project specifically aimed to explore whether regulatory regimes experience the same well-known trust deficits towards governments and, more broadly, public authorities. Our empirical results indicate that this is not the case. Contrary to common expectations, our empirical findings reveal that different kinds of actors, more or less directly involved in (or impacted by) regulatory regimes, exhibit relatively high levels of trust in these regimes and the actors within them, spanning various policy sectors and countries. At the same time, we emphasize the need to distinguish trust from its counterpart, distrust, particularly in terms of its behavioural manifestation as watchfulness. TiGRE argues for the importance of nurturing a delicate balance between trust and distrust, embodied in a "trust but verify" attitude that we also frequently identified. This equilibrium incentivizes regulatory actors to uphold high performance. Therefore, TiGRE's findings underline the significance of striking the right balance between trust and watchfulness to foster a regulatory environment that is both effective and legitimate.
In terms of dissemination, the TiGRE consortium has made significant strides by publishing 9 scientific papers and organizing more than 120 dissemination and communication activities throughout the entire project duration. These efforts have been instrumental in sharing the project's findings with the scientific community, local/national and EU stakeholders, practitioners, and society at large. The TiGRE partners are committed to continuing these efforts even after the project concludes. This ongoing dedication aims to ensure the longevity of TiGRE's results and their enduring impact within the scientific community focused on trust and regulation.
The TiGRE project has yielded substantial impacts across short, medium, and long-term horizons. In the short term, the project has amassed extensive and detailed data over the past three and a half years, providing valuable insights into the dynamics of trust and distrust in regulatory regimes. The project analyzed trust by citizens, between political, administrative, regulatory, and judiciary bodies, as well as business and consumer interest representatives. It did so at different levels of government, within crucial regulatory sectors such as finance, food safety, and communication and data protection. These rich data sources serve as catalysts for critical reflections within organizations, fostering a deeper understanding of trust relationships in their respective countries and sectors.
In the medium term, the TiGRE project has proposed initiatives, notably through the TiGRE White Paper, aimed at restoring and enhancing trust in governance and democracy. This document presents innovative ideas and solutions to maintain or restore trust relationships while advocating strategies to avoid blind trust. These initiatives provide a roadmap for organizations to navigate trust-related challenges effectively.
Looking into the long term, the scientific publications expected in the coming years will delve deeper into the factors and mechanisms shaping specific configurations of trust and distrust within governance systems. These findings offer invaluable insights for decision-makers, enabling them to fine-tune the trust-related benefits of regulation. Decision-makers can leverage this knowledge to influence regulatory styles, regulatory instruments, and the design of regulatory bodies, among other aspects. Furthermore, the TiGRE project has paved the way for a new research agenda in the field of regulatory governance. By inspiring collaborative projects focused on trust and distrust in regulatory governance, TiGRE has initiated a snowball effect, fostering continuous progress in this field.