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Trust in Governance and Regulation in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TiGRE (Trust in Governance and Regulation in Europe)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-03-31

The demands of citizens and public authorities for data and privacy protection, security and reliability of data and information, financial stability and food safety are increasing. In such a context, trust needs to exist between actors in regulatory regimes, such as political, administrative and judicial bodies, regulators, interest organisations, consumers, and the regulated industries, among others. In this framework, trust operates across different levels of governance. An adequate level of trust is a precondition and at the same time a consequence of well-functioning regulatory policies. This is exemplified by recent scandals, such as major data breaches and privacy-threatening behaviour by information technology companies, which allegedly affected citizens’ trust in regulatory regimes. Therefore, the analysis of trust relationships in and among the multiple actors involved in these regulatory regimes is essential to draw a more encompassing picture of trust dynamics and understand their drivers as well as their political and socio-economic effects.

The TiGRE project is built upon the assumption that trust is crucial for flourishing democracies. For this reason, one of the main goals of the TiGRE project is to identify and to fill in the main gaps in the existing concepts and measurements of trust, so as to provide a broader and fine-grained overview of the level of trust in our democracies. In TiGRE we believe that trust is not just a matter of relations between citizens and elected politicians. Instead, trust relationships should also be scrutinized between actors that take part to the regulatory process, such as regulatory agencies and courts, among other actors. In addition, in TiGRE we argue that being aware of these less visible trust relationships is a prerequisite for enhancing policy making and developing appropriate policy design. To achieve these goals, the TiGRE partners will target and be in regular contact with national and European stakeholders, representing a broad range of actors in regulatory regimes.

TiGRE aspires to explore trust relationships in 3 high-value sectors: finance, food safety and data protection. The project will analyse the conditions under which their regulatory regimes are trusted at different levels of governance, i.e. the regional, national and European levels. To that effect, TiGRE examines how actors involved in the regulatory process (such as administrative bodies, politicians, regulatory agencies, courts, firms, business, consumer groups and citizens at large) interact with each other. To achieve these goals and provide a comprehensive understanding of these relationships, a variety of methods is employed, such as questionnaires for large-scale surveys, case studies, and media content analysis. In addition, comparisons between countries are key to detect and explain similarities but also differences in terms of trust dynamics and trust relationships. TiGRE also aim to measure levels of trust between actors composing the regulatory regimes. By collecting the opinions of a wide range of actors, TiGRE explores how the current regulatory framework creates, or, conversely, jeopardizes trust between different categories of actors populating these regimes.
We first established the foundations of the regulatory regime perspective on trust / distrust relations by (i) providing a comprehensive review of the literature on trust and regulation to critically reappraise concepts, approaches and methodologies; (ii) performing a meta-analysis of empirical trust studies from existing surveys; (iii) mapping the structure of the three selected regulatory regimes in the nine countries of the TiGRE consortium.

This mapping enabled to identify the relevant respondents for our cross-country cross-sectoral survey, i.e. the key actors within the regulatory regimes and the regulates. This large-scale survey included both a questionnaire and an experiment, which were translated in the nine TiGRE national languages. After data collection in each country, a comparative analysis has given preliminary insights into the drivers of trust / distrust patterns in regulatory regimes. Further analyses of the survey data have focused on the effects of trust / distrust patterns on regulatory compliance, consent and legitimacy within the regulatory regimes.

For the in depth-case studies of the regulatory regimes, partners have designed the interviews’ protocol and coded several pieces of legislation for the three sectors under investigation. The protocol targets interviewees from the crucial actors composing the regulatory regimes, such as regulators, ministries, politicians, regulated organisations etc. Most of the interviews have already been conducted.

In order to provide a formal design of regulatory bodies, partners have coded the formal design and the institutional practices of the regulatory agencies under investigation. Moreover, we have completed the biographical notes concerning hundreds of professionals working in the regulatory agencies from the three sectors.

For the study on the effects of enforcement styles of regulators on citizens’ trust, partners have conducted a survey experiment in six countries. Although we found weak to no effects of enforcement style on citizen trust in regulatees, a few patterns could still be detected.

Finally, partners involved in the study dedicated to media, trust and regulatory agencies, have coded thousands of journal articles to determine how trust in regulatory agencies reverberates in the news media. We have also conducted follow-up interviews focusing on selected incidents in each country.

TiGRE has also organised various activities to communicate about the project, such as its first Stakeholder Forum meeting and 2 series of research webinars. For more information, please visit our project’s website at https://www.tigre-project.eu where you can find our latest publications, policy briefs, infosheets, video and even more.
TiGRE feeds into various initiatives to restore and improve trust in governance and enhance the quality of democracy. First, the wide knowledge base provided by TiGRE helps to offer innovative governance solutions around trust issues. Second, TiGRE identifies the factors, specifically related to the policy and institutional design of regulatory regimes that are capable of altering particular configurations of trust and distrust within governance arrangements. Third, TiGRE provides indicators and scenarios on trust-enhancing and trust-depleting mechanisms and processes that could have a great impact on how trust in governance is analysed. Fourth, TiGRE’s key recommendations will identify good trust-related practices that can be used to improve trust in and within regulatory regimes.

Importantly, TiGRE follows a participatory research approach, whereby the findings are discussed, fine-tuned, validated and interpreted with practitioners in a dedicated stakeholder forum and with external scientific advisors. This allows TiGRE to act as a platform for debate and to reach out to the various third-parties and end users, such as policy makers, through the dissemination of our results. TiGRE is also building a stable, long-term network of academics and practitioners to foster debates about the future of trust and trust-enhancing policies in EU regulatory governance.
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