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Analysing Public Accountability Procedures in Contemporary European Contexts, PUBACC, Final Report, EUR 23138

Project ID: HPSE-CT-2001-00076


The 'PubAcc' (Public Accountability in Contemporary European Contexts) project was carried in 2001-2004 by a research team from the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, Portugal and the United Kingdom. The aim was (1) to analyse public accountability in relation to three different policy-making areas (GM crops, household waste, transport infrastructure projects) in the seven national settings, as well as at European level; and (2) to discuss the significance of public accountability for contemporary democratic governance and legitimacy.
Using an expanded conceptual framework - that goes beyond the traditional conceptualisation in terms of formal provisions for openness and scrutiny within state institutions, and relates public accountability to policy- and decision-making processes, the dynamics of social mobilisation, and wider public sphere discourse - seven national profiles were drawn up and 21 empirical case studies were carried out. The research findings point to the following characteristics of public accountability in contemporary European contexts that have policy implications: first, there are substantial differences in the normative conceptualisation and practical experience of public accountability in the seven countries analysed. This needs to be borne in mind when considering public accountability at European level and in relation to new forms of multi-level governance. Second, the differences in the conceptualisation and use of public accountability can be explained with the different historical, political and cultural traditions in the countries analysed. Thus, an in-depth understanding of the political process, policy-making and public sphere activities is essential, in order to be able to gain a more thorough understanding of the role of public accountability in democratic governance and legitimacy.

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