Orkestra Director, Maria José Aranguren, and the researcher Miren Larrea discuss the topic of co-governance in the management of COVID-19. The debate focuses on the question on how European institutions, the Spanish Government and the autonomous communities organise themselves to make decisions in the face of the COVID-19 crises, having in consideration that the debate on multilevel governance has implications far beyond this pandemic.
According to the researchers, “the crisis is impacting different countries and regions asymmetrically, since they have a different economic and social structure. Therefore, efficient management of the crisis requires models of governance and policies that are adapted to the specific impacts in each context.” As Aranguren and Larrea say “it is not the same to consider governance in the face of a pandemic in a country like France, with a centralised model, or in Germany, with a more decentralised one. The virus is the same, but the governance for responding to the crisis it has generated cannot be the same”.
This discussion has opened a debate at the international level on the relevance of the regions when it comes to responding to the asymmetric impacts of the crisis. In the case of Spain, not only between the Spanish Government and the autonomous communities, but also between the European institutions and the sub-regional governments.
Orkestra researchers are of the view that “the most efficient governance is that which guarantees, through collaboration, that those who are best prepared to articulate the solutions to the crisis can decide and act. Normally, those who are best prepared to tackle a problem are those who already have that competence (and therefore experience) and governance should be oriented towards collaboration and coordination, but without taking over.”
They also acknowledge that “Multilevel governance, the need to clarify competencies and to define an inter-institutional model is a challenge in all countries and regions of Europe”. According to the researchers, “the difficulties that have become apparent in recent weeks regarding collaboration between European institutions, the central government and the autonomous communities, and the consequent doubts about the efficiency of collaborative governance in the face of other more unilateral governments do not respond to our opinion that the collaborative model is not efficient, but rather that the machinery for collaboration was rusty. It is not a matter of a day's work to fine-tune this, because building the spaces for learning and negotiation, making conflicts explicit, negotiating, and recognising each other's legitimacy to decide are processes that take time. Time is precisely what is lacking in the face of a crisis; however, this should not lead us to discard collaborative governance, but to work faster to fine-tune it”.
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