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Legitimising EU Governance through Performance Assessment Instruments

Bartolomeo Cappellina (2020)

International Review of Public Policy, 2(2), pp. 141-158. Open access.

Abstract. The article addresses the production of indicators as policy instruments in European public policy. It discusses the relevant literature on sociology of quantification and European public policy and applies this theoretical framework to the case of European judicial administration policy. Presenting the historical and institutional premises to the creation of two projects of judicial performance assessment by the Council of Europe and the European Commission, as well as their methodology, the article argues that the selection of indicators is a litmus test of debates over the strategies and institutional goals of the organisations proposing them. Connecting the previous analysis with the use of these instruments in the policy-making sphere, the article points out that evaluation tools in European policy, rather than serving merely as informative tools, produce empowerment side-effects in the policy arena for the organisations that developed them. In European judicial policy, indicators provide a sufficiently loose framework to solve vertical and horizontal cooperation problems at the international level, determine policy goals through the selection of areas of measurement and evaluation, and provide proof to influence local and national policy-makers over reforms either through lesson-drawing, persuasion or conditionality.

Extract: “The article is relevant for scholars in International and European public policy in at least three ways. First, following a flow of research in development studies and international relations (Davis, Fisher, Kingsbury, & Merry, 2012; Dixon, Hood, & Jones, 2008; Kelley & Simmons, 2015), the article links the diffusion of indicators with the development in European states of what has been called a Neo-Liberal governmentality, or New Public Management reforms (Christensen & Lægreid, 2011; Desrosières, 2011; Hood, 1991). […]
Judicial indicators and European policy
The sociology of quantification and technology of governance is a prism through which the elaboration of indicators on judicial systems as instruments serving the production of specific visions of the functioning, goals and rules of justice can be envisaged. A fundamental step in this perspective is to analyse the contexts and actors involved in their development in order to clarify the linkage between the knowledge that informed the production of indicators (Penissat & Rowell, 2014) and the knowledge that is to be produced through them. The latter influences political decision making and frames problems as well as solutions of policy that are not socially or politically neutral (Lascoumes & Le Galès, 2007), as they derive from a specific construction of reality that actors perform through statistics (Desrosières, 2011).” (p. 142/144)

Link to the article