Rules or Values? Production of Knowledge and the Question of Institutionalization in European Drug Cooperation

By Fjaer, Svanaug | Contemporary Drug Problems, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Rules or Values? Production of Knowledge and the Question of Institutionalization in European Drug Cooperation


Fjaer, Svanaug, Contemporary Drug Problems


The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has a significant role in the creation of a European knowledge base in the drugs field. This article analyzes the regulative, cognitive and normative mechanisms by which this network functions, and discusses in what sense these mechanisms contribute to an institutionalization process in the network. A study among civil servants and experts with EMCDDA experience from Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands shows that action within the network is based on rules and routines. The national administrative surroundings are still the primary source of identification and constitute the main institutional basis for compliance. In this sense the national level supplies EMCDDA with institutional resources whereby the network functions. A common knowledge-base is an important part of integration in the EU, but in this instance the institutionalization process is in an early stage.

KEY WORDS: Drugs cooperation, European integration, production of knowledge, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, institutionalization.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is responsible for collecting information on the drugs situation in all the EU member states so as to support decision making in the drugs field. EMCDDA is a new organization in the production of knowledge and has some specific characteristics. It is organized as a network among all the member states, and it also has the status of an agency within the EU. Its action must therefore be based on the principles of the union. Furthermore a main objective of the center is to produce comparable data about the drugs situation in different countries. Since this comparability would contribute to the construction of a common understanding of the European drugs problem, the center could gain a prominent political role as well as an administrative role in a more common handling of drugs problems within the EU.

Epidemiological knowledge has traditionally been created within a national framework. The national ways of counting have been constructed as a result of definitions and priorities (Desrosieres, 1990). The production of knowledge has taken place within a national policy community, with normative restrictions placed on the participants. These normative restrictions become especially visible in situations of controversy (Fjaer, 1998a). In the literature about European agencies there is a general optimism about the possibilities for new deliberative and accountable forums at the European levels (Majone, 1997; Dehousse, 1997; Joerges and Everson, 2000). In this article I investigate the problem of institutional constraints on expertise in international cooperation. It is reasonable to assume that public officials as experts on the European scene have a restricted scope of action.

The potential institutional constraints can be categorized as follows:

1. The potential conflict between the norms, rules and routines guiding research and those guiding public administration in general.

2. The potential conflict between the norms, rules and routines of national traditions and those guiding action at the EU level.

These factors lead to the main concerns of this article: What factors make these organizations work in spite of cultural and institutional differences? What mechanisms ensure compliance among the different national participants? What is the institutional basis for these mechanisms? The theoretical literature identifies several sources of compliance. Conceptualizations of such mechanisms, when they are applied to this empirical case, can also lead to a discussion of the question of what kind of institution the EMCDDA is about to become.

What creates an institution?

Understanding what factors make European cooperation on this level work is an interesting task. An elaboration of the principles of the institutionalization process helps in a more detailed understanding of sources of progress as well as of the limitations of expert cooperation at the EU level. …

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Rules or Values? Production of Knowledge and the Question of Institutionalization in European Drug Cooperation
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