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) 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. Institutions constrain and regulate behavior. The point of departure for this article is that the mechanisms that ensure compliance, keeping the network together, also determine the path of the institutionalization process.
An institution is generally understood as something more than an organization, but how strictly the term is interpreted varies with the tradition of institutional theory. Scott (1995:33) offers an omnibus definition of institutions: "Institutions consist of cognitive, normative and regulative structures and activities that provide stability and meaning to social behaviour. Institutions are transported by various carriers-cultures, structures and routines-and they operate at multiple levels of jurisdiction."
A more restricted definition is given by Selznick (1957:17), who emphasizes common norms and values as an important part of institutions and defines an institution as an organization "infused with values beyond the technical requirements of the task at hand. …