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Synchronisation in multi-level systems: what it is and why it matters?

Constitutions
European Union
Policy-Making
EU14
Klaus Goetz
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Leonce Röth
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Radu-Mihai Triculescu
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU

Tuesday 15:00 - 16:30 GMT (16/01/2024)

Abstract

Speakers: Klaus Goetz, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München Radu-Mihai Triculescu, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München Leonce Röth, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München Democratic multi-level systems possess elaborate temporal constitutions. There are different time rules, time-centred preferences, and time constraints across levels of government and administration and across policy domains. But if there are many clocks running in parallel, how is the risk of dysfunctional time clashes among actors avoided? This paper sets out to provide a multi-dimensional conceptualisation of synchronisation as a key prerequisite for our ability to address this question. Different actors follow distinct time rules and time preferences. They affect the timing, sequences, frequencies, and duration of actions; the speed with which they act; and the time horizons they typically adopt. Different policy issues and whole policy domains have distinct temporalities, relating, for example, to the speed with which decisions are usually made or to typical planning horizons. In multi-level democratic settings, such as the European Union, and in states where subnational governments possess extensive competences, interinstitutional and interorganisational time clashes pose an ever-present threat. Where cooperation requirements across levels and across governments and administrative agencies are high, temporal gridlock in policymaking is very likely. This paper argues that it is through synchronisation that policymakers in multilevel systems minimize the risk of temporal gridlock. Synchronisation is a multi-actor endeavour, with each actor being specialized or non-specialised, and the relationships between them categorised as either hierarchical or non-hierarchical. Synchronisation also demands a degree of intentionality and commitment to a shared goal, as this affects the degrees of formalisation and coercion present in synchronisation arrangements, and whether these are binding or not.