Integrated policies have been increasingly promoted worldwide, calling for complementarity of measures across sectors and cooperation between all actors involved in policy implementation. The experience of the European Union appears particularly relevant in this sense, as an integrated approach has been widely encouraged in its multi-level and multi-actor policy and governance settings. While a considerable amount of research has been conducted on the so-called ‘environmental policy integration’ (EPI, e.g. Jordan and Lenschow, 2008, 2010; Dupont, 2013; Feindt, 2010), little is known about the application of this approach in other policy domains.
This paper aims to contribute to fill the gap by unpacking the policy integration framework developed within EU’s regional and urban policy. Additionally to being explicitly cross-sectoral in its design, this policy is one of the most pervasive policies of the EU as it accounts for about one third of the EU budget, it applies to all EU regions, and is implemented through a so-called ‘shared management’ approach in a comprehensive and inclusive multi-level setting.
Beyond providing a systematic overview of the instruments envisaged by the EU in order to enhance coherence, complementarity and coordination of action across sectors and territorial levels, the paper develops an original analytical framework aimed at (i) appraising policy integration in the implementation of regional and urban development policy and (ii) operationalizing the dimensions of administrative capacity that are necessary for policy integration. It then tests this framework empirically in two cases study regions characterised by similar centrifugal forces but different levels of administrative capacity: Veneto and Scotland. Through documental analysis, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with national, regional and sub-regional policymakers and stakeholders, the paper unveils a number of factors related to domestic policy legacies and policy-making styles, which explain different outcomes of the policy integration effort. In doing so, it contributes new knowledge to an emerging research strand on the practical problems connected to policy integration (Peters, 2018), the conceptual and empirical challenges of this process (Candel and Biesbroek, 2016; Rayner and Howlett, 2009) and the (administrative capacity related) barriers that can hamper policy integration in its translation from policy design to actual implementation (Catalano et al. 2015).