Regulating New Risks: Emergency Contexts, Institutional Reform and the Difficulties of Europeanisation – Case Studies from Portugal

The regulation of risks created or made more acute by contemporary industrial and technological society (including environmental pollution, food contamination, potential environmental or public health impacts of high-voltage electric grids or of genetically modified agriculture and food) has been the focus of significant attention from the social sciences in recent decades. Analyses of risk regulation have fostered greater interest in studying the regulation of economic and social activities. In a broad sense, regulation means the control of a public agency over the activities that are valued by a community.1 More specifically, regulation can be understood to consist of legislative, administrative or conventional measures through which the state determines, controls or shapes the behaviour of economic or social agents, either directly or through delegation, to prevent the harmful effects of such behaviour on socially respected interests or values, and to guide them into directions which are socially desirable.

The expression “risk regulation” conveys the idea of normalisation of the way in which the State deals with the problems raised by risk, through rules, institutions and procedures set up to either prevent risk or manage it once it materialises. It must be conceded, however, that there is a tension between risk regulation (understood as a means of bringing risk under control) and the fact that the emergence of new risks has persistently caused turmoil. For this reason, risk is proving to be a serious test of the State’s ability to pursue the public interest when dealing with issues which are characteristically complex, both technically and socially. The European Union has responded to the BSE and GMO crises by developing a truly European risk regulation system which has been a major driver of legal and institutional reform. Implementation has been far from homogeneous across the Member States, however, my premise being that the objective of normalisation has met perhaps unexpected obstacles in Southern European countries like Portugal, raising the question of the kind of local conditions which may either favour or hinder Europeanisation processes. This paper discusses the topic based on the analysis of three case studies illustrating the way the Portuguese state has tackled environmental and public health risks, and the impact of EU law and policy on the whole question.

Copyright: © Lexxion Verlagsgesellschaft mbH
Source: Issue 04/2011 (Dezember 2011)
Pages: 13
Price: € 41,65
Autor: Maria Eduarda Gonçalves

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