Barriers to cross-European TA

Although there have been a number of cross-European projects that have been conducted over the years (as described above), one cannot speak of regular cross-European TA having been done.

National vs European commitments

However, a tension might occur for each individual organization between doing national projects and participating in European projects. This tension may act as an obstacle for developing cross-border collaboration. Easing this tension might be a factor that can lower the threshold for TA institutions to engage in cross-European TA. Most of the existing TA institutions have their mandate mainly focused on the national and regional spheres. Some have an identified task to 'watch trends in science and technology' (on both the national and the international level) (Ganzevles and Van Est, 2012), but none have international cooperation as a defined task. Identifying and understanding the added value in cross-European projects may help to open up and stimulate more cooperation and at the same time justify international cooperation with regard to mandates and resources, without stealing attention away from national working plans.

Finding a European audience

One of the main characteristics of the traditional TA units has been their strong connection to parliaments (see also Chapter 1). This relationship has often been institutionalized either by organizing the unit inside parliament or by stating this relationship in the mandate of the institution. Some 40 years later, the audience of TA or TA-like institutions is wider and includes all actors involved in policy making – that is, members of parliament, but also governmental representatives, civil society and even the scientific community. However, these actors are mainly nationally based, showing that the audience of TA lies within usually national (or regional) frontiers.

When TA activities take place at the European level, it becomes more difficult to create permanent relationships with addressees and potential target groups than in national projects. In national contexts, there exists a defined public sphere, although there is no clearly defined 'European public'. One possible approach is to have a broader view of addressees and target groups when working at the European level than at the national/ regional level. If the goal of TA is to give input for evidence-based decision making, it might help to widen the definition of who decision makers in fact are. In the European context, the European Commission and the European Parliament play important roles as policy makers. But Europe is multifaceted and consists not only of the European Union; many others (lobbyists, NGOs and the media) take part in decisions and hold power in important discussions about the policy issues and options. Therefore, all those organizations and institutions can be potential target audiences for cross-European TA, on the European as well as the national level. Nations are an important part of, and often the operative level, European policy making. They should, therefore, also be an addressee of cross-European project results. In order to reach such an audience, focus should be on communication efforts and on forming clear and targeted policy advice.

One important audience is the TA community itself. Results from successful cross-European projects can be used at the national level from institutions not involved in the specific project and also as an encouragement for participation in future cross-European work. This would contribute to a bigger pool of evidence of cross-European work – hence raising the legitimacy and the trust in a cross-European approach and in TA methods.

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