Andreas Goldthau

The power of policy regimes. Explaining shale gas policy divergence in Bulgaria and Poland

Review of Policy Research. 2016, Early View (with Michael LaBelle).

Abstract

Shale gas policies vary significantly across Europe, notably in Russia-dependent Central Eastern Europe. Most strikingly, Bulgaria banned shale gas, whereas Poland remains firmly committed to fostering it despite its drawbacks. This article uses a policy regime approach to explain the shale gas puzzle. Drawing on a large set of interviews, the piece investigates regime strength as the causal factor that explains the adoption of specific shale gas laws (Poland) or a fracking ban (Bulgaria). It finds that the Polish shale gas policy regime was strong, based on a powerful political narrative and characterized by an institutional process ensuring the buy-in of actors from relevant policy levels and subsystems. In Bulgaria the policy regime was weak, failed to co–opt key stakeholders and was institutionally ill-designed. The findings show how different degrees of policy regime strength translate into diverging policy trajectories in two countries that otherwise operate in similar environments.

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