Dynamics in national agri-environmental policy implementation under changing EU policy priorities: Does one size fit all?

J.P. Vesterager*, P. Frederiksen, S.B.P. Kristensen, A. Vadineanu, V. Gaube, N.A. Geamana, V. Pavlis, T.S. Terkenli, M.M. Bucur, T. van der Sluis, A.G. Busck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past 30 years, Agri-Environmental Policies (AEP) in the EU have developed with relative national autonomy and according to the subsidiarity principle. The environmental directives represent an increase in EU-level environmental ambitions and challenge the current implementation of EU AEP by creating an increasingly demanding set of regulations with which each member state must comply. National AEP implementation may, however, maintain original characteristics and fail to adopt or transform as EU policy implementation proceeds or when EU policies develop. This creates a potential gap between EU policies and national policy implementation resulting in the ensuing national policy dynamics and adaptations becoming issues of interest. This raises a central question regarding the extent to which national AEP implementation can help us predict whether AEP will be suitable to achieve environmental directive objectives nationally in the future. In this paper, we first investigate the dynamics in the implementation of national Agri-Environmental Schemes (AES) through changes in (i) AES policy objectives over time, (ii) administrative implementation structures, and (iii) administrative policy decision structures in the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, Austria and Romania. Second, we examine the extent to which various factors have influenced the development of national policies over time. The study identifies development based on the theory of ‘process of institutional change’, i.e. we qualitatively estimate the costs of change based on proposed factors including economic conditions in relation to AES implementation, political institutional capacity, policy legacy, policy preferences, and current discourse. On this background, we identify differences in implementation strategies or outcomes in terms of inertia, absorption and transformation, which are characteristic of the national responses to changing AEP at the EU level. We discuss AES dynamics; whether policy content or structures should be in focus for future policy design and the implications of these findings for the future role of AEP in fulfilling environmental directives and argue why a one size fits all rule does not adequately cover current AES development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)764-776
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Agri-environmental policy
  • Agri-environmental schemes
  • EU
  • National implementation
  • Policy change
  • Policy objectives
  • Policy structures


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