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School of Geography

International cooperation and UK water management: Rationales and Outcomes of a New Mode of Experimental EU Governance

Contact: Dr. Oliver Fritsch, School of Geography, o.fritsch(at)

The Common Implementation Strategy (CIS) is an initiative, established by the European Commission and the member states, to improve the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), adopted in 2000. Relying on deliberation and the creation of networks of practitioners, non-state actors and experts, the CIS aims are to give voice to those notions of ‘better water governance’ that the EU was unable to include in the directive itself; to specify and exemplify the directive’s vague provisions; to identify shared problems and to propose solutions to overcome these problems; and, most importantly, to provide a forum for mutual learning across Europe.

Research aims and objectives

First, this project looks at the ‘input’ side of the CIS and studies how and why the UK participates in CIS activities, thereby focusing on actors (who: experts vs. public officials, state vs. non-state actors, countries), factors related to time (attendance patterns) and subfields of water management (participation in which working groups) and patterns of engagement in CIS activities. Theories of network governance, in particular those trying to understand networks and committees emerging at EU level, will be related to recent scholarship on river basin management and possibly developed further in order to understand the emerging network of practitioners and networks in European water governance.

Second, this project focuses on the ‘process’ side of the CIS and attempts to reveal functions (i.e. discussions of future policies, reporting back, exchange of data), the nature of interactions (for instance, political deliberations, technical problem solving), procedures (modes of decision making, ways to draft guideline documents), and patterns of coordination with authorities in the UK, within working groups between meetings, and – horizontally and vertically - within the CIS structure. Referring to theories of policy networks and deliberation, I try to understand whether and, if so, how and when the CIS contributes to policy learning amongst water managers at European and afterwards at domestic level.

Third, looking at the ‘output’ side of the CIS the project analyses how the common strategy of implementation hits home to the UK and asks for the potential formal and informal usages of CIS in river basin management.