Participation in European water policy
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This paper considers the possibilities for interactive policy-making in European water management. In the new European Water Framework Directive, public information and consultation are major elements in the procedure (process) that leads to River Basin Management Plans. In general, decision making in integrated water management should not be limited to the application of models and desk studies. Important decisions need a high level of participation. In this interactive approach, visions, ideas, patterns of behaviour and solutions to perceived problems of different societal actors can be identified and incorporated into the decision-making process. For example, farmer organisations, environmental groups and associations of house owners, but also individual citizens often have various and differing ideas about measures that change the physical, chemical or biological characteristics of a river basin. Well-organised interaction has two main potential advantages: 1. The quality of the decision will be higher because specific knowledge of people involved and their different views are taken into consideration. 2. The interaction enables exchange of information which can lead to a better understanding of the ins and outs of the specific situation and in this way contribute to public support. By means of two examples of water related policy issues in Europe, i.e. economic approaches in the Water Framework Directive and Integrated Product Policy, various opportunities for pluralistic as well as corporatist types of participation in modern water management are presented and discussed.