Workshop Helsinki: Mapping Cultures of Public Trust (Day 1)

The Centre for E-Government has been invited to participate in the Workshop „Mapping Cultures of Public Trust: Open Government and Open Society in Northern Europe and the European Union“. From June 3rd until June 4th, participants discussed concepts and notions of openness and transparency in Northern Europe and the European Union.

As certain countries are in lead when it comes to develop strategies of openness on the level of governance, the workshop was an opportunity to look across borderes and other countries perceptions of open government and state policies.

Day 1: Transparency in Europe and Norden, Cultures of Openness, Consensus and Globalisation

Norbert Götz (who organised the workshop together with Carl Marklund) explained the project on Nordic Openness (of which the workshop was part of) and issues of conflict due to a lack of openness. He emphasised that openness is not an abstract academic issue. Götz is going to publish an article on Finnish power investigation soon.

Ann-Cathrine Jungar (Södertörn University) was talking about the exportation of a nordic design: The parliamentary policy entrepreneurship in the EU. When states join the EU national parlimanets delegate decision making and ultimately legislative powers to common EU institutions. In order to compensate for this transfer national parliaments have created different types of oversight mechanisms to control their governments acting (two models: document based screening and mandatebased oversight.) The Danish parliament marketed the mandating model as a “Nordic model” of parliamentary ovesight. A model that was first despised but became very popular from 1995 onwards.

Tero Erkkilä (University of Helsinki) (The Nordic Principle of Openness and the Changing Ideas on Accountability and Transparency in Europe) was studying new ideational changes in the information strategy oft he Finnish state between 1998 and 2007. The constitutional principle of publicity (allowing public access to state information) is now becoming an instrument of economic performance. In Finland, the publicity of government information has been a concept of democratic connotations, but new internationally diffusing ideas of performance and national economic competitiveness are discussed under the notion of transparency. Erkkilä argued that the policy concerns over openness and public sector information are linked to the new drive for transparency.

Lotta Lounasmeri (University of Helsinki): Tracking the National Culture of Consensus: Finland in the Age of Globalisation in Helsingin Sanomat (HS). The Helsinki Sanomat ist he newspaper in Finland with the most readers (unlike the KronenZeitung in Austria, it is not a boulevard newspaper). Lounasmeri analysed how the HS organises the debate around the concept of globalisation. There are two types of journalistic treatment: globalisation as an issue of legitimate controversy and consensus. Furthermore, the role of elites and citizens in this process was disussed. Particularly interesting was the Finnish idea of national success trough consensuality.

Also focusing on the public debate on globalisation, Thoas Ylä-Anttila (University of Helsinki) was talking about conflict and consensus in this debate. After years of consensual neoliberalization under the so-called rainbow coalition governments, the debate on globalization electrified the public sphere in Finland in 1999. The success of the Global Justice Movement in initiating this debate depended on a combination of two distinct repertoires of collective action, one being in line with the prevailing Finnish model stressing consensus and expertise, and the other employing imported techniques of civil disobedience. Ylä-Anttila pointed out the absence of political opposition parties from the debate and the attempt to contain the conflict.

Ursula Maier-Rabler (ICT&S-Center, Universität Salzburg): Diversity of European Inforation Cultures: The patterns of diffusion and usage of ICTs differ quite considerably within the countries of the European Union. E.g., whereas in certain countries the Internet is welcomed as a new source of information, in others ist is associated to information overload and dangerous content. With an empirical approach and in reference to the national e-policies, various examples of different European communication cultures in terms of access to ICT, trust in politics, etc. were analyzed and put into perspective. Maier-Rabler presented 7 cluster categories of European information cultures.

Johanna Rainio-Niemi (University of Helsinki) presented The Rise and Fall of the Institution of State Commitees in Finland as an example of Nordic openness (and indeed, we can’t refer to such an institution in Austria). These state committees are a key institution in the history of governance and policy drafting in Sweden and Finland since the late 19th century. The openness of the state committees is in notable contrast with procedures for policy preparation in most other European countries and their circle of cabinet members. They symbolize many of those virtuous qualities associated with the distinctively “Nordic” model – such as accessibility, inclusiveness and co-participation. There was a dissolution of the state committees in Finland in the 1990s. The presentation also looked at possible reasons for this (like the individual turn or ideological changes).

After the workshop the organisers took us out for a great dinner with traditional Finnish dishes, where the discussions were continued on a more informal level.

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