Specific cultural and political challenges in cross-border public participation

Sperfeld, Franziska; Mbah, Melanie

The Site Selection Act (StandAG) regulates the individual procedural steps for a scientifically sound, participatory and transparent search and selection of a site for the safe final disposal of high-level radioactive waste. The result should be supported by a broad social consensus; those affected should be able to tolerate the outcome.

For Germany, as the European country with the most neighbouring states, it is likely that some of the sub-areas, siting regions and possible sites defined in the selection procedure will be located on or in the immediate vicinity of one or more national borders; however, in the construction of a repository for high-level radioactive waste, “affectedness” does not stop at national borders, so that the public (citizens and other stakeholders) from neighbouring countries must be involved in the participation processes at an early stage and on an ongoing basis.

The focus of this presentation lies on the challenges of cross-border participation based on previous experience in other subject areas and specific cultural and political framework conditions in neighbouring countries. We therefore address the following questions: What risks and obstacles must be taken into account in cross-border public participation and how can these be overcome? What specific cultural and political framework conditions exist in neighbouring countries and to what extent can these have an effect?

The literature on cross-border cooperation describes that regions that cooperate across borders face particular challenges because they are each integrated into different national, institutional and legal systems in which responsibilities and competences may be assigned differently (cf. Beck, 2018; Scherer and Zumbusch, 2011; UNECE, 2009). Identifying and implementing success factors is a major challenge and can at the same time be an important prerequisite for successful transboundary participation in the search for a repository. Indications in this respect can be derived from other cross-border procedures between Germany and neighbouring states (cf. Abromeit, 2007; Nijsten and Paulussen, 2004; Saxenhofer et al., 2017).

Participation and its manifestation within a state, a region or a specific place is strongly dependent on the respective cultural and political framework conditions. Nation states have different characteristics in their political systems as well as political cultures (Rogoff, 2015; Enserink et al., 2007). In Western Europe they differ primarily in terms of their democratic model, i.e. whether, for example, they are more parliamentary-representative or direct-democratic and whether there are more centralised or decentralised responsibilities and decision-making powers. The political culture is primarily determined by the way state and non-state actors interact and cooperate with each other, which is also reflected in the way public participation in decision-making is handled. Historical factors play an important role here. In certain thematic fields or issues, there can be a long tradition of cooperative processing and solving of problems.

The research project HErüber (Sperfeld et al., 2021), which is commissioned by the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE), analyses specific risks and obstacles, as well as cultural and political framework conditions. Based on a literature review, first results are presented.

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Sperfeld, Franziska / Mbah, Melanie: Specific cultural and political challenges in cross-border public participation. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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