For Research. For Berlin.

Andreas Thiel

»Why does our environment look the way it does«

Are EU environmental laws really the bureaucratic monstrosity that so many claim?
From my perspective, they are actually drivers of innovation. They modify administrative practices and often improve environmental management. Local administrative officials are careful in considering how they can use Euro- pean regulations to promote good administration. Many things begin to change and we often witness an intense exchange of ideas – it’s the start of a journey in search for better
 environmental management. A good metaphor would be the shadows that are cast in the evening sunlight: at the EU level, the directives are lean objects. But when they fall on the member countries, they cast incredibly long shadows. They have a huge impact at the local level, but they also come with a heavy administrative burden.

What is it that interests you about EU laws and their  implementation?
My project as an Einstein Junior Fellow looks at new taxation procedures for fresh water and sea use based on EU regulations in the member states. I want to understand how the EU member countries implement these rules and which factors lead to variations in their results – for example administrative practices, political and cultural contexts, varying use behaviour, or the characteristics of specific natural habitats. My approach is innovative in that it combines explanations from a variety of disciplines, including new institutional economics, political science and geography, as well as the use of methods that are new to this context such as social network analysis for the investigation of actor constellations. Of course, I also rely on in-depth talks, for example to discover how a local administrator in Brandenburg interprets a European law and applies it to the Havel region.

Does your research aim to improve our current use of natural resources?
My goal is to find the best coordination mechanisms to promote an optimal use of natural resources and environmental protection. We still fully lack suitable instruments to govern how we use and protect the environment to help it remain habitable for the years to come. We need new interdisciplinary approaches to generate more specific knowledge and test new concepts. The mid-term goal of my research is to enable administrative officials to develop more individualised regulations for different natural habitats. I also want to contribute to a greater diversity in the instruments we use for environmental management. This is not the case of finding a “one size fits all” solution.


Photo: Pablo Castagnola
This page will not be updated after the end of the fellowship.