Policy Harmonization



In the field of public policy, harmonization is understood as the way to make the governmental policies and other regulations of different jurisdictions (i.e. national, regional) similar, if not equal. Differences between laws and policies can be reduced in several ways: within the same country, by designating a common political authority to make decisions; or in different countries, by adopting similar laws and policies, even when there is no such common authority. Policy harmonization is a solution to problems arising from differences in policy/regulation between different political units. It is also seen as a way in which intergovernmental cooperation can be developed. This policy has been applied in regional organizations such as the European Union, and in countries with federal regimes.


The main advocates of this policy differentiate four main types of harmonization:

  1. Harmonization of certain rules and regulations setting how certain activities within the process of the policy should be performed. Here, it starts with a minimum harmonization up to the level of total highest harmonization. For instance, the pollution regulations for chemical factories now are more similar in different countries, or different jurisdictions of the same country. Certain State members of the OECD follow the guidelines regarding this topic to uniform their policies.
  2. The second category encompasses the objectives of governmental policy. The political units present and pursue the same/identical objectives at the common level. However, how to get there is their own choice. Objectives such as the ambient air quality standards, or minimum occupational health and safety standards to be maintained can be harmonized.
  3. As a third category, one can found the kind of harmonization about the general principles that are respected in policymaking. In other words, the policy units have to follow to certain policies. An example could be the polluters' policy, directing to the internalization of pollution fees, adopted by both the European Community and OECD in the 1970s.
  4. Finally, harmonization of the process, often aiming to reinforce other types of harmonization. It is to say, policy units have to follow some procedures during the policymaking. The European Commission, in 1957 through the Treaty of Rome, intended to facilitate the first kind of harmonization: harmonization of the national policies of the member states.

Thanks to these useful distinctions made above, many harmonization problems were analyzed and studied in order to achieve a solution.

Policy harmonization has proved to be very effective in the centralized harmonization of social principles and standards. That is the case of the EU and some federal States, where harmonization has been used to prevent member States from competing for the industry by proposing social standards that are too lax comparing the preferences of their people. This kind of competition could reduce the level of social protection that States would chase if they did not face international or inter-jurisdictional competition.


Giandomenico Majone, a prominent scholar of political science and public the policy discusses policy harmonization during the First International Conference on Public Policy in Grenoble, France.  





Giandomenico Majone is Emeritus Professor at the European University Institute in Florence. He has a PhD in Statistics from the University of California. He has written a variety of articles and books, of which his main contributions have been concerning the Regulatory governance in the European Union. His major contributions include Regulating Europe, Europe as the Would-be world power, Dilemmas of European Integration, The rise of regulatory state in Europe West European Politics Evidence, argument, and persuasion in the policy process

Majone is considered one of the major figure of the European Union academic scholarship. He held several academic positions in renowned universities such as Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Rome University, London School of Economics, University of Pittsburg, among others.



  • Bhagwati and Hudec on “Fair Trade and Harmonization”. Cambridge, MA.:The MIT Press. 1996
  • Majone on Policy harmonization: limits and alternatives. Journal of comparative policy analysis: research and practice. 2014
  • Leebron on “Lying Down With Procrustes: An Analysis of Harmonization Claims”, in Fair Trade and Harmonization. 1996


Majone, G. (2014). Policy harmonization: limits and alternatives. Journal of comparative policy analysis: research and practice, 16(1), 4-21.