From the Soviet to the European Union : A Policy Study of SME Assistance Organising in Lithuania

Abstract: Establishment of a policy linkage between particular outspoken societal needs and their realisation via the body political is critical for recently democratised polities. In Lithuania, a former Soviet bloc country undergoing a complex transition, an urge from various societal groups for successful and adequate policies exemplify the importance of this linkage. The study inquires into its establishment during the transition from the Soviet to the EU by exploring collective action to assist Lithuanian SMEs -a new group of economic actors -with their transition period needs. Policy linkage is operationalised in terms of successful and adequate policies. Methodologically, the study examines the usefulness of bottom-up approach to policy organising for revealing policy process in the transition context. Theoretically, the study tests the explanatory power of the major bottom-up assumptions regarding the preconditions for policy linkage in the Lithuanian transition. Especially the role of the government and formal politicaladministrative institutions is explored. The study findings indicate very limited government, EU and mandated actors’ success in organising adequate SME assistance policies. Ad hoc collective actions with mixed types of actors and alternative structurations were found to frequently supplement for the policy linkage. Useful explanations to this were provided by the employed context, structural and behavioural factors. Active selforganising of policy receivers was a precondition significantly increasing the adequacy of the collective assistance action. Also adherence to the rule of law principles in policy process should not be undermined to increase chances of policy adequacy. Especially a combination of behavioural factors characteristic of social capital in the localities studied was found important to consider further. Policy learning is yet underestimated as a factor structuring policy action and enabling policy linkage. Lack of policy structures has implications for policy learning. The study also proposes policy adequacy as a complimentary indicator of transition success.