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Thread: It is Time for a Europe of Ethnic Regions!

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    Thumbs Up It is Time for a Europe of Ethnic Regions!

    When talking about European politics, the voices that nowadays manage to be heard are scarce: there are the Eurosceptics, because they strongly believe in repatriation, and the advocates of the United States of Europe, because they feel their project is under attack and needs to be defended.

    And that is pretty much it, as the advocates of the intergovernmental status quo need not make their voices heard.

    It results in a very poor and simplified debate, which eliminates the potential richness of the debate on European integration. For example, has the European public ever heard of a ‘Europe of the Regions’?

    The role of EU Regions is completely out of the public debate. If one relies only on generalist journalism, the only significant roles are played by (some of) the EU institutions and the Member States, while tensions run over:

    - the triangle of Intergovernmentalism (status quo)
    - Nationalism (repatriation)
    - Federalism (United States of Europe)

    The reason why Regionalism is so under-represented in the daily debate is that it is not an easy topic. The first limit comes from the lack of a clear definition of region. There are physical regions, the borders of which are rivers, mountains, coastlines; their interests can be advocated on very practical bases. On the other side, there are historical, cultural regions, sources to a warm sense of belonging, but also to pride. It is this ambiguity that leads to a necessary balance between the various interests. (…)

    What is, then, the real Europe of regions? The Europe of regions didn’t use to be a dream: it was a plan. And a very ambitious one: it sought to harmonise decentralisation policies among very different institutional systems (to name a few, Paris-centred France, regional Italy, Federal Germany), thus bypassing the Member States’ monopoly on their internal affairs.

    The supporters of a ‘Europe of Regions’ were many and diverse, which led to temporary victories and most probably also to its implosion.

    The general idea was to decentralise power. (…) For Federalists, if European regions would have had a role in the Council they could have challenged the States’ institutional assets and transformed the European landscape into something different from our current national States panorama.

    For minority nationalist parties, on the other hand, the objective was to create a political space of manoeuvre within the nation state. Since central governments were (and still are) hostile to independence instances, a ‘Europe of the Regions’ was seen as a perfect tool to negotiate powers with a supranational institution that certainly had less reasons to deny their right to autonomy.

    Thanks to such an extensive alliance, regional policy became one of the main features of European policy, culminating with the establishment in 1994 of the Committee of the Regions, thanks to the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty.

    Since then, perhaps surprisingly so, things have been deteriorating for the Europe of regions. The Committee has become an institution that issues recommendations often ignored or hampered by the excessive politicisation of its structure. The Commission’s regional policy has not developed, as regionalists hoped, into a somehow federalising mechanisms. Regional offices sprouted in Brussels (there were some 250 as of 2013), but their scope is very often limited to lobbying and facilitating the access to regional funds.

    (…) If we are to try and foresee possible evolutions of the EU in a regionalist sense, we should understand why this strategy has so far failed. One easy guess may be that the instances and aims within the regionalist camp were far too diverse.

    Minority nationalist parties (Scottish National Party, Convergencia i Uniò, Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie) traditionally supported a ‘Europe of regions’. But in reality, these parties have always been supporters of something we might call ‘Europe of smaller nations‘.

    And yet, the existence of a Greens-EFA (European Free Alliance, the European group of most minority nationalist parties) common group in the European Parliament in the last legislative term (2009-2014) shows that a loosely common vision has lasted for a long time.

    It is only now that EFA parties have started to let go of any support to the European Union. Combined with the repatriation of the other minority nationalist parties (which never joined the EFA) back to their local community, the very existence of a European-wide “Party for Autonomies” is jeopardised. (…)

    With the European Federalists now trying to overcome nation states while keeping them as constitutional units of a European Federation, and with the EFA dissolving into a stardust of increasingly Eurosceptic local parties, a real future for regional Europe is nowhere to be seen.

    (…) In order to overcome the current stalemate, federalists should not leave regionalists instances unattended, nor let ‘smaller nationalists’ and Eurosceptics transform a discourse on the deconstruction of current nation states into a struggle to construct new ones.

    It may be mistaken for cheap ‘millenarianism’: ‘a regional Europe, or no Europe’. This is patently not true, but mistrust towards the EU is growing. The feeling is that European leaders are increasingly choosing the repatriation path, because that is where the votes are going, and because changing the institutional assets of the EU is much harder.

    Yet, we should be aware that such a path exists: there is a political niche that federalists could and should occupy. This solution might be unrealistic given the current political and social environment, but it is not a utopia; it would take some hard de-construction, and some even harder re-construction, of our political categories and constitutional units. But in the current, oversimplified, European debate, public opinion should know that there are more alternatives, out there, than those dreamt of by our politicians.

    Source: This post is an extract from an article published in issue 2 of UNITEE’s new magazine, The New European, dedicated to analysing the European Dream and the ways to revive it.

    The need to build a federal Europe monopolises a major part of the intellectual resources of experts reflecting on the crisis, which our continent is just beginning to recover from. This reflection remains essential but may become dangerous if it lapses into centralism. Yet, it should provide an opportunity to reshape the institutional organisation in Europe or, to be more specific, to redefine the division of competences between regions, nation-states and the community level (or better still, the eurozone). Should the European level be entrusted with new competences (management of the exchange rate, supervision of national budgets, ability to place a state under trusteeship, increase the Community budget and the possibility of extending the common borrowing capacity), supply policies should become the privilege of Regions.

    The world has entered a historical innovation wave, going from nanotechnology to artificial intelligence, to genetics and drones as well as 3D printers. In this new economy paradigm, companies generating the most added value need to be in close contact with the research community, successful university centres and funding. They also have to be connected in advance with infrastructures which enable them to export to solvent, dynamic markets. This is what some people call “ecosystems for growth“, which are organised as networks that favour flexible cooperations to the detriment of the old, vertical concept of subcontracting.

    In short, this is all that centralised States feel uncomfortable about. These innovative companies are mostly SMEs, and sometimes even micro entities, whose future, however, looks bright. Indeed, when it comes to innovation waves of this kind, growth mainly stems from new entrants redefining business models than from big actors, already well established on their “path dependency”. Regional public authorities are in the best position to facilitate the connection between public and private institutions and to ensure their coordination.

    In this context, regions should have competences enabling them to become economic “manager”, covering fundings planned for innovation (which case studies have shown that they are more effective than global tax relief) as well as the regional system for financing the economy, sectors’ policies, the control of innovation policies, technology transfer and internationalisation measures aimed at companies. The Region, whose strategy must be the subject of a large conciliation with the other local authorities, should have the possibility to delegate some of their interventions through agreements.

    However, the question of regionalisation does not only affect the issue of economic effectiveness. It also raises the question of territorial inequalities. As a matter of fact, globalisation and the increasing pace of technological change generate at the same time growth and inequality: inequalities in the field of individual conditions (which can be seen through the salary scale which grows wider in all developed countries) but also geographical inequalities. Thus, within the eurozone (and the European Union as a whole), the gap in GDP per capita at territorial level is growing. Constantin Pecqueur’s work in the 19th century focusing on railways, followed by Paul Krugman’s work a century later, allows us to recognise a phenomenon well known to economists: innovation paired with freedom to trade agglomerates the economic activity geographically speaking. In other words, some territories become wealthier, whilst others see their wealth dry up.

    With regard to this phenomenon, economic centralism gets weaker. Indeed, State – and most importantly European – policies are powerless to the reindustrialisation of a nation or the fight against mass unemployment. On the contrary, centralism is likely to increase inequalities. As an example, if the European Central Bank decided to massively buy dollars generating euros, the euro/dollar exchange rate would depreciate, which would have a stimulating effect on the economic growth of the eurozone as a whole (generally, a 10% depreciation can account for 0,2 to 0,3 point of economic growth). Such a policy is therefore desirable.

    If one takes a closer look at it though, it could also cause major redistributive effects. Thus, the main exporting regions would be favoured (like Bavaria, the Spanish Basque Country, Franche-Comté…). However, deindustrialised regions mainly living out of public transfers would be rather penalised as the exchange rate fluctuations would have no impact on their growth but would, on the contrary, reduce the inhabitants’ real income because of the increasing price of goods imported from outside the eurozone (which would be the case for regions like Limousin, the western part of Burgundy or for a lot of rural “départements”). Eventually, the exchange rate depreciation, which is globally desirable, would widen gaps that are already significant.

    To summarise, this does not mean that these policies are not necessary, but they are not sufficient and must be paired with offer policies aimed at restoring territorial competitivity, which is the only way to support a balanced economic development in Europe. Yet, such policies can only be lead at a regional level because they need to be considered with regard to the various assets of territories and adapted according to the importance of their growth issues. In this sense, decentralisation is the best way to foster economic equality.


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    Thumbs Up A Europe of Regions to Enter into a New Growth Cycle

    Visions and Reality from a Critical Perspective

    By Susana Borrás-Alomar, Thomas Christiansen and Andrés Rodríguez-Pose (European University Institute, Florence)

    The term `Europe of the Regions' has almost become a commonplace in recent years. [...] Within the European Community, it is seen as a tool of the Commission in its confrontation with the Council of Ministers over the enlargement of its authority. [...] The article will address this set of questions by comparing the post-war literature on the `Europe of the Regions' - writings of those that could be called `utopian federalists' - with developments in the fields of European Community politics, interregional cooperation and regional economic development.

    In fact, behind the idea of a `Europe of the Regions' lies the thought that subnational entities have little by little acquired greater protagonism in the political, economic, social and cultural arenas to the detriment of nation-states. The latter undergo a progressive erosion of their powers induced by two basic factors: on the one hand, the advances in European integration which limit the autonomous capacity of national governments to control their destinies independently, and, on the other hand, the greater dynamism of regional entities.

    Such dynamism is embodied by a greater say of regional and local institutions in the management of their own affairs and, above all, by the blooming of new territorially limited social movements which, in some cases, have succeeded in altering long established balance of powers between traditional parties.

    Regions become, thus, one of the centres of a bipolar territorial organization in which the concentration of powers in a supranational body like the European Community, as a requisite to achieve greater efficiency, finds its ideal corollary in a regional articulation of the territory.

    The regional dimension is thus intended to reflect better the cultural and national divisions within Europe and, therefore, to tackle more adequately the problems left unsolved by the 'obsolete' national structure. In this context, the nation-state would play only a secondary linking role between those two centres. And, since the ultimate function of this role is superfluous, the concept of the nation-state as it is conceived now is due to perish in Europe in the long run.


    As a concept, the `Europe of the Regions', and the bulk of political premises that it contains, emerged relatively recently in the European arena. Although this concept is embedded in a specific historical and political context in Europe, and in the new directions of the European integration process since the mid 1980s, its linkages with a previous set of ideas are obvious.

    Authors like Leopold Kohr, Denis de Rougemont or Guy Heraud constitute the key players in what can be considered here as the `prehistory' of contemporary political opinions coming under the general framework notion of `Europe of the Regions'. Whenever approaching the core of perceptions and expectations expressed in their more or less influential writings, it is hard to view them as a homogeneous and coherent school of thought.

    Yet, they can be considered as a set of political thinkers preoccupied by similar issues and with a clear willingness to find the key political elements from which peace and democracy could be guaranteed.

    The utopian, idealist characteristic of their writings becomes evident in the light of their awareness of defining a completely alternative political agenda for Europe based on their political premises. The contents of their articles and books acquire now- a-days a new significance, which consists basically of telling us that there is a whole line of thinking about sub-national politics and the new European order from the post Second World War period to the present day.

    Most of them participate actively in the Federalist Movement, organized since 1946, but others, like Kohr, showed skeptical attitudes towards the possibility and desirability of a supranational federation. A brief review of the latter's work, and of two of the most influential federalists during the 1950s and 1960s, can help to define a general picture of their perceptions, ideas and expectations that have impinged on a whole generation of today's regional politicians and public administrators.

    Leopold Kohr is one of the most eminent idealists among this set of utopian thinkers during these decades. His `Size Theory of Social Misery' was developed accurately in his most extensive work published in 19573. The principal cause of war, argues Kohr, is the critical mass of power achieved by social organizations (understood here as States). The bigger the power and size of a State, the bigger the potential risk of driving towards conflict with serious destructive effects.

    Kohr reinterprets European political history under this theory, finding evidence to support his general notion that small is beautiful and harmless, and his aspiration of seeing states dismantled into natural units in order to preserve peace. However, while Kohr's writings were not much diffused on the Old Continent the same cannot be said for the work of the federalists, which had an influential and quite large impact among European elites and intellectuals. [...]

    Communities are the primary element from which the European Federation can be institutionalized. Contrasting with this, Guy Héraud, reaches remarkably diverse conclusions about the role of sub-national entities in the European federation.

    For this author there are three possible alternative models, which are, `Une fédération des Etats historiques', `une fédération des régions economiques' and `une fédération éthnique'6.
    The economic regions model of federation, based on economic boundaries, does not account for the spiritual and cultural order in Europe, an essential goal of the European federation.

    Hence, in a situation in which material needs would already be satisfied, this author reckons that an Ethnic Federation would be the optimal political structure. Emphasizing the importance of following these `natural characteristics', Héraud sees the project as a re-construction of previous socio-cultural entities and not a creation ex-novo as Rougemont holds. Despite the evident differences among the three lines of argumentation presented briefly here, there are clear common points that deserve further attention.

    Firstly, the constant presence of moral values within their political premises render the whole discourse an example of abstract idealism detached from plausible and specific political and policy actions. And secondly, their statements about the role of regions in Europe, independently of their ascription to a federal movement, are based on the need to defeat radically the current political organization of the State.

    Even if none of them supports a revolution-like form to accomplish this task, a strong emphasis is given to the importance of convincing and persuading Europe's people, rendering the discourse full of rhetoric.

    In contrast with the expectations of these authors, their moral assumptions and their rhetoric, the end of this century sees a complex economic and political reality in which European regions are developing their activities.

    The utopian ideas and perceptions were formed prior to the political processes of the last decades that appear to give some credence to the postwar vision of active and successful regional emancipation. Developments in Western Europe, both in terms of political decentralization, regional economic development and interregional cooperation have seen an extraordinary increase during the 1980s and 1990s.

    These developments are strongly related to the intensification of European integration in the past decade, which has been creating new perceptions, expectations and political interests at subnational levels of government.

    These processes invoke, in the current political discourse, the utopian vision of the `Europe of the Regions', even though they have taken place in a vastly different political and economic environment. In the following, this discrepancy will be analysed.

    The question is whether the `Europe of the Regions', considering its conceptual history as discussed above, can possibly be a meaningful term to describe, or even a helpful abstraction to analyse, the current phase of integration and regionalization in Western Europe.


    Discussing the impact of the institutional development of the European Community on the idea and the practice of a possible `Europe of the Regions' entails not only establishing the link between the Community and `regional' or sub-state levels of territorial government, but also pointing to the transmutations of this relationship during the development of the Community.

    For while today a plethora of public as well as academic attention focuses on the regional-Community nexus, the underlying significance of this issue has been with European integration from the start.

    Looking for an early manifestation of the importance of regions for the Community, and vice versa, one does not have to search for too long: half-way into the preamble of the Rome Treaty, it was acknowledged that one purpose of the foundation was `to ensure [a].. harmonious development by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less favoured regions.' In fact, not much happened on the regional front until the first enlargement, which brought Denmark, Ireland and the UK into the Community.

    Shortly after, and usually seen as some sort of budgetary trade-off between the large CAP recipients (mainly France) and the new net-contributor Britain, the European Regional Development Fund was established in 19757. Even though the size of this fund increased significantly during its first years of operation (annual growth rates between 32% and 62% until 1982), and while it went through a number of reforms, it's actual impact has been minimal to the point of being called `failure'8.

    On the other hand, the traditional focus on regional policy has to some extent obscured the significant impact that almost all sectoral policies of the Community have had on regional economics and government.

    Thus, the gradual extension of the Community's sectoral competences through Art.235 (Rome Treaty) as much as her traditional concern with agriculture, coal and steel meant that European policy-making increasingly addressed itself to regional concerns. As with many other fields, the Single Act (SEA) of 1986 proved to be a watershed also in this respect.

    It was not just that new policy-areas were explicitly brought into the Community domain, but the implementation of new sectoral programmes tends to take regional forms. This development is now visible in policy sectors as diverse as transport, energy, research and development, agriculture, environment and industrial relations.

    The Commission has consistently used the Community Initiatives, over which it has autonomous financial control, to push such regionalized sectoral programmes. In this way even a problem like the conversion of defence-related industries to civilian production after the end of the Cold War has been regionalized through the programme KONVER.

    More important, however, were two further aspects directly related to the SEA. Firstly, Art.130a made `Economic and Social Cohesion' a primary aim of the Community. It meant that from now on all Community activities, not just the Regional Fund, would have to operate towards this goal.

    The way the Commission interpreted and implemented this principle, it turned out to be a major factor in focusing attention towards regional problems. In fact, economic and social cohesion has become the moral high ground for any Community intervention within a treaty framework that is otherwise dominated by neo-liberal thinking.

    Also the trend of such intervention addressing the elimination of regional, rather than national, disequilibria, strengthens the link between regions and the Community. Secondly, the SEA ratification was followed, in 1988, by the reform of the Structural Funds (European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund, Guidance Section of the European Agriculture Guarantee and Guidance Fund) based on Art.130b.

    Not only did this reform involve a doubling of the funds spent on regional policy over the next five years, and the establishment of new procedural links in the Commission between the running of sectoral and regional policies (as evident in the creation of DG XII - Coordination of the Structural Funds)10.

    The most salient aspect of this reform was the way it brought, through the elaboration of Community Support Frameworks (CSFs) and the principle of partnership, the regional level of government itself into the decision-making process. Through these new procedures regional policy could, for the first time in the history of the Community, directly concern itself with genuinely regional problems and move away from the sphere of national trade-offs.

    Certainly this development was not without problems - problems to which we shall return for they are the reason for the kind of research undertaken here - but `bringing the regional level in' was seen, by most national governments as well as the Commission, as an essential part in the move towards `1992'.

    Direct regional participation was necessary not only for the detailed knowledge of local conditions which the new `program approach' to regional policy demanded, but also - and more importantly in the long-term - in the wider sense of legitimizing the Brussels decision-making process which so often is viewed as `distant' and `bureaucratic'.

    In addition, there is also the important, but not easily quantifiable, impact of `1992' itself. While the reform of the structural funds was directly related to the creation of the single market, it produced direct links between the Community institutions and the only limited number of regions involved in the Community Support Frameworks.

    Apart from these links, however, every region found itself affected by `1992'. After all, the removal of all barriers to the `four freedoms' which the Single Act heralded creates fundamentally new opportunities and constraints not only for national, but also for regional governments exactly because it was not accompanied by the simultaneous creation of political or administrative structures to deal with this Single Market.

    These pressures which the initial de-regulation and subsequent competitive rule-making (through the principle of `mutual recognition') of the `1992' programme implied, sharpened the attention of regional actors not just towards the activities of `Brussels', but also to the new dynamics of economic change which could be expected in the European Community.

    The result of these intense and interrelated developments since the Single Act has been, on the one hand, the presence of regions at the Community centre, and on the other, what could be called the presence of `Europe' at the regional level.

    The physical expression of this is the plethora of regional `representations' or `Information Offices' which have recently opened around the Commission buildings in Brussels. Like the numerous regional visitors to the Commission, the function of these offices is the maintenance of a two-way flow of information: to keep the regional administration informed about developments within the Community 35 structure (and thus to level or at least alleviate their information handicap vis-à-vis national governments) as well as to provide the basis for a continuous presentation of a position on the issues deemed salient for a given region.

    The counterpart of such offices in Brussels has usually been the conception of an European desk officer, or, in larger administrations, an EC secretariat or policy-unit, in the region. If the regions have responded to the new dynamics of European integration in the late 1980s with institutional innovations, the Commission, too, has reacted to the new links between the Community and the regional level.

    In 1988 - at the beginning of the first five-year term of the new Structural Funds - the Commission created the so-called Consultative Committee of Local and Regional Authorities in an obvious attempt to strengthen its relationship with these levels of government.

    For the Commission this meant accessing regional/local expertise in the formulation of Community policies while at the same time aligning regional interest with the Commission rather than national governments or other Community institutions. For regional actors, it was a limited but nevertheless important way of beginning to respond to the overwhelming presence of national governments in the pre-proposal stage of Commission working groups, steering and management committees - the world of `Comitology'.

    As such, the Committee was the first institutional expression of the symbiotic relationship that regions and central Community institutions are often perceived to have in the `New Europe' - what has been called the `nutcracker-grip' on the nation-state.

    Subsequent developments, especially those leading up to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in February 1992, have reinforced the interrelationship of `Region' and `Europe'. The ex post significance of the Single Act had sharpened regional attention towards processes at the European summit, and the calling of two InterGovernmental Conferences on Political Union and Economic and Monetary Union, respectively, was seized upon by many regions as an opportunity to make their voice heard with regard to the future design of the Community.

    The Assembly of European Regions (AER), which had constituted itself as the Council of European Regions in the mid-1980s gradually enlarged its membership to cover the whole of the EC territory and became the principal forum for the negotiation and formulation of pan-European regional demands in the run-up to Maastricht.

    In a number of declarations these demands for Maastricht were specified as the right to go to the European Court of Justice, the direct participation in the Council of Ministers, the creation of a Committee of Regions and the enshrinement of the subsidiarity principle in the Treaty.

    These demands were not merely `declared', but also carried domestically to the individual governments negotiating the Treaty reform. This was most effectively done by the regions in those member states with federal structures, Belgium and the Federal Republic of Germany. In the latter case, the regions actually had a seat at the IGC table, albeit as mere observers. As to how far regions in other states were able to influence their respective governments with the demands of AER declarations remains a question of (usually negative) speculation.

    Nevertheless, the final Treaty on European Union reflected to a some extent regional aspirations, in that the Committee of the Regions is established (Art.198 Treaty on European Union), sub-state actors can participate in the Council
    (Art.148 Treaty on European Union) and subsidiarity has been enshrined in the treaty (Art.3B Treaty on European Union). But for the regional lobby, the small-print of these regional achievements has been a bitter pill, because to some extent they constitute pyrrhic victories.

    Participation in the Council is limited to actors at ministerial level, apparently ruling out the participation of officials from mere administrative regions. Subsidiarity has been defined rather rigidly, limiting its application to the member state and the European Community, thereby explicitly ruling out the region as a potentially `better' level of government for some tasks. In this way the introduction of subsidiarity into Community law might actually work to the disadvantage of the regions that had campaigned for its inclusion.

    Further, the much heralded Committee of the Regions appears to be little more than an extension of the previous Consultative Committee, since it is only `consultative' and made up of national quotas of regional representatives who are to be appointed by the Council, i.e. national governments. The immediate future will show to what extent this new body can justify the prolonged and politicized debate over its composition and institutional independence.

    Thus, while the impact of European integration on the regional level is now widely acknowledged, there still is a substantive gap between European outputs towards the regions, and regional inputs into the Community system. Still, a certain dynamic in the development of the regional-Community nexus is discernible, in terms of the new forms of cooperation between regional and Community institutions, each supporting and legitimizing the other.

    While these recent developments, accompanied by handy metaphors such as `nutcracker', `sandwich' or `pincer movement', accentuate the common interest of Community and regional institutions vis-à-vis national governments, framing the analysis of regions in the Community in such terms would be overtly simplistic and misleading.

    It misses the point that administration at Community as well as regional level, if not actually deriving from national administration, are in the main part so closely linked with them as to make such clear-cut distinctions impossible. It also misses the point that while most regional governments would have some agreement with the central Community institutions regarding their participation in the decision-making process in principle (e.g. institutional reform), the image of an alliance breaks down as soon as one gets to issues of substance (e.g. allocation of material resources).

    In that respect, the potential for disagreement, both among regions and between regions and the Commission, is far greater than that of harmony, and more often than not regions would probably find their national governments a more reliable agent than the Community when it comes to the securing of specific outputs.

    A powerful demonstration of this regional dependency of national bargaining power was the 1993 budgetary process, where allocations for structural funds were agreed on a country-by-country basis among the member-states at the Edinburgh Summit and subsequent Council meetings.


    Significant changes in the number and type of interregional cooperation schemes in Europe have been developing since the beginning of the last decade. The signature of the Framework Convention of Transfrontier Cooperation in 1980 under the auspices of the Council of Europe can be seen as the starting point for these new trends. However, other relevant features of the European arena, and in particular EC politics and policies, have prompted the interest of regional authorities in engaging in cooperative frameworks with other sub-national counterparts.

    Among the elements that constitute what can be considered broadly as the European context for regional activities, two points deserve further attention. Firstly, the gradual development of a whole set of legal and policy instruments aiming explicitly at fostering regional partnership and cooperative agreements.

    And secondly, the strengthening and articulation of regional interests at European level in a more structured manner. In the late 1970s the issue of cross-border or frontier cooperation received considerable attention at the European level12.

    This was related to two main questions. On the one hand there are, the legal problems originating from this type of international cooperation, due to the lack of appropriate instruments in international public law13. The second aspect was related to the awareness of the need to foster collaborative responses to latent problems in these border areas, that usually suffer from peripherality and low rates of economic development.

    In this sense, the signing of the Framework Convention was a further step towards tackling the particular social, political and economic realities of the areas, and overcoming the legal problem, through stipulating the diverse modes of cooperation15.

    The question of cross-border cooperation has also been subject of significant attention by the European Community, within the more general field of its regional policy. However, only recently have several concrete initiatives been set up in order to support economically and strategically, sub-national actions in this matter. The INTERREG program is the most relevant among these initiatives, as it allocates economic provisions for concrete projects of this nature16

    The `Innovation Development Planning Group', a relevant consultant in the field, in an extensive assessment report about the possibilities and difficulties of cross-border cooperation emphasizes the importance of information flows and exchanges of experiences for an appropriate development and the establishment of agreements of this kind. Pooling information resources is in fact an essential mechanism for identifying problems and creating opportunities for specific common actions.

    Along these lines, the EC Commission created a European centre for the study of cross-border cooperation (LACE) in collaboration with the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) that coordinates this pooling of experiences, information and precise documentation on the topic.

    Apart from these two recent initiatives related to cross-border cooperation, the EC also has two further instruments for regional cooperation, although not specifically for activities of a cross-border nature. The Experience Exchange Program (EEP) established by the Commission in 1989 is addressed to local and regional authorities in charge of different subjects related to economic development.

    This program is decided annually and implemented in close collaboration with the aforementioned Assembly of European Regions (AER) and the European Centre for Regional Development (CEDRE). The exchange is developed through meetings, conferences, seminars, etc. on various specific topics18.

    Together, INTERREG, LACE and EEP, although varying sharply in budget allocations, represent a new approach and new mechanisms for the promotion of cross-border cooperation. However, some European regions are already looking beyond this traditional topic, seeking to establish partnerships that attend to more of less functional interests, rather than on the sharing of frontiers.

    Examples for this are the well known `Four Motors for Europe', `Route des Hautes Technologies' or `Arc Atlantique', that aim at broadening experiences in fields like new technologies, and more generally, public-private relationships to enhance economic development through finding fruitful synergies among the regions.

    This new type of cooperation schemes in new areas entails the emergence of positive perceptions about the outputs that such formalized contacts and commitments (not legally binding and with very little economic budget) can offer to each individual region.

    Whereas it is actually very difficult here to assess the impact upon each region's mobilization of social and economic endogenous potentials and the solving of specific problems, it is certain that EC actions form part of a new context for the activities of the regions. However, one should also pay further attention to an important question about the recent pace of increased cooperation between regions in Europe. Cross-border cooperation has traditionally aimed at addressing the common problems that arise in a shared geographical space.

    This characteristic contrasts with more recent cases of regional cooperation, which are based on other subjects. It is in this particular new type of cooperative schemes, more flexible than the previous one, that one can find certain notable limitations related to the matters they deal with (`technology' and specially `economic development' are much too general and diffused)19 and with political-administrative praxis.

    While certain technical and issue-specific tasks might well be managed through cross-border cooperation, the threshold to a wider, more substantive and, above all, politically more relevant inter-regional cooperation is still rather low. These remarks are meant to show that, behind the emphatic language used by regional representatives on the about the new possibilities and interests of this recent flexible approach to cooperation, lies political, administrative and socio-economic praxis that creates difficulties for obtaining clear or tangible results.

    However, these difficulties in achieving effective outputs in the short run, should not be the only argument used in evaluating a priori these cooperative schemes. Some positive and clear synergies might emerge in the medium or long term parallel to the creation of routines in the administrative praxis or to the consolidation of linkages based on institutional arrangements rather than on personal relations.

    On the other hand, the number of issues and subjects that cooperation addresses can increase with the awareness that the exchange of information about subjects like education, vocational training, sports or culture can also be of mutual interest.

    Summing up, this brief review of the major trends in interregional cooperation and regional interests articulation all along the 1980s shows the weight that the general context of European integration has had in the progressive transformation of the activities of regions in the European arena.

    Individual regions find themselves nowadays with a diversified range of legal, economic and political structures and instruments from which to create ex novo or to reinforce their existing external contacts with counterparts for mutual benefit. However, this new trend needs still to be consolidated, both in terms of the actual effects of such agreements on the regional territory as well as the emergence of further cases of the non cross-border type of cooperation.

    However, even if it can be expected that such consolidation will occur during the current decade, one can assert that the whole panorama of regional activity in the European arena has been experiencing notable changes since the beginning of the 1980s.


    Economic theory, in general, and development and trade theory, in particular, have not been immune to the ascension of the concept of a `Europe of the Regions' and of the regional dimension as a valid unit of analysis. Some parts of the literature on socioeconomic restructuring and on the global economy have stressed the emergence of regions as economic fora which complement the globalization of economic markets21.

    From this point of view, the decline of the Fordist mode of mass production and the introduction of flexible production structures has led to a revision of the established spatial pattern and focussed considerable attention on the emergence of new regional development foci. Literature on post-Fordism has stressed that traditional long-established spatial contrasts have been shaken by the rise of economic networks22, by the evolution of technological knowledge and managerial structures23 and by advances in information and information technology24.

    These trends have in theory allowed the uprooting of industries from central locations and the establishment of new production plants in formerly lagging regions. Furthermore, the sharp decline in transportation costs has contributed to reducing the handicaps of distant regions as competitors in the economic arena.

    Therefore, growth and development in a post-Fordist world could blossom in regions which, due to structural or locational constraints, played a very reduced economic role during the entire Fordist era.

    Running parallel with these developments, soaring interdependency rates and the globalization of the world economy have meant that the role of the nation-state has also been challenged. The effectiveness of national macroeconomic policies and several decades of active state intervention in the economy have begun to be questioned.

    On the one hand, the economic experiment of the French socialist government between 1981 and 1983 showed the rest of the world that Keynesian policies could no longer be freely applied and that one-nation solutions were inappropriate to counteract economic crises in a highly interdependent world.

    On the other hand, the completion of the Single European Market has been considered by some as a significant additional step towards the eradication -at least in the economic sense- of the borders of the nation-state in the EC. Thus, the state is increasingly regarded as an outdated territorial structure whose influence on economic trends and activities is progressively shrinking.

    While the national frame appears to be losing ground because of market integration and increasing economic interdependency and when one-nation macroeconomic policies seem to fail in achieving their goals, regions, on the contrary, are increasingly contemplated as compact markets where competition is developed and, above all, where the flexibilization of production methods and economic restructuring is accomplished25.

    Hence, the region is gaining ground as the star territorial unit of economic analysis in Western Europe. As Paul Krugman points out: `as Europe becomes a unified market, with free movement of capital and labor, it will make less and less sense to think of the relations between its component nations in terms of the standard [nationally-oriented] paradigm of international trade. Instead the issues will be those of regional economics'26.

    Even Michael Porter in his book The Comparative Advantages of Nations questions the role of the nation as a relevant unit in economic analysis. Porter indicates that `competitors in many internationally successful industries, and often entire clusters of industries are often located in a single town or region within a nation'27.

    Thus, for Porter the city or the region becomes `a unique environment for competing in the industry'28, and he concludes that `the importance of geographic concentration raises interesting questions about whether the nation is a relevant unit of analysis'29.

    Consequently, a significant body of literature has been developed around the economic function of subnational areas. The study of the spatial consequence of shifts in production structures and the rise of the service economy has been mainly focused on regions and cities, with little reference to nations. Therefore, regions representing high technology growth centres (Silicon Valley, Orange County, the Bristol Axis or the Munich area), renovated craft communities (the Third Italy) or service and financial centres (New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris or Frankfurt) have been thoroughly analyzed in recent years30.

    The Economic Influence of States

    However, there is little empirical evidence to support the idea of the vanishing national influence on the economic arena. The doctrine of flexible production -which is the main source of this renewed interest in economic and geographical literature on the regional dimension- has been mainly developed either on theoretical grounds or by resorting to the analysis of case studies.

    As Sayer underlines, it could be said that literature on postfordism is `based on selected [regional] examples whose limited sectoral, spatial and temporal range is rarely acknowledged'31. In contrast, little research has been carried out outside this reduced number of `favourable' case-studies. Regional cross-sectional analyses in the EC have been greatly neglected.

    Our purpose in this section of the article is to try to shed some light on the question of the emergence of a new `Europe of the Regions' (the Europe of flexible production) in the economic arena which could ultimately overshadow the `Europe of the Nations' (the Europe of the Fordist mode of mass production), and which would, therefore, nourish and complement the political `Europe of the Regions'. Is socioeconomic restructuring really leading towards a greater influence of regions in the economic sphere? Do nations matter less now than before as determinants of economic trends?

    These are questions whose extreme complexity and breadth clearly exceed the scope of this article. The spatial effects of economic integration and specialization are generated by a myriad of complicated and interwoven factors which would be impossible to grasp in the space of a few pages. Aware of these limitations, our intention is mainly to concentrate on one of the intervening factors -namely, economic growth- in order not to settle the question, but to spur the debate on the supposed decline of the nation-State and its progressive replacement by an `Economic Europe of the Regions' as a valid unit of analysis in the post-Fordist world.

    Regarding growth trends, the theory of the increasing protagonism of regions to the detriment of the nation-state presupposes that, due to greater economic integration, burgeoning flexibility in production and the achievements of supranational regional policies in the EC, national differences in economic behaviours are likely to shrink steadily until, ultimately, borders no longer mark sharp differences in growth rates and in development levels. Thus, in a mass production model, growth rates would differ nationally (because of the greater influence of national economic policies and the greater impact of national barriers to factor mobility).

    Conversely, in an `Economic Europe of the Regions' growth rates of GDP at a regional level would tend to converge, due to increasing economic and political integration and the decentralization of production. The behaviour or regional growth rates would be more difficult to predict.

    On the one hand, the concentration of financial assets in capital regions is likely to enhance economic inequalities, while, on the other hand, the decentralizing of production structures and regional policy could contribute to reduce the gap between advanced and lagging regions. Furthermore, the diminishing relevance or, even the removal, of economic and trade barriers could encourage the genesis of cross-national growth trends, where the existence of a development axis (e.g. the Mediterranean Axis, the Blue Banana or the Atlantic Arc) is more likely to influence regional growth rates than the national frame.

    Economic disparities in growth rates will be, in consequence, more related to socioeconomic conditions within a certain region than to its insertion in a certain national context.

    This part of the analysis -on the geographical distribution of regional growth rates of GDP in the 1980s- concentrates on the evolution of regional and national growth trends in the six original member states of the EC, plus Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom, in order to determine whether there has been, in the last decade, a certain homogenization of regional behavioural patterns in growth rates in comparison with regional growth rates two decades ago.

    It is supposed that, if the sway of the nation-state is diminishing, growth rates would clearly differ in a `Europe of the Regions' from those in a `Europe of the Nations'.

    The empirical analysis includes GDP regional data from 1960 to 199032. It is based on the comparison of the different regional behaviours of growth rates in two decades:

    a) 1960-1970: depicting the climax of the Fordist mode of production and of a scarcely integrated world economic market (the `Europe of the Nations');
    b) 1980-1990: portraying the decade of flexible production and of the emergence of regions as consolidated economic actors (the `Europe of the Regions'); in order to explore whether the behaviour in economic growth of regions in the EC is becoming independent of the national setting in which they are inserted (and, thus, whether we are witnessing the appearance of new and consolidated regional markets), or whether the national framework still constrains and regulates regional economic performance.

    The geographical distribution of growth rates of GDP per capita (measured in Ecus) during the 1980s (Map 1) shows little sign of the supposed decreasing influence of national borders. Instead of witnessing constant growth trends stretching along regional axes and across boundaries, national frontiers seem to possess a significant importance in the regulation of regional growth.

    Sharp contrasts in growth rates characterise the borders between Italy and France, France and Spain and Italy and Greece. Noticeable differences can also be observed in the case of the borders between Denmark and Germany and Ireland and the United Kingdom. Similar contrasts -although less acute- are also present when analysing growth GDP per capita, measured in purchasing power standards (PPS).

    The comparison of regional growth rates in the 1960s and in the 1980s produces analogous results. Graph 1 shows regional growth rates -assembled according to country of origin- at the zenith of the Fordist mode of mass production: the 1960s. As could be expected, significant national disparities in regional growth rates are observed. Several nations diverge clearly in their growth patterns from the European average.

    Regions in Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom have fairly divergent growth rates in comparison with regions in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Furthermore, regions within a nation cluster together. Small regional disparities can be observed in internal growth patterns in most of the EC countries, but for Germany and Italy.

    Internal divergence is especially reduced in France and the Netherlands. The case of France represents the paradigm of the influence of the national dimension on economic growth, since disparities in growth rates among the 22 French regions are almost non-existent.

    The graph depicts, as expected, a nationally dominated panorama in the 1960s. National macroeconomic policies and trade barriers -established in order to protect national industries still had a vast influence on growth rates. Therefore, we can posit that regional growth in the 1960s was heavily influenced and constrained by national economic policies.

    The graph representing regional growth rates in the EC in the 1980s displays a comparable tableau to the one depicted for the sixties (Graph 2), in spite of the much heralded drive toward regional protagonism. Instead of finding greater international homogeneity, growth rates in the 80s seem to follow fairly similar national patterns to the ones observed two decades before.

    Internal disparities in growth are only more significant in France and the Netherlands33 during the 1980s than during the 1960s. Nevertheless, this type of behaviour tends to be the exception and not the rule: internal divergence in regional growth is slightly less noticeable in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

    Furthermore, there is little homogenization of national growth rates. If in the 1960s there were five nations which fluctuated around the European average (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands), their number in the 1980s is reduced to four (Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom).

    Regions in Belgium, France and the Netherlands experience considerably lower growth rates than their Community counterparts, while regions in Italy and in Ireland -as well as in Portugal and in Spain, not included in this part of the analysis- have growth rates which are clearly above the Community average.

    Consequently, it can be suggested that, despite greater economic and political integration, the national dimension still accounts for a significant share of all subnational economic growth behaviours.

    In the 1980s, the variance within a national context is much lower than when cross-national settings are compared, and the pace towards a regional economic homogenization of growth rates is slower than what might have been expected. As is shown in Graph 3, which compares regional GDP in 1960 and 1989, in only one country of the EC - Belgium- do regional economies diverge; a performance which could be associated to a lower influence of national economic achievement on regional growth rates.

    On the contrary, in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, regions find enormous difficulties in escaping the corset of the national economic context. Regions in France and the United Kingdom fare worse in 1989 than in 1960, but the downward movement has affected the globality of the country and not a just a certain group of regions.

    The same argument can be applied to Germany and Italy, where no significant differentiation in the range of internal disparities is observed. Summing up, a claim can be made that, as far as regional growth rates are concerned, the economic `Europe of the Regions' is still far from being accomplished. Regions are acquiring a greater economic power in recent years, but the drift towards the consolidation of a regionally dominated growth model is still at an early stage.


    It is clear now, in the 1990s, that the utopian discourse of a harmonious, peaceful `Europe of the Regions' has practically no resemblance with current affairs, nor even with probable future developments. This is not to say that all utopian visions of Europe were lost in post-war realpolitik - it would be much more difficult, for example, to dismiss the lengths to which Altiero Spinelli's project has gone.

    But the `Europe of the Regions' did never really connect with the requirements of governing Europe, nor with the capabilities of the regions to make their contribution to that. Most importantly, the idea of a `Europe of the Regions' did not come to grips with the significance and the staying-power of the nation-state in Western Europe.

    Now that regions are becoming, gradually, a minor part of the decision-making structure of the Community, the Community itself is in a crisis of legitimacy and effectiveness. The 1990s so far have heralded a revival of nationalism, even racism in Europe - a development which is very much at odds with the rationalism and supranationalism that the European Community stands for. Economic recession casts further doubts about the incentives to proceed with integration, something that was also made apparent by the partial breakdown of the ERM in September 1992.

    The GATT difficulties appear to point the way to a period of growing protectionism, and the political problems inherent in the reform of the Community budget, and especially the CAP, indicate that such struggles might also become more dominant within the EC. Inasmuch as the Community gains new competences in a climate of reasserting national interests, it seems difficult to see how such a development would benefit regions directly. Consequently, the automatism implied by the early writings about a `Europe of the Regions' - more powers to Europe equals more powers to the regions - must be dismissed.

    Where does such a negative assessment leave the `Europe of the Regions? As discussed above, there are some departures from the old state-centric world in which regions were nothing but the subordinate parts of self-directed nation-states. In the 1990s regions can and do link up with one another. They relate directly to the central organs of the European Community, and they are beginning to receive, in some cases, substantial shares of their budgets from such institutions.

    Also, there are cases in which a region's economic growth is significantly influenced by indigenous factors. However, past analysis of such phenomena has neglected to differentiate these developments - there has been a tendency, all too often, to generalize about the `Europe of the Regions' after looking only at the most extreme cases. And these have been, as we have shown above, only exceptions to an otherwise rather mixed picture. As we can see now, the fact that regions gain access to new partners and new sources of funding, does not mean, per se, that their dependence on decisions taken by the respective national governments has diminished.

    Moreover, as regions come into closer contact with each other, differences and conflicts among them are as much a feature of the `New Europe' as are harmony and cooperation. As the proponents of the `Europe of the Regions' can point to first instances of meaningful, interregional alliances, others might emphasize an accelerating trend towards what has been called `territorial competition' - the fact that all territorial levels, including regions, are competitors for inward investment and Community funds in the Single Market. In this view there is little rationale in extensive cooperation among regions in Europe - what we see in cases like the `Four Motors' might just be symbolic agreements hiding more profound cleavages among regions.

    And in a prolonged period of limited or zero-growth, material incentives for cooperation are simply not high enough. Cooperation and integration, both nationally and subnationally, have always functioned better when the distributive cake was growing, thus creating the image that everyone was gaining. The current period exhibits the opposite characteristics: high unemployment, high real interest rates and generally a depressed economic outlook for the coming years.

    Beyond such sobering thoughts, one even has to question the actual impact that regions can have on economic development within their territories. As our analysis shows, the picture continues to be dominated by national indicators, with regional variations slight. This increases the evidence that much of the movement towards more regional autonomy and the expected restructuring of Europe along regional lines is of rhetorical rather than substantive value.

    In the early 1990s, Europe is in a period of transformation. Both the relationship between the Community and the Member States, and between governments and electorates is changing. In such a situation it is difficult to identify firm trends. But with regard to the `Europe of the Regions', currently so fashionable in many quarters, it seems fair to conclude that scepticism ought to be the order of the day.

    Regions are clearly not about to replace central governments as dominant socio-economic actors, and neither do they have a common view on their mode of interaction. Thus, to continue the discourse of the `Europe of the Regions' betrayseither the vision of the authors here termed utopians, or else it betrays the economic and political realities of Europe today.

    What one can say about the state of Europe without doing injustice to the developments of integration and regionalization of the past decade, on the one hand, and the continuing significance of the national level, on the other, is probably close to the notion of a `Europe with, not of, the Regions'. This, in the view of one author, is what regions should be interested in, since their interests would not be served by doing away with the national level that would leave them exposed to an expanding European centre34. Such a view acknowledges that while some developments have strengthened the regional level, there are powerful dynamics which retain traditional structures.

    The conclusion here is in line with this opinion. It is the development of a `Europe with the Regions', not the evolution of the `Europe of the Regions', that we have been witnessing in the past decade. The growth of initiatives and competences on regional and European levels is accompanied, in many instances, by a reassertion of national governments and bureaucracies.

    In addition - a development that should not be overlooked - there is the growth of sectoral policymaking, influenced, to a significant degree, by firms, private interest groups and, to a lesser extent, political parties - the `privatization' of politics as the Community moves towards a truly Single Market in the absence of any clear, institutional hierarchy. If true, such a development does not augur too well for the significant role that regions are supposed to play in the scenario of a `Europe of the Regions'.

    The place of regions in Europe is alongside that of national and non-state actors. They are not, any more, mere statistical units or the subordinates of central governments, but neither are they anywhere near to replacing the state. In a Europe which is variously called `multiperspectival'35, `multi-layered'36 or simply `complex', regions are but one of a plethora of actors whose strategies and decisions are shaping the future of the continent. It is this recognition that ought to guide the political discourse as well as academic analysis away from the `Europe of the Regions', and towards a more differentiated appraisal of the realities of the `New Europe'.

    Source: Regional Politics and Policy, 4, 2, 1-27

    The Territorial Strategies of Substate Political Parties 1979-2006
    By Eve Hepburn (2007)

    In the early 1990s, a group of scholars from a variety of disciplines began questioning state-centred account of politics in Europe. They pointed to the occurrence of two processes of structural change to substantiate their claims: European integration and regionalisation. Both processes appeared to undermine the authority and competences of the state. More importantly, there seemed to be links between the two: the European Union had begun to bring regions into its decision-making processes, whilst regions had begun to emphasise the need to access European institutions to advance territorial interests.

    What re-emerged from this analysis, in both academic and political circles, was a concept that had been around for a number of years (De Rougemont 1966) but which dominated the field of territorial politics throughout the 1990s: that of a ‘Europe of the Regions’. However, the interpretation of this concept amongst scholars differed significantly from what was being sought by substate political parties.

    On one hand, scholars argued that regional participation in European affairs represented a ‘third level’ of decision-making, and used this concept to confront intergovernmental and neo-functional approaches to European integration, both of which were concerned with the way in which EU decision-making operated at the state and European levels. Meanwhile, political parties at the regional level understood the concept of a ‘Europe of the Regions’, not as a uniform theory or pattern of regional engagement in Europe, but as a political, constitutional or economic goal that enabled the realisation of their specific territorial interests.

    Drawing on case studies in Scotland, Bavaria and Sardinia, this paper unpacks the diverse ways in which substate parties responded to, interpreted, and used the imagery of a ‘Europe of the Regions’ to advance their claims for autonomy and policy capacity in the face of deepening European integration. The paper proceeds in four steps.

    - The first section examines the literature on regionalism, Europeanisation and multi-level governance in the 1990s, and poses three hypotheses on the impact and uses of a ‘Europe of the Regions’ by substate political actors.
    - The second section offers case study analyses of how parties in Scotland, Bavaria and Sardinia interpreted, and responded to, claims for a Europe of the Regions 1979-2005.
    - The third section compares the impact of Europe on territorial strategies across the cases, and summarises the main findings.
    - The final part focuses on the ‘movement’ of parties on the territorial and European dimensions, highlighting the rise and fall of a Europe of the Regions in three consecutive stages.

    Regionalism and Multilevel Governance in Europe

    It has been widely argued that the transformation of state and European structures, leading to decentralisation and supranational integration, has created new political and economic spaces in which territorial actors operate (Hooghe 1995; Lynch 1996; Keating 2001; De Winter 2001). European integration has opened up new possibilities to pursue territorial interests that were once ‘closed’ by the expansion of the nation-state (Bartolini 2005) and regions have gained a new political role in federalising and regionalising states.

    Aspects of the new assertiveness of regions at the European level is indicated by the proliferation of transregional organisations, the establishment of regional lobbies in Brussels, and regional engagement in European networks and the practice of ‘paradiplomacy’ (Aldecoa and Keating 1999). Furthermore, the creation of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in 1994 by the Maastricht Treaty provided a political arena for voicing regional demands.

    The CoR, which remains a weak advisory body, nevertheless created the first formal recognition of substate governments in the EU. For Sturm and Dieringer (2005: 28), ‘resistance to and support for a political role of regions are plausible outcomes of Europeanization’.

    To account for the new role of these regional institutions, the notion of a ‘third’ or ‘meso’ level was introduced in studies of regionalism (Bullman 1994; Hooghe 1995; Jeffery 1997). In the stronger sense, a third level was indicative of the development of a regional level of political decision-making in Europe as a whole, whereby a uniform regional tier of government with legislative powers was established alongside state and European institutions.

    In the weaker sense, a third level was characterised by new forms of territorial engagement in European institutions, networks and lobbying organisations and the creation of associational structures across regions (Hooghe 1995: De Winter 2001).

    Both of these interpretations were associated with a theme that was emerging in party political circles in Europe: that of a regionalised Europe. But whilst political scientists were talking about identifiable interactions and processes of regional engagement in European networks and institutions, political parties evoked the imagery of a Europe of the Regions to refer to an aspiration, or an idea, in which European structures were fundamentally altered to meet the specific territorial needs of the party.

    How did the two interpretations sit together? Was the political mobilisation of regions a top-down outcome of European integration processes? Or were parties using Europe to get what they wanted?

    Much of the literature on Europeanisation focuses on how Europe affects politics at the state level (Hix and Lord 1997; Featherstone and Radaelli 2003). As Mair (2006: 3) points out, Europeanisation is usually perceived to occur when ‘something in national political systems is affected by something European’. There remains a notable lack of systematic accounts of how political actors project their demands upwards in Europe.

    Moreover, most analyses ignore the effects of Europe at the substate level and, equally, how regional actors perceive and use Europe for their own projects. Those that do consider the substate level often neglect the role of parties. For instance, Hooghe and Marks (2001) emphasise the open and flexible nature of the new European system of ‘multi-level governance’ that allows room for non-state actors to become involved in decision-making across multiple levels.

    Their analysis focuses on how regional tiers of government were brought into the ambit of European decision-making. However, this overplays ‘the significance of central state-EU interactions in catalysing sub-national mobilisation’ (Jeffery 2000: 3), and leaves the question of how regional actors mobilise demands for EU access unanswered.

    As Deschouwer (2003: 213) states, MLG is ‘very much a party-free zone’. His own research attempts to fill this gap by examining general patterns of party activity in different electoral arenas; what he calls ‘multi-layered systems’. Of these, the regional and European electoral arenas have increased in importance, and have warranted new strategies from political parties previously concerned with only state electoral competition.

    Parties now operate in complex systems in which their regional, state and European components influence each other in ‘three-way interactions’ of a horizontal or vertical nature. In a similar vein, Dardanelli (2005) focuses on the relationship between the regional and European levels.

    Instead of considering Europeanisation to be a top-down process, he identifies ‘bottom-up’ aspects of Europeanisation, whereby political actors seek to shape the direction of European integration as a means of achieving their own aims. The main focus should be on the opportunities, incentives and constraints that this presents for territorial actors.

    Attempts have been to link substate parties with European integration, but these are almost exclusively limited to ‘ethnoregionalist parties’ (Lynch 1996; De Winter and Tursan 1998; Elias 2006). For instance, De Winter and Gomez-Reino (2002) conducted empirical research on the ways in which Europe influences goals and strategies of these parties, examining their adaptation to European issues and their involvement in transnational alliances.

    Whilst this analysis advances our understanding of the impact of Europe on regionalist party interests and identities, it is unable to provide an overall view of the effects of Europe on the substate party politics in general. Nationalist parties are not the only ones to pursue territorial projects or to claim to be bearer of the territorial project.

    Statewide parties also compete in aggregating, articulating and pursuing territorial interests. This necessitates an examination of how Europe, and territory, has played out across the regional party system as a whole. How have other parties at the substate level adapted to Europeanisation? And has Europe become an important point of competition between substate parties – be they nationalist, regionalist, socialist, liberal, conservative, or green?

    Territorial Strategies and Regional Engagement in Europe

    During the period of ‘regionalisation’ in Europe, regional actors soon began to project their interests into European arenas. Parties began to search for new forms of autonomy in Europe that amounted to something less than secession, such as a Europe of the Regions, Peoples or Small States (Hepburn 2004).

    But territorial strategies have also included more substantive policy demands, such as greater representation in state and European bodies, the ability to engage in European networks and more control over resources. Increasing policy capacity for some parties entails increased access to the state rather than autonomy from it – a trade-off considered below.

    This paper will focus on the impact of European integration on substate territorial strategies, and the way in which parties use and interpret a Europe of the Regions. The main hypothesis is that substate political parties have redefined their territorial as a result of the opportunities presented by Europe.

    The ‘impacts’ of Europe are indicated through programmatic change, party relations, and rhetoric. Regarding the first indicator, I hypothesise that integration causes regional branches of statewide parties to develop stronger demands for autonomy in the context of a Europe of the Regions, whilst causing nationalist parties to moderate their demands for statehood and engage in regionalist debates as a gradualist strategy.

    For the second indicator, it is hypothesised that integration has encouraged the ‘territorialisation’ of statewide parties, including the decentralisation of programmatic and organisational autonomy to regional branches. The third hypothesis concerns rhetoric: European integration encourages substate parties to ‘Europeanise’ their demands by endorsing themes such as diversity and free trade.

    The period under analysis begins with the introduction of direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979 up until the rejection of the draft European Constitution by Dutch and French voters in 2005 – a period which covers major changes in the architecture of the European Community/European Union, as well as significant changes within the territorial structures of member states.

    Substate Party Responses to a Europe of the Regions

    Scotland, Bavaria and Sardinia are geographically, economically and politically three of the most diverse substate entities in Western Europe. The first is considered a ‘nation’ in a devolved political system, the second a ‘free state’ in a federalised system, and the third a ‘special region’ in a decentralising system.

    Moreover, each has varying levels of economic power: whilst Bavaria is one of the richest regions in Europe, Sardinia is one of the poorest (with Scotland somewhere in between). What ties them together is emergence of political parties in each case that place the interests and identity of the territory at the heart of their political discourse, the existence of more than one political party vying for the representation of territorial interests, and the fact that the constitutional issue is open and contested in each territory.

    The choice of examining dissimilar regions allows us to explore the uneven effects of European integration in different places, to examine why some parties have used Europe to advance their territorial projects whilst others have not. Let us now consider how the domestic constitutional issue has been correlated to a ‘Europe of the Regions’ in substate territories, which in Scotland was linked to devolution, in Bavaria the defence of the German Länder, and in Sardinia it was linked to economic modernisation.

    Scotland and Devolution

    Scottish parties, with the exception of the LibDems, have not had a consistent line on Europe (Hepburn 2006). Both Labour and the SNP opposed European integration during the early 1980s, as it was viewed as a Tory free-market project. With a new emphasis on the social and political dimensions of European integration from the late 1980s, social-democratic parties (the SNP included) began to view Europe as a socially progressive political arena in which regions and small states could play a full role, in a sense replacing the British ‘union’, which was then associated with the Thatcherite agenda, with a European ‘union’ that was more in tune with Scottish values.

    The EU became attractive to parties seeking constitutional reform, such as Labour and the Liberals who viewed subsidiarity as a vital aspect of increased Scottish autonomy, as well as the SNP, who began to view the EU as an alternative framework for security and trading opportunities that could replace the ‘external’ structure of the UK state (SNP 1992).

    Moreover, Labour made a strong association between constitutional change in Scotland and Europe by arguing that an ‘enlarged democratic Europe of the Regions’ would connect ‘devolved economic and democratic structures at national and regional level [to] a more democratic European Community’ (Martin 1988: 83). In its 1997 election manifesto, Labour promised that Scotland would have direct power in Europe, including direct access to the Council of Ministers and a Scottish Minister of European Affairs.

    The primary motivation behind these proposals was to undermine support for the Scottish National Party’s goal of independence in Europe, and to demonstrate how influential Scotland could be without seceding from the UK. But even the SNP had a temporary flirtation with a regionalised Europe in 1994, which revealed a rift within the party, as well as highlighting various contradictions in their policy and strategies.

    Meanwhile, a number of smaller parties have began to criticise the European project, such as the Greens and Socialists, who advocated a new form of independence outside Europe (SGP 1994; SSP 2004). Interestingly, a strain of Euroscepticism appears to have re-infiltrated the SNP, who threatened to oppose the draft European Constitution in order to protect Scotland’s national interests from European encroachment in areas such as fishing and agriculture.

    To justify this scepticism, former SNP leader John Swinney maintained that in the early stages of integration, the SNP were naïve of the workings of Europe, and would accept anything put on their plate unquestioningly: now, one ‘shouldn’t always say yes to everything in Europe. There are some lines that we won’t cross’.1

    The belief in Europe as an opportunity structure for stateless nations gave way in the late 1990s to greater caution and scepticism about what regions could actually achieve in Europe, in constitutional terms as well as for obtaining resources. This was spurred by the failure of the CoR to constitute anything more than a ‘talking-shop’, the failure of Scotland and other regions to obtain guarantees for a stronger regional role in the draft European Constitution, and the continuing centralisation of powers at the state level in the Council of Ministers.

    Bavaria and the Defence of the Lander

    In Bavaria, whilst all parties are unquestionably pro-European, this masks a growth of scepticism about what Europe can do for Bavarians, and where its limits should be drawn. Territorial debates since the late 1980s have been dominated by a ‘Europe of the Regions’. The rationale behind this concept was the fear that European integration was encroaching on Länder competences.

    In response, the CSU proposed that European integration must go hand-in-hand with the protection of regional rights, and used the concept to push for the establishment of a regional committee in Europe, and increased representation in European institutions. Initially, these efforts were warmly welcomed by parties across the Bavarian political spectrum, who have all endorsed the Europe of the Regions concept.

    However, in practice, the way in which the opposition parties interpret this concept differs considerably from the CSU’s version, which has evolved to mean a ‘Europe of the Citizens’ for the Liberals, and a ‘Europe of the Communes’ for the Greens and SPD. Bavaria’s main opposition parties have criticised the centralisation of power at the Bavarian level by arguing for greater decentralisation to levels beneath the region (Die Gruenen 2003; BayernSD 1994).

    This would constitute a ‘true’ application of subsidiarity, bringing power to the lowest level possible. In contrast, the small nationalist Bayernpartei perceived a Europe of the Regions to underpin its demands for independence. Party interpretations of a Europe of the Regions were linked to how they constructed the Bavarian nation.

    For the CSU, Bavaria has a right to national self-determination, for the SPD Bavaria’s distinct character should be recognised, the FDP oppose regional ‘eccentricity’, the Bavarian Party seeks to maintain a closed society free from European, and the Greens want a multicultural Europeanised Bavaria (see Hepburn 2007b—forthcoming).

    Yet since the late 1990s the CSU also appears to have lost its faith in the possibility of a regionalised Europe. It began to replace demands for a Europe of the Regions with a Europe of the Citizens in party literature (see CSU 1999). Moreover, its new territorial strategy is to increase its powers within the German federal state, whereby the central guiding philosophy has been: if you protect the ‘hard shell’ of the member state, you also protect the Länder (Jeffrey 2004). This re-positioning has been accompanied by an increasingly Eurosceptical view.

    The CSU argues that Europe should be kept out of the areas of Bavaria’s economy and society where it is not welcome, and this applies especially to the question of immigration (Hepburn 2007a). This may be partly to outflank anti-EU parties, such as die Republikaner, which made electoral leaps in the Freistaat inn the late 1980s and early 1990s, thus reflecting the general malaise towards European integration among the Bavarian populace.

    But since the late 1990s, some federal parties have even expressed more critical attitudes towards integration processes. For instance, the Greens disapprove of the centralising aspects of EU, and their support for a Europe of the Regions highlights the importance of bringing power to the citizens at the lowest level possible, somewhat similar to the SPD.

    Sardinia and Economic Modernisation

    In Sardinia, political parties moved from viewing European integration as a threat to their economy and society in the early 1980s to seeing it as a possibility reform. Changes in the structural funds in the late 1980s qualified Sardinia for ‘Objective One’ status and parties such as the Sardinian Party of Action (Psd’Az) and Christian Democrats began linking economic modernisation to a renewed autonomy for the island in a Europe of the Peoples.

    Mario Melis (1994), former President of the Region and Psd’Az MEP during the 1980s, emphasised the importance of European political integration for regional empowerment, and passionately advocated a Europe of the Regions.

    However, this idea did not take hold due to a number of reasons. First, the EU was seen by political parties as a distant and bureaucratic structure demanding adhesion to its laws and regulations, not as an opportunity to advance political projects. Second, Sardinia’s interests in Europe were primarily economic.

    The EU was viewed as a cash cow, giving Sardinia money and resources where it was needed. Third, there was no direct representation of Sardinia in Europe owing to the European Parliament electoral law in Italy. Sardinia shares a constituency with the much larger Sicilian region. This means that European elections are low-profile affairs as Sardinian politicians assume they have little chance of winning the seat, and European issues are neglected.

    And fourth, parties advocating a Europe of the Regions faced the challenge of overcoming popular disillusionment about what ‘autonomy’ could actually offer. The cosmetic nature of the autonomy measures granted to Sardinia in 1948 and the failure of successive economic ‘plans of rebirth’ meant that the language of autonomy became sullied and associated with Sardinia’s economic and political dependence on Rome. For the Sardinian electorate, obtaining more autonomy was less important than improving standards of living; so substantive economic goals were prioritised over constitutional change.

    As a result of all these factors, the demands for the renewal of Sardinian autonomy were only loosely linked to processes of integration and regionalisation in Europe, unlike the other two cases. Whilst the Psd’Az’s goal of a Europe of the Peoples gained only marginal support, the new wave of Sardinian nationalism, represented by ex-Psd’Az pro-independence break-away parties Sardegna Natzione and Indipendentzia Repubrica Sardegna, was highly critical of the European project and advocates independence outside Europe (SN 1996; IRS 2003).

    Yet there has been a change in the perception of autonomy with the election of the Sardinian Project (PS) coalition in 2004, headed by media baron Renato Soru. The PS has sought to strengthen Sardinia’s voice in Italy, and wrest control of the island from Roman politicians. However, the Project’s interests lie primarily in reforming Sardinia’s relations with the Italian state, in addition to developing linkages in the Mediterranean basic.

    It is hoped that Sardinia could act as a ‘bridge’ between Europe and Northern Africa (Psd’Az 2003; Sardegna Insieme 2004). Opportunities to act in the Mediterranean appear to be more tangible to the Sardinian Project government and other Sard parties than trying to increase Sardinia’s voice in the distant centres of European decision-making or edging its way into the economic spaces that are already monopolised by the wealthy regions of the northern Europe.

    Impacts of Europe on Territorial Strategies

    The case findings show that European integration has forced substate parties to take a stronger stance to protect, as well as advance, territorial interests, though this has been for differing motives. Scottish and Sardinian parties were initially hostile to the supranational project, which was viewed as another distant, elitist structure. Parties in both regions feared the exacerbation of economic inequalities and their further peripheralisation from the new economic and political centres. They also sought to fight the Common Agricultural Policy and European fisheries policies in order to protect traditional ways of life and local economies.

    Yet these positions changed the following decade when the European structural funds were reformed. Jacques Delors’ vision of a social Europe won the hearts and minds of the Left, and some provisions were made for the protection of minority languages and cultures. However, the u-turn in party attitudes towards Europe was spurred by different motivations in each territory.

    Whilst in Scotland parties sympathetic to constitutional reform looked on Europe as providing an arena in which to continue the social-democratic project, Sardinian parties focussed on taking advantage of structural funds (Casula 2005). And whilst Scottish parties sought greater regional representation in European decision-making structures, Sardinian parties largely left political questions about Europe to be dealt with by party HQs.

    In contrast, due to the robust state of Bavaria’s economy, Bavarian parties were enthused about the possibilities of increasing trade with the single market. Bavarian parties were also more positive about the principle of European integration, whereby the future of Bavaria, as well as the development of federalism in Germany, was linked to the European project.

    However, the debates surrounding the deepening of European integration from the late 1980s acquired a different tone. Länder governments began to view European integration as a threat to regional competences and united to lobby for the implementation of laws to protect their rights in the German federation.

    The CSU-led Bavarian government was at the forefront of such efforts, and linked the need to protect and maintain Länder autonomy to the possibility of creating a Europe of the Regions. But unlike in Scotland, where this concept was viewed as a method for achieving greater autonomy for regions, for the CSU it was designed to safeguard the already considerable autonomy of the Länder.

    A new context for autonomy claims

    In each of the cases studied, the European level constituted a new focus of demands for autonomy during the initial period of deepening integration. These were defined in different ways by substate parties and included a Europe of the Regions, a Europe of the Peoples, a Europe of the Citizens, and a Federal Europe.

    More specifically, nationalist parties in all regions moderated their constitutional goals in the face of new possibilities for autonomy in Europe, whilst regional branches of statewide parties adopted stronger territorial demands. However, this was for a limited period only.

    Although independence-seeking parties in Scotland, Bavaria and Sardinia did modify their demands to include a ‘Europe of the Regions’ to sit alongside long-term goals, in some cases this was only a temporary measure. The SNP quickly deserted its support for a regionalised Europe in 1994, almost immediately after it had used the slogan.

    The Bavarian Party also incorporated the concept into its literature, but this was secondary to its main goal of independence. In particular, the problem for nationalist parties adopting ‘lesser’ constitutional demands was that they were forced onto the same ground as statewide parties, and support for a Europe of the Regions reintroduced divisions within parties about how to achieve their constitutional goals.

    For the SNP, Europe highlighted the divide between ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘gradualists’, the former arguing for statehood nothing less, whilst gradualists supported regionalisation measures as a step towards independence; whilst the Sardinian nationalist movement splintered into pro-independence and pro-federalist parties, the former (IRS and SN) arguing for a confederal Europe, the latter (Psd’Az) arguing for a federal ‘Europe of the Peoples’. The Psd’Az was the only party to move from a pro-independence position to a post-sovereignty, pro-Europe of the Regions position and stay there.

    Regarding the strategies of regional branches of statewide parties, there was a ‘meeting of minds’ on certain policies in the 1990s. In Scotland and Sardinia, parties demanded stronger regional representation in state delegations to Europe, more access to European decision-making, and greater control over territorial issues affected by EU directives, whilst in Bavaria, opposition parties supported the CSU’s government’s efforts to bolster Bavaria’s international reputation and increase direct participation in European networks and institutions.

    But as we have seen, after temporarily supporting the empowerment of regions in Europe, the SPD, Greens and FDP all moved to a position that prioritised the strengthening of the communes in Germany and Europe, whilst parties in Scotland began to re-emphasise the intergovernmental aspects of Europe and the need for a statewide ‘united front’ in state delegations. Like the nationalist parties, then, whilst there was a convergence of demands for a Europe of the Regions amongst regional branches of statewide parties in the early 1990s, parties moved away from this position at the end of that decade.

    The territorialisation of statewide parties

    Regional branches of statewide parties have gone through a process of ‘territorialisation’. This has a number of dimensions. First, regional branches of statewide parties have taken on a stronger regional identity. Many have pledged to constitute the party of the nation/region and have made various vows to fight for territorial interests. Here we think particularly of Scottish Labour, the CSU and the Sardinian Project. Second, statewide parties have offered constitutional alternatives to independence to defuse support for nationalist parties. Regional branches of parties that have centralising platforms on the state level, such as Forza Italia Sarda (FI), Alleanza Nazionale (AN) and Partito della Rifondazione Comunista della Sardegna (PRC) have adopted autonomist or federalist platforms. The same can be said for Scotland. The Scottish Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Socialists, Greens and Conservatives all support devolution, and with the exception of Labour parties have sought to increase Scotland’s devolved competences.

    In the 1990s, demands for a ‘Europe of the Regions’ won high support across the political board. This idea was toted by social democrats (the Scottish Labour Party, the Sardinian Democrats of the Left, the Bavarian SPD), Christian democrats (the Sardinian Union of Christian Democrats—UDC, the Bavarian CSU) liberal democrats (the FDP in Bavaria, the Scottish Liberal Party) and green parties (Alliance ’90/The Greens in Bavaria). In particular, the concept gained support amongst regional government leaders, who had actively participated in European debates and institutions, and were in touch with the new concepts and rhetoric in Europe.

    Thus, branches of statewide parties with little or no previous claims to autonomy began to support a regionalised Europe, which defused support for nationalist parties and offered an alternative to secession for those addressing the need for territorial recognition. The desire to achieve both programmatic and organisational autonomy from the centre was evident in all three cases, affecting centre-left, centre-right, Liberal Democrat and Green parties. The territorialisation of statewide parties in response to multilevel politics has also become a general trend across Europe (Detterbeck and Hepburn 2007).

    A new European discourse

    Some scholars have argued that one effect of European integration on nationalist parties is their adoption of civic and inclusive criteria for territorial membership, and the need to emphasise their progressive pro-European credentials (Lynch 1996; Keating 2003). It has become important for minority nationalists to ‘play’ the European ideological ‘game’, which has been shaped by political dialogue at the EU level. This was evident in the discourse of the SNP and Psd’Az, both members of the European Free Alliance. These parties advocate principles and themes common to those of the EU – such as support for free trade, diversity and multiculturalism – and a pro-European ideology is important for them to be perceived as credible.

    However, as these cases have shown, it is certainly not the case for all parties. We have examined how Indipendentzia Repubrica de Sardigna, Sardignia Natzione and the Scottish Socialist Party (not strictly a minority nationalist party, but seeking independence) have used the language of anti-colonialism to frame their claims for independence, and have strongly objected to the perceived neoliberal policies of the EU. In a different vein, the Bayernpartei has shunned all attempts to ‘internationalise’ its language, indeed, its vision of the Bavarian Heimat is closed, homogenous and xenophobic.

    Finally, the CSU, which is not considered to form part of the ‘minority nationalist’ family, but who nevertheless has articulated a nationalist vision of society and maximum autonomy for the nation, has escaped pressures to advance a civic nationalist discourse. For the CSU, membership of the Bavarian Heimat is based on ethnic or ascriptive criteria, which excludes immigrants and foreigners. These findings therefore falsify the hypothesis that substate parties will become more ‘Euro-friendly’ as parties gain greater participation in European affairs and networks, as some clearly continue to have closed visions of the nation, whilst others oppose free trade.

    The preceding argument indicates that substate party responses to Europe not only diverge across cases, but also across time. The next section attempts to explain why the potency of a Europe of the Regions came and went during the 1990s. Three stages in the evolution of substate party goals in Europe are identified: 1979-87, a period characterised by nationalist and left-wing animosity to the European project and a focus on the state as the ‘giver’ of autonomy; 1988-95 when the idea of a regionalised Europe led to a convergence of party demands for autonomy in Europe; and 1996-2005, when the failure of the Europe of the Regions caused parties to revert back to state-focused strategies, but this time seeking more autonomy from Europe.

    In the first period, from 1979 to 1987, parties became more involved in European issues owing to the introduction of direct elections to European Parliament. At this point, the constitutional goals of parties were not yet tied to project of European integration. Instead, territorial demands were channelled to the state. At the same time, regional elites were involved in striking bargains with the centre to achieve more influence over state and regional policy-making. Here, the focus was on trading off autonomy for more access to, and resources from the state. This state-centred focus was to change with the deepening of European integration and the rising popularity of a ‘Europe of the Regions’.

    In the second period, from 1987-1995, the growing trend towards decentralisation began to satisfy constitutional demands for regional autonomy. At the same time, it appeared that an alternative form of autonomy was available to political parties previously seeking independence, which amounted to a special place in a ‘Europe of the Regions’. The regionalisation debates in Europe also encouraged a response from other parties in substate political systems – those federalist or pro-centralist parties with little or no previous claims to autonomy. The opportunities presented by Europe seemed to offer a third way between independence and centralism. Parties viewed Europe not only as a new context for exercising autonomy, but also a centre from which to secure resources, in particular the structural funds. The overriding philosophy at this point was ‘let us in’. But this reasoning, and the strategies that accompanied it, was unsustainable.

    During the last period, from 1996 to 2005, parties began to question whether their territorial strategies could be met in Europe, particularly due to the continuing weakness of the CoR and their failure to obtain guarantees for regional recognition in the European constitution. The apparent ‘closing’ of opportunities for regions to act in Europe put an end to cross-party consensus on pursuing regional autonomy in Europe, with many nationalist parties reverting back to previous positions. As opportunities appeared to dwindle away, some parties began to fall back on state channels, whilst others began taking more Eurosceptical positions, such as the SNP, CSU and the new wave of Sardinian nationalist parties. The ‘closing’ of opportunities for regional action in Europe caused parties to revert back to previous state-centred positions: seeking more access to, resources from, or protection by the state in order to ward off unwanted European influences.

    Mapping Autonomy Strategies

    We may now construct three typologies that plot the autonomy strategies of substate parties in relation to domestic constitutional change against their attitudes towards European integration. During the first period, from 1979-87 (Figure 1) nationalist parties in Scotland and Bavaria both adopted anti-EU positions, seeking independence outside Europe. The Psd’Az is the exception: in 1979 it was both pro-independence and pro-European. The FDP supported state federalism within an overarching federal European structure, whilst the Scottish LibDems, the UDC and the CSU supported a more decentralised type of European federalism, which would recognise regional identities and allow for divergence amongst regions.

    The Bavarian Greens were the first supporters of a ‘Europe of the Regions’ in 1979, based on the grounds of stateless nations’ rights to recognition. Finally, both centre-left and centre-right parties in Scotland and Sardinia were unsympathetic to demands for either regionalisation or federalism during this time. Where they differ is that whilst the Left (the PCI, PSI and SLP) were sceptical of European integration, the Right (the Scottish Conservatives and Movimento Sociale Italiano—predecessor of the AN) were pro-European integration, primarily viewing integration in an economic sense.

    The most striking issue in the period 1988-95 (Figure 2) was the clustering of demands for a Europe of the Regions, which was put forward by Christian Democrat, left-wing, Green and Liberal parties. Thus, the Left adopted a pro-autonomy and pro-European position simultaneously. At the same time, support for a Europe of the Regions was most strongly associated with devolution by the Labour Party in Scotland, and with decentralising federalism by the CSU and the UDC and Psd’Az in Sardinia. But whilst the Psd’Az fully embraced the idea of a federal Europe of the Peoples, other nationalist parties, namely the SNP and BP, only briefly flirted with the idea of a regionalised Europe.

    Instead, their positions were more strongly characterised by their repositioning as more pro-European parties and their adoption of the policy of independence in Europe. The Bavarian Greens at this point began to drop their commitment to a Europe of the Regions, in response to the CSU’s monopolisation of the term, and reverted back to demands for a decentralised federal Europe that did not have a specifically ‘regionalist’ dimension. Meanwhile, the regional Right remained committed to state integration of the territory, or unionism, within a state-dominated Europe.

    In this final period, party families splintered unevenly across a range of dimensions. The Scottish Conservatives moved to a pro-devolution position. The Italian Left abandoned its commitment to unitarism, and split into groups supporting either a centralised federal Italy within a regionalised or intergovernmental Europe. In particular, both the Sardinian Project and the DS favoured cooperative federalism in Italy based on grounds of social solidarity. Meanwhile, the RC’s desired European construct was more similar to that of the Psd’Az: it sought a regionalised Europe (a ‘Europe of the Peoples’) that recognised the Sard identity. But as for the structure of the Italian state within a regionalised Europe, the RC sided with other centre-left parties in Italy in arguing for a form of cooperative federalism, whilst the Psd’Az – like the CSU – favoured greater policy divergence for regions in Europe.

    Meanwhile, the Italian Right advanced proposals for ‘devolution’, but this actually meant continuing regional structural dependence on state finances for the Sardinian branches. The AN, whilst officially endorsing ‘devolution’ remained sceptical of decentralising more powers to the regions, and has elsewhere reconfirmed its commitment to national unity and state integration; the FI, however, does endorse a competitive federalism that allows for regional divergence. Bavarian opposition parties meanwhile dropped the concept of a Europe of the Regions and reverted to supporting a supranational Europe, which was part of their strategy of opposing Bavarian centralisation, and their new emphasis on communal decentralisation.

    The CSU also dropped the idea of a Europe of the Regions, and instead concentrated on winning a clear demarcation of competences between Europe, the states and the Länder in a decentralised competitive Europe. To protect its competences, though, the CSU argued for a strengthening of the states in Europe, rather than strengthening of the regions in Europe (thus it moved to supporting an intergovernmental Europe, though this also means strengthening the regions within the state). One can also identify a clustering of old and new socialist, green and nationalist independence-seeking parties against Europe during the last period, which is mainly due to their frustration with the limitations for regional action in Europe.

    These figures indicate a number of important developments in territorial responses to Europe. They show the negative response of minority nationalist parties to the closing of opportunities for regional action, many of whom have adopted pro-independence and Eurosceptical positions, whilst the CSU (as a Christian Democrat, but also an autonomist party) also became jaded with the possibilities of direct participation in Europe, and reverted back to lobbying within the state for more Land powers and protection. It is evident that the regional Left during the last period has lost its cohesiveness as a party family, with regional socialist and social-democratic parties taking up a range of positions from independence outside Europe, to more fiscal autonomy in a federal or regional Europe, to a Europe of the Communes. Likewise, the regional Right adopted a variety of positions, endorsing federalism, devolution and fiscal autonomy. The LibDems have been consistent in demands for a federal Europe, though there are differences between parties on the type of federalism sought, and the rights and recognition the regions should have. Finally, whilst the Greens in Bavaria moved from support to a Europe of the Regions that recognised the rights of minority nations to opposing regional centralisation, the Scottish Greens contrarily support the goal of independence for Scotland, to be exercised outside Europe until EU structures are reformed.

    Explaining Variation

    Based on the case analyses, we can also identify a number of spatial variables that have affected parties’ territorial strategies in Europe. These are categorised as:
    (1) access to European institutions and organisations,
    (2) local party competition,
    (3) economic resources and
    (4) constraints of state structures.

    With regard to the first variable, whilst Scottish and Bavarian parties have relatively strong representation in Europe, in terms of their seats in the European Parliament, CoR, and involvement in RegLeg, Sardinia is unable to elect its own MEP. Parties ability to access European institutions directly affects their ability to affect the development of agendas at the European level.

    The second variable is economic resources. Parties operating in rich regions can mobilise the population around programmes that increase the region’s autonomy to act in European markets without fear of losing economic protection by the state. In particular, for parties seeking independence in Europe, it is important that they make their projects economically viable. This is a problem in poorer regions, whereby the territory’s dependence on state resources may undermine demands for independence. The SNP only began its electoral rise after it was able to mount an economic case for independence, based on North Sea oil revenues, whilst the Psd’Az was unable to mount such a case in Sardinia.

    Third, local party competition affects territorial strategies. Electorally and politically significant parties have been able to set the territorial agenda in the region, and other parties must respond to this. This has been the case for the CSU and the SNP, who both adopted strong European platforms. But if there’s no strong nationalist party in the territory, the territorial dimension of party competition will be determined by statewide parties, which has been the case in Sardinia. Finally, the development and pursuit of territorial strategies in Europe is affected by state constraints. Regions have different capacities to legislate and to influence state policy on Europe. For instance, the Bavarian government has access to German’s European policy-making through the Bundesrat; the Scottish Executive contributes to the UK negotiating line in Europe through intergovernmental channels, and the Sardinian Junta has been pressing for greater regional representation in Italian intra-state institutions, though this has been slow in coming.


    To conclude, during the mid-1990s, almost all of the parties examined in these three cases adopted the goal of a Europe of the Regions, which was used to support a variety of territorial projects, including constitutional goals (being linked to federalism, devolution and independence), socioeconomic goals (access to European structural funding) and protectionism (pushing back European competences). Thus, despite facing similar opportunities and challenges in Europe, regional responses to European integration varied widely. Whilst some regional parties viewed Europe as an alternative framework to the state for advancing their autonomy, others perceived integration as a threat, and sought to strengthen the state to prevent Europe from encroaching on their competences. Moreover, substate parties have advanced diverse understandings of ‘Europe’, either as a set of opportunity structures or constraints for territorial interests.

    But the most striking aspect of this case study analysis is that parties have almost continuously changed their positions on Europe, in particular, becoming more Eurosceptical when they believed their demands were not being met. The increasing sense of Euro-scepticism surrounding the draft European Constitution, evident especially in Scotland and Bavaria, indicates that parties have loosened the ties between autonomy claims and the evolving regionalisation project, and have moved back to more Eurosceptical positions. This demonstrates the instrumental nature of substate party support for integration. The adoption of these ‘European’ terms by substate parties was often tactical, as was the adoption of a ‘pro-European’ attitude more generally – for some parties it was clearly motivated by the desire to receive resources, increase influence and to be accepted into European party families, rather than demonstrating long-term attitudinal change.

    To that end, Europeanisation can be understood as a strategy by parties to manipulate the dimensions of a given political issue – be it autonomy, economic resources or protectionism – at the local, state or European levels. This is evident in the discourse of nationalist parties, which have become more critical of European integration, owing to the realisation that some European directives threaten territorial interests, whilst regional branches of statewide parties have begun to re-emphasise the benefits of state unity. This means that the decade just passed may end up be remembered as a fleeting phase of cross-party convergence regarding the aims of autonomy in a Europe of the Regions, amidst a general era when the constitutional aims of substate parties were clearer – with those seeking independence and other forms of self-determination on one side and the rest devising strategies to prevent this from happening on the other.

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