A Europe of (Macro-)Regions – the Alpine Macro-Regional Strategy and Sub-National Self-Empowerment

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
JWS - Room J7 (J361) (University of Glasgow)
Melanie Plangger , Department of Political Science, University of Innsbruck
In the 1990s, visions of a “Europe of the regions” accompanied the strengthening of the sub-national level in the European Union. However, researchers and policy-makers alike soon found a continuing dominance of the national level. Neither the Committee of the Regions nor the role of sub-national authorities in structural policy sustainably challenged the territorial hierarchy. Nonetheless, sub-national authorities continued to build up various channels at the European scale. They did not just profit from the European Union as an opportunity structure, but strategically used the European institutions and processes to strengthen their position. While research has illuminated sub-national channels of representation and influence, systematic accounts of the exploitation of the European Union are largely missing.

The paper explores the strategic use of European structures in the field of territorial cooperation. The new instrument of macro-regional strategies offers a window of opportunity for sub-national authorities as it locates a strategically oriented territorial cooperation at the European level. Specifically, the paper examines the Alpine macro-regional strategy. Building on a document analysis and qualitative interviews, the paper shows how sub-national authorities in the Alpine space used the European Union framework to create functional, political and financial opportunities. Linkages with European institutions, European policy discourses and the alignment of European funds offered them distinct possibilities to take control over the governance of their territories. The conclusions imply that thirty years after the rise of a regional vision of Europe, the Alpine macro-regional strategy provides a realm for the potential self-empowerment of sub-national authorities.

  • A Europe of macro-regions_The Alpine macro-regional strategy and sub-national self-empowerment.pdf (1.1 MB)