The AER Observatory on Regionalisation (Enrico Martial and Alexandre Brecx) took part on 21 April 2016 in the first Jean Monnet seminar in Lille focusing on the heterogeneity of the regions inside the EU. French author Edith Lormel wrote about the main findings in an interesting article recently published on the website La documentation française. The article makes a review of the main conclusions of the seminar, which can be summarised in two main ideas:
a) the diversity of European regions makes it impossible to apply a general rule.
This diversity has its roots on the different situations member states were when they joined the EU, but also on the diverse reaction of these member states to the European policies that aim to promote subsidiarity and to encourage regions to take a more active role, as a level that is closer to citizens and potentially could reduce the distortions caused by the big differences existing among countries inside the EU. Some countries have as a result adopted a regional, decentralised model of state (e.g Poland, Netherlands, Germany, Austria) while others are zealously protecting the role of a central state (e.g Romania, Portugal) or alternate measures that go in favour and against a strong regional level in their territories (e.g. Italy, France). Finally we find countries in Europe where the existence of pro-independence forces interfere with the process of regionalisation and create a resistance in the central governments to advance (this can be the case of UK with Scotland, Spain with Euskadi and Catalunya, and Belgium). The fact that a new independent state would need to go through the complete accession process without guarantee of being accepted by all MS has been successfully used as an argument against the independence in the Scottish referendum.
b) the increasing importance of metropolitan areas create a challenge for the regions.
The last 15 years have seen the metropolitan areas claiming a role in integrating territories at expense of municipal or provincial competences, and competing with the regions in some cases. This competition should be left aside to take advantage of potential synergies that will come out of the articulation of the pairing Metropole-Region; this is already happening in some small countries such as The Netherlands.
The seminar presented as well the result of the work of a group of students from the University of Lille 1 on the conditions which make the regional level efficient and therefore relevant in Europe:
- Legitimacy: given by the state and confirmed by the European Union through the Committee of the Regions and European funding for projects.
- Capacity: which depends on its competences (depending on the level of decentralisation), its economic muscle, the availability of financial resources, and the geography of the region.
- Identity: rooted on historical traits, or acquired through economical success in a more dynamic conception of identity.
- Representation: a parliament is the traditional channel to listen to the voice of the citizens. However, more dynamic participation tools are becoming more and more important thanks to available technologies.
The meeting in Lille that is at the origin of this article was the first of a series of activities that aim to dissect the situation of the Regions in the EU. The next activity will take place on December 2016. If you want to refer to the article that gave origin to this post (in French): Edith Lhomel, «La régionalisation en Europe. Quelques pistes de réflexion», P@ges Europe, 1er juin 2016, La Documentation française © DILA
Learn more about AER’s Observatory on Regionalisation.