In October 2020, “European Regions – Perspectives, Trends and Developments in the 21st Century” edited by Elisabeth Donat, Sarah Meyer and Gabriele Abels was published. In the following review, Sara Kikić summarizes scope and contributions of the volume.
European regions have undergone significant changes in recent decades, whether it concerned their definition as a political unit or dealing with the immediate impact of the manifold European crises of the last years. Therefore, studying European regions and their role within the political and legal framework of the EU governance system demands a multifaceted perspective to fully cope with the research object’s complexity.
Thus, the editors Elisabeth Donat, Sarah Meyer and Gabriele Abels embedded their latest publication “European Regions – Perspectives, Trends and Developments in the 21th Century” in a multidisciplinary set-up. The volume wants to contribute to the reflection and study of the various regional responses to these challenges across Europe. By collecting contributions from political science, sociology as well as legal studies, this book aims to gather different viewpoints from several social sciences disciplines and takes into account the challenges of European regions facing a constantly changing environment.
The first section of this volume is dedicated to the fundamental question of regional identity in the context of regional and European politics. Elisabeth Donat and Katrin Praprotnik both discuss compatibility of regional identity with European identity, better known as “nested identities” but also question how strong and self-confident regions would behave in a “Europe of Regions”. Camille Dobler showcases the multiplexity of collective identities and the significance of boundaries regarding this matter by elaborating the example of the Strasbourg border region.
Leaving the individual level of citizens, the next section addresses the legal and political manifestations of regionalism in several EU member states. Karl Kössler, Andreas Rahmatian as well as Roland Sturm portray the manifold implications of (strong) regional identities being reflected on the level of constitutions, policy-making and political behaviour of respective regional parties.
Through different approaches, the third part of the book examines a major contact point between the EU and the regional level – the EU regional investment programmes. While Fabian Landes analyses the interrelations of territorial investment and regional identity, Moritz Neujeffski dissects the European Structural and Investments Funds in context of the global financial crisis. With the comparison of two EU-funded cross-border cooperations, Urszula Roman-Kamphaus illustrates the importance of factoring in the cultural circumstances when assessing the policy effectiveness of these cooperations.
The final section of the book takes a step back from looking at specific regions, effects of regional identity or regionalism and reflects on the overall concept of ‘Europe of the regions’. Justus Schönlau outlines the contribution of the Committee of the Regions in not only fostering the institutionalisation of multilevel governance but also the legitimacy of the European integration project in general. In contrast, Claire Wallace’s analysis points towards the abandonment of the ‘European dream’ and the rising national and regional identification of citizens. To revive the concept of ‘Europe of the regions’, Ulrike Guérot advocates in her chapter for a ‘European republic’ based on the principle of equality before the law, as the current state of EU policy-making is dominated by member states and does not leave a lot of scope for action to the regions.
Besides the interdisciplinary approach of this anthology, what is particular are the questions and observations made related to collective, namely regional, identity, which appear as a recurrent theme throughout many contributions. With this leitmotiv being picked up, a framework is built for the contributions’ various questions dealing with the European regions’ abilities and possible limitations in perceiving and shaping their role within the EU’s legal and political structure. Moreover, the individual chapters provide detailed insights into regional responses to the political, economic and social challenges of the last decade. This book is highly recommended to everyone who looks for a holistic approach in better understanding the increasing relevance of European regions as a political actor within the EU multilevel governance.
Donat, Elisabeth, Meyer, Sarah and Abels, Gabriele (2020): European Regions. Perspectives, Trends and Developments in the 21st Century.
Extent: 252 pp
Contributors: C. Dobler, E. Donat, U. Guérot, K. Kössler, F. Landes, S. Meyer, M. Neujeffski, K. Praprotnik, A. Rahmatian, U. Roman-Kamphaus, R. Sturm, J. Schönlau, C. Wallace,