Horst Seehofer (CSU) called it his „most important achievement for Bavaria“, Gregor Gysi (DIE LINKE) however the creation of a „competitive federalism“. In Germany, reforms to the federal system over the last 15 years have reshuffled the cards between the German federal level and the sub-national one strongly. At least since the 1990s regional politics in Europe have been shaped by competition and location politics. Instruments such as inter-state fiscal adjustments or the European Regional Funds, that aim at regional cohesion, are more and more under critique. Yet, European regions are shaped by social and economic inequalities, which have intensified strongly since the financial crisis of 2008. Whereas the effects of austerity politics on social inequality and the reduction in welfare state programs (most important element for social security) are dealt with in political science, reforms of regional redistribution mechanisms in post-crisis Europe remain understudied.
That is where my PhD thesis in the project REGIOPARL focuses on. In the upcoming three and a half years I will investigate the interplay of austerity politics, regional inequalities and redistribution mechanism in a comparative manner. What role do inter-state fiscal adjustment programs play in times of financial crisis and how did austerity policies affect sub-national entities differently? Are regional redistribution programs able to retain a room of maneuver for regional governments during a crisis?
Besides economic turbulences, Europe has also seen an unprecedented rise of new political actors (often with populist tendencies). Yet also in this context regional variations in election turnouts and the growth of social movements remain largely unstudied. The second part of my project will, therefore, focus on the relation and regional variation between austerity policies and populist political forces in Europe and their policy proposals for reforming national and European redistribution mechanisms.
I will continuously publish recent results and updates from my PhD project on this blog. Stay tuned!