Local and regional parliaments, assemblies and institutions are important bodies of European integration. Through various political structures, they have the capacity to either accelerate or slow down integration processes on a European level. Local and regional authorities do not only implement legislation and manage the distribution of public funds, they also connect citizens and policy at large. It is on the local and regional level that political processes are directly experienced, which is of increasing importance in times of complex global challenges and political alienation of the individual citizen.
Yet, although regional institutions increasingly cooperate horizontally on the European level and often stand to legitimize European policy, they are a rare subject of scientific study and are largely absent from the debate on a democratic renewal of the European Union. Recent events, like movements for independence in Scotland and Catalonia, however, illustrate the relevance of the regional level for European integration. In addition, Europe’s regional institutions could provide answers for some of today’s most pressing democratic issues: fairer representation of citizens’ interest, more political participation and spaces to identify with, both local and European. Strengthening inclusive and open democratic decision-making in smaller settings such as regions could increase trust in the political system as a whole.
In order to grasp the relevance of regional parliaments and assemblies for European integration, our research project aims to first analyse the current role of regional democratic institutions in European integration. In a second step, we aim to encourage local and regional policymakers to further develop and shape new modes of European governance in which local and regional representation is enhanced and democratic inclusion becomes more participatory.
The large-scale, multi-approach study is conducted in a collaboration of universities, think tanks, parliamentary assemblies and other stakeholders: Universities of excellence with a wide repertoire of tools for academic analysis, think tanks, government consultancies and parliamentary assemblies throughout the EU combine their expertise to map the potential of European governance centred on its diverse regional and local entities. Danube-University Krems, Jagiellonian University in Kraków and the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at the University of Tübingen will assess the status quo of regional governance in Europe and expand the scholarly analysis on a variety of issues, including the participation and representation of regions in the EU as well as their relation to Europe in terms of identity formation. The European Democracy Lab at the European School of Governance (eusg) carries out focus groups at regional parliaments and assemblies to analyze regional actors’ current influence on European legislation, identify challenges and propose solutions towards a citizen-centred, decentralized Europe. The Berlin Centre of Social Sciences (WZB) accompanies the project with a wider evaluation on the impact of austerity policies on Europe‘s regions to contextualize the research into broader debates on the EU‘s long-championed economic policies.
REGIOPARL aims at gaining, documenting and publicly distributing a better understanding of the instruments, limits and potentials of the regional level as a bearer of European democracy. REGIOPARL wishes to systematically study, contextualize and explain the role of regional polities in European integration and thereby propose convincing solutions to the institutional and democratic challenges Europe is facing.