Regions as Political Actors in the Process of European Integration (REGE)
The empirical comparative research project started to investigate the changing role of regions in European affairs and how it interrelates with transformations in the pattern of European governance. The starting hypothesis was that the particular type of "pro active regionalism" that was advocated by regions and Community organs alike might give more political weight to regional actors but will not substantially change the constitutional set-up of the European polities. We rather assumed that the upgrading of regions will be closely linked to the expansion of transnational networks and the dissemination of patterns of co operative governance. Starting from this hypothesis the national constitutional setting of a region, endowing it with rights and administrative capacities and the competitiveness of the regional economy are highly relevant. The analysis showed that there is an overwhelming conceptional and cognitive convergence among the regional actors in all nine regions. The - not at least from the EU - propagated philosophy of public-private partnership in joint problem-solving and a new mode of dialogue-oriented governing by co-operation is widely shared. But Cognitive convergence is not reflected in similar interaction structures between regional actors within the two regions analysed. We rather found a divergence of decision-making structures, which could be explained by different regional policy styles. In addition it could be shown in the project, that beside the constitutional setting of the regions and their competitiveness in socio-economical terms, the capacity of the regions to act made a difference in their ability to present their interests at the European level. Given a decrease in resources and the stability of the capacity to act a rising competition among the regions will result in growing divergence among regions.