Martin Gross, Marc Debus
EU regional policy and the support for European integration among political parties

MZES-Workshop "Vices and Virtues of Decentralization: Challenges in European multi-level Democracies", MZES, Mannheim, November 25th to November 26th, 2016

A large number of studies in comparative politics demonstrate the impact of European integration on political decision-making in EU member states as well as in countries that wish to join the EU. What is surprisingly missing is a comparative analysis of how EU support affects the European policy preferences of parties from those regional units which directly benefit from EU funding. This paper aims at analysing whether the EU regional development programme contributes to setting up support for EU institutions and European integration and thus strengthens the whole ‘European idea’ among political parties. To answer this research question, we analyse election manifestos of parties acting on the regional level in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK. The results show that the positions of parties on European integration and EU regional policy become more positive if the parties represent regions that benefitted from EU regional funds. Changes of EU regional funding, however, do not have an impact on sub-national party positions. The empirical findings have implications for political representation on the regional level and EU multi-level governance.