Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

In Search of Emerging Polities: Thematic Agendas of Selected European Cross-Border Cooperation Structures

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

In Search of Emerging Polities: Thematic Agendas of Selected European Cross-Border Cooperation Structures

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The increase of cross-border cooperation (CBC) has become an established feature of the European economic space. From small to large-scale initiatives, CBC structures encompass around 41% of the European Union's (EU) total inhabitants and 60% of its territory (Medeiros 2015) and benefit from most of the allocated funds for the European Territorial Cooperation objective, with ca. 6 billion Euros spent over 6,000 projects in the previous (2007-2013) programming period (Deffaa 2014). The overwhelming evidence (see also AEBR 2012, p. 1) lends itself to some obvious questions: How much will CBC change the impact of national economic policies? Will it strengthen or weaken the role of the nation-state? The pace of accomplishing the EU single market, will it accelerate as a result? It is the objective of this paper to arrive at several answers by investigating the extent to which the CBC participating countries or regions act as de facto emerging polities.

The origins of statehood may have been grounded in basic catalysts of sovereignty like language and ethnicity, but the rise of the modern nation-state, as Wallerstein's (2011) investigation shows, has been possible by distilling (read: defending, regulating, and politicizing) more sophisticated components of a society's socio-political fabric like citizenship, race, or class. If one is to search at present for emerging polities in territories that get rid of instead of erecting division marks poses similar challenges. For one thing, the sovereign region is a product ideally consisting of a perfect match between its functional (operational) and administrative (political) functions in the same geographical area (Edwards 2007, p. 4). For another, to assess the optimal nature of this working, one has to have an in-depth look at the conditions of its viability as a separate unit of analysis. The existing studies point to three distinct yet co-existing layers of integration forces.

First, a policy space revolves around converging themes of common concern. The political objective is hardly changeable with any newly forming polity - e.g. the welfare improvement of its people - only the means to achieve it get modelled around the new rationale of administrative organisation at territorial level. The focus on regional issues asserts precedence over the national-level for local decision-makers and communities (Cnossen, 2003; VanNijnatten and Boychuk 2004), and gradually reshape the meaning of the classical determinants of belonging, identity and citizenship (Nadalutti 2014).

Second, an economic space forms around a single market able to support competitive advance and bring prosperity to its constituents. The 'Go global' credo may continue to play an important role in business internationalization and in making most of the advantages of global competition; success stories - Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Singapore to name just a few - serve as a permanent reminder about the vital role of external markets in fostering prosperity back home. However, from Linder (1961) to Porter (1990) to contemporary research on clusters and value chains, theorists have warned that all economic success stories are ultimately based on nurturing a competitive 'domestic' market where the economic actors learn how to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Local conditions of competitiveness such as immobile factors (e.g. territorial capital, tacit knowledge), taxation or lock-in attributes of specialization belong to an economic space that does not necessarily resemble the geographical contour of nationalstates any longer.

Third, a socio-cultural space based on shared customs and histories, social values, and work habits will continue to be a powerful force in defining a community. Intra-regional differences in what are now standard administrative units like federal or nation-states may not be a result of poorly designed macroeconomic policy but inadequate consideration of regional communalities. …

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