On Tuesday the 29th of January at 2pm Gerd Koehler will present "The regionalist Challenge to Supranationalism" in Taylor Building Room D48. The following is a description of Gerd's essay by Jo Shaw:
The theme of the relations between the EU, the Member States and the regions is taken up again by Gerd Koehler. He identifies the risk that supranationalism, far from fostering regionalism, might also hinder its development. Taking a more EU-centric approach, Koehler submits the existing arrangements to a close legal analysis, identifying the difficulties for regions and substate nations when they raise claims to better representation and voice within the European Union political system.
And below is Gerd's summary of the issues. Comments are welcome.
The essay presents the inherent conflict between regionalism and the nature of the European Union as expressed in its structure. Both of the latter, nature and structure, have changed over time from an international to the current supranationalist organisation. Since the 1990s changes were also made in order to accommodate regionalism. The remaining nature of the Union as one of States, however, rather than an independent legal-political entity confines the EU to neutrality towards its Member States’ internal structure and relying on nationally determined territorial bodies. Therefore, regions have uneven powers and resources. This, in turn, hampers the existing regionalist features, thus facilitating centralisation arguments.
The essay examines the existing regionalist features in detail:
Amongst the decision-making institutions the Council is the one based on spatial representation. It is, however, the Member States through their central governments that are represented. The regionalist movement achieved that regional representatives may act on behalf of the whole state in the Council. However, this depends on respective national provisions. Furthermore, even where such provisions are in place they comprise an inherent bias towards representation of national rather than regional interests.
The Committee of the Regions was specifically created to represent regional interests on EU level. Yet, it plays an advisory role only. In addition, its composition of an abundance of structurally uneven interests from different local and regional levels weakens the Committee with regard to substantive decisions. This weakness leads some regions to pursue their interests through other, non-institutionalised channels.
Whilst the principle of subsidiarity was originally adopted in order to ‘bring the Union closer to its citizens’ and as such hoped to champion regionalism, it does not even mention the regional level in its present form. The amendments by the Lisbon ‘Reform Treaty’ refer to regions yet leave the decision-making obligations with the Member States. Circumstantial evidence suggests that in this scenario regional input is not sufficiently guaranteed. Especially in Member States without a regional Parliamentary Chamber, devolution of decision-making to the regional level is not guaranteed. The ensuing unevenness may raise concerns of inconsistent implementation, so that the subsidiarity principle would demand a central decision on either EU or Member State level.
Depending on their powers and resources under national law some regions successfully established non-institutionalised channels to influence decision-making. Again, this inherently provides for uneven regional representation. Institutionalised channels like the Committee of the Regions may thus be seen as representing a minority only. This weakens the committee and, incidentally, the weaker regions that do not have the power or resources to make representations in Brussels. Commission consultation appears to concentrate on stakeholders, thus excluding regional authorities as part of state structures.
A structural response to these deficiencies of the present regionalist approach would have to make regions more equal. Whilst the EU cannot interfere with the internal structure of its Member States, it could grant rights to regions directly.
Further details of our programme for the coming weeks will be posted soon.