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Workshop 2

Local and regional governments in the age of Europeanisation and globalisation: legal and policy options in a multi-level polity

  • prof. dr. Ramses Wessel and prof. dr. Michiel Heldeweg
Over the past decade, globalisation and global governance have become central themes, not just in international relations and politics, but also in the study of international and national law. The reason may well be, as Kruisch and Kingsbury hold, that “central pillars of the international legal order are seen from a classical perspective as increasingly challenged: the distinction between domestic and international law becomes more precarious, soft forms of rule-making are ever more widespread, the sovereign equality of states is gradually undermined […].” Indeed, many of these themes feature in current research programmes. Domestic legal systems – traditionally, by definition, caught in national logic – increasingly recognise the influence of international and transnational regulation and law-making on their development.
The expansion of international and European law and policy, as well as the related need to implement ever more international rules, are not restricted to national governments, but increasingly affect the regional and local administrative levels. The interactions between national and international legal and political spheres, including the European sphere for EU Member States, have intensified and gained increased visibility over the last few years. It is becoming ever more difficult to draw dividing lines between the administrative levels: international decisions increasingly come to play a role in national (and EU) legal orders, whereas national (and EU) legal developments are exerting a bottom-up influence on the evolution of the international legal order. In political science and public administration, the well-known phenomenon of interacting and partly overlapping policy spheres is usually referred to as multilevel governance. These phenomena involve important questions concerning the location of power, the sharing of responsibility, the legitimacy of decisions and decision takers, and the accountability to citizens and organizations in different national, sub-national and international settings. With its focus on the strict division between the (sub-)national legal orders and the international and European legal order, legal science has largely ignored the multilevel governance perspective offered by political scientists. Nevertheless, rules are increasingly made at the international and European level. From a legal perspective, the interactions between global, European and national regulatory spheres thus pointed to the phenomenon of “multilevel regulation.” (Follesdal, Wessel, Wouters, 2008). We understand “regulation” in a broad sense here, referring to the setting of rules, standards or principles that govern conduct by public and/or private actors. Whereas “rules” are the most constraining and rigid, “standards” leave a greater range of choice or discretion, while “principles” are still more flexible, leaving scope to balance a number of (policy) considerations.
This workshop will focus on the restraints and possibilities for regional and local governments to act in a multilevel setting. We particularly aim to look for innovations in governance where the direct relation between regional and local governments and the international and European administrative levels is concerned. We therefore welcome papers which address problems and (practical) solutions related to the following topics:
  • the representation of regional and local governments in European and international fora;
  • the extent to which regional and local governments in both EU member states and non-EU member states are confronted with international and European rules;
  • national solutions to take the views and interests of regional and local governments into account in international affairs;
  • possibilities for regional and local governments to act as ‘autonomous’; actors in international and European affairs;
  • possibilities for European and international fora to improve the quality of local and regional governance in general and the capacity of these subnational governments to promote the interests of their citizens at the supranational level in particular.

See also relevant COE Documents

See the papers (select papers ws2... for this workshop)