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Local Government Influence on EU Decision-making: Evidence from the EU Roma Policy of the City of Ghent

Tom Verhelst

Since the 1990s, we have witnessed a strong multiplication of the interactions between cities and the EU. While local government has become directly affected by many EU policies and regulations, the top-down impact from the EU has triggered a shift in the behaviour of local authorities towards EU policy-making in return. In fact, it is often stated that the Europeanization of local government implies a new opportunity-structure for local authorities, offering a new array of possibilities to influence the European decision-making process in order to promote local interests (De Rooij, 2002). Such bottom-up dimension accordingly considers the EU as a new policy arena in which subnational authorities can actively pursue their demands and wishes, instead of an upper-level authority which only commands its subordinate administrations (Fleurke & Willemse, 2006). In line with this bottom-up perspective of local level Europeanization research, our paper draws on a case study to examine how local government can be successful in its attempts to influence the European decision-making process. The case represents the coordinated actions of the Belgian city of Ghent to influence the EU's policy on Roma migration on both an individual and collective basis (i.e. mainly via the Eurocities network). More specifically, the paper applies a theory-building process-tracing approach (Beach & Pedersen, 2013) to design a causal model of lobby success in the particular context of local government lobbying at EU level. Insights from general interest group politics as well as local politics and Europeanization studies underpin this endeavour.



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