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Local Governments: Neglected Players Within European Integration?

Marius Guderjan

The European multi-level governance game has transformed power relations between all levels of government in Europe to a greater or lesser extent. National governments remain the key players in the EU policy-cycle, but their sovereignty has faced challenges not only from the European and regional levels of government, but also from cities, counties and municipalities. Although local actors and institutions have often been neglected in the academic discourse on European integration, they have emerged as meaningful players within the EU.The White Paper on Multi-level Governance, the Regional and Cohesion Policy, the Lisbon Agenda, Europe 2020 and not least the Lisbon Treaty, show a growing involvement by local authorities in the delivery of the EU’s policies and economic objectives. Municipalities do not only implement EU legislation and acquire funding, they also interact with European institutions, participate in transnational networks and co-operate with partners across Europe.As local-supranational relationships advance, this potentially adds a new quality to European integration in terms of legitimacy, identification and socio-economic policy outcomes. Whilst the macro-trajectories of the EU’s evolution depend on national governments, particularly in times of crisis, local governments contribute to an informal process of integration, bringing Europe closer together from its democratic grass-roots. The paper therefore, examines how the vertical and horizontal activities of local actors and institutions in England and Germany impact on the potential of local governments as emerging driving forces in European integration.

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