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The Added Value of Local Government Transnational Networking

Christopher Huggins

The 1990s saw a growth in local government networking across national borders. This was facilitated by a number of contextual factors and the availability of European funding schemes which attached transnational or cross-border co-operation to the eligibility criteria. Conceptually, the notions of policy networks and multi-level governance accounted for the ‘horizontal’ relationships which characterize this form of transnational co-operation by sub-state actors. Consequently, a body of academic literature focusing on this emerged during the 1990s.Contemporary research in this field, however, is scarce, but interest is now being renewed in the wake of public finance pressures and a rise in localism. Yet, there remain a number of issues with studies in this field. Chief among these is a heavy focus on the role of transnational networking and cross-border co-operation in obtaining funding. Given the extent of EU funding for transnational activity such a pre-occupation is to be expected, but it can lead to other important aspects being overlooked.Based on an analysis of local government documentation and interviews with local officials, this paper seeks to identify the rationale behind local government involvement in transnational networking and cross-border partnerships. It demonstrates that while this activity does indeed secure funding (and this is often the primary stated purpose for participation) there are many other benefits local authorities seek from this form of transnational co-operation. Among these ‘added value’ benefits are sharing knowledge, best practice and innovation with international counterparts and promoting local identities. By looking beyond funding motives a more detailed picture of local government networking and cross-border co-operation can be gained.

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