Local and Regional Governance in Finland A Study on Institutionalisation, Transformation and Europeanization

Michael Kull

Abstract


Europeanization has become a popular concept among scholars of European studies. It orchestrates concepts from European integration theory, comparative politics and public policy analysis and links the field of European studies with other academic fields. Empirically, it is used for studying the impact of membership in the European Union (EU) on domestic policy making. As far as the country and region this article deals with, namely Finland and the Nordic countries, are concerned, only a few studies have been produced. Institutionally, Finland does not yet have an independent administrative mesolevel and the central state controls agencies and institutions at the regional level, such as the Employment and Economic Development Centres and the State Provincial Offices. The Regional Councils - some scholars see them as coming closest to being "real regions" - were created after Finland joined the EU in 1995 and have been empowered thereafter but, according to some practitioners, sometimes fail to act as coordinators of different actors in the regions. In implementing public policies, the status of actors in regional governance depends on the willingness of the central state to loosen its grip but also on the willingness of regional actors to cooperate with each other. There are differences in terms of power potentials in regional governance. As concerns the implementation of ERDF-funds, in the view of some scholars and practitioners, the central state by no means easily vacates its powerful position. A contrast is rural policy and LEADER+, where the so-called local action groups can act fairly well outside the shadow of the hierarchy.

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