The EU Municipality
The network theme
The European Union is conspicuously absent in the local and regional public debates in the EU member states. Yet, during an average week in a local government, the European Union is highly present on the decision-making agenda. For instance, in the Nordic countries somewhere between 50 and 60 percent of the local decisions are, in one way or another, influenced by, or related to the EU. Street-level bureaucrats find themselves interpreting EU rules into changing daily routines in everyday administration, ranging from rules for procurement to food regulations for schools and environmental regulations in urban planning.
This relationship also goes the other way: many local governments have established well-oiled machineries for “lobbying” in Brussels. Some have even established their own Brussels offices. Local governments appoint members to the EU’s Committee of the Regions, and a group of large cities have joined forces through Eurocities in order to influence the political agenda of the EU. To this end, they have attracted highly professional staff to exert influence on EU affairs, both to make the sub-national voice heard outside the national borders and to secure successful funding from regional funds and infrastructure projects financed by the European Union.
As a result, it is arguably at the sub-national level that the European citizens continuously “meet” the Union the in mundane, down-to-earth, and everyday situations. These meetings are often indirect and channelled via local governments’ interpretations. But sometimes these meetings are also more direct, such as municipalities' participation in EU policy making (often bypassing national governments and parliaments), youth participation in EU-funded projects, research funding for academics, or funding for cultural events. Taken together, these everyday meetings are of legal, economic, politic and cultural nature, but both looser and considerably closer to the people than many of the “grand decisions” occasionally taken in the media spotlight in Brussels.
At the same time, and while the EU’s “grand decisions” are – at best – sometimes part of the national public debate, the presence of the European Union at the sub-national level is often invisible for the citizens. This presence is rarely mentioned by those holding public offices. It is rarely communicated in these public institutions’ own information. It is rarely covered by local media or the education system. And, it is only rarely addressed by researchers.
Our proposed multidisciplinary approach sets out to analyse this “interface” between the EU and the local communities in several ways. By pointing the searchlight on the everyday dimension, we seek to broaden the debate on how to understand and analyse the nexus of power and influence in – and of – the EU. Our focus is not on ‘grand decisions’ and voting in EU elections. Instead we place, on centre stage, questions about knowledge/information, political discretion, education, citizen participation and influence in relation to the EU dimension at the local level.
We aim to capture and combine ideas from different fields in the academic world, in order to develop a more up-to-date anaysis of the societal effects of having a growing amount of shared EU norms, rules, procedures, and values transcending the societies within the EU. In doing so, we are challenging the traditional notions of hierarchy and the divide between national and international politics, while also allowing the boundaries between different disciplines to coalesce.
For more information, contact the network convenors:
E-mail: dalia [dot] mukhtar-landgren [at] svet [dot] lu [dot] se
E-mail: maria [dot] stromvik [at] svet [dot] lu [dot] se