The German Länder and the European constitutional treaty: Heading for a differentiated theory of regional elite preferences for European integration

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Series Details Vol.16, No.1, March 2006, p21-41
Publication Date March 2006
ISSN 1359-7566
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Theorizing subnational and supranational relationship in the EU has been mired by what can be called the ‘homogeneity assumption’: most analyses firmly, if often only implicitly, presume identical preferences of the various regional actors in an individual member state. As a starting point for analysing regions and local authorities in the EU such a supposition was probably justified and certainly had its merits. Today, however, neglecting intra-national heterogeneity and confining our concepts of regional–supranational exchange to the borders of the nation states seem increasingly problematic. More precisely, not going beyond the country-specific features of subnational authorities may pose a serious obstacle for discovering generalizable characteristics in the relationship between regions or local authorities and the EU which, in turn, would be needed to broaden understanding of the emerging European polity. By analysing the preferences of the German Länder – a group of subnational actors which presumably belongs to the most homogeneous set of regional actors in the EU – as regards the European constitutional debate, this article confirms a growing heterogeneity of regional predilections. In an attempt to systematize the inductively collected evidence, four hypotheses for further empirical testing are developed in order to contribute to the discussion about how to work out a more differentiated theory of regional elite support for European integration. As it turns out, the hitherto neglected dimension of party politics appears to bear great potential to explain regional action relating to European integration.

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