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No Frontiers

North-South integration in Ireland

The European canvas

Thomas Christiansen

Since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, Europe has been faced with what many view as a paradoxical development. On the one hand, there has been the demise of the Iron Curtain, a ‘Europe becoming one again’ after almost half a century of separation. The end of the cold war — and of the ideological, economic and physical divisions it had brought about — neatly coincided with the European Union’s ‘1992’ programme and the establishment of the European Economic Area, between them promising to remove all barriers to movements of people and goods in western Europe. A ‘borderless Europe’ seemed, in many of the commentaries at the time, to be at hand.

Yet this image of borders withering away in the process of integration can be contrasted with a parallel experience of increasing fragmentation. In eastern Europe and the Balkans, states have

fallen apart and their fragments reconstituted, creating new and often highly impenetrable borders. In the EU, states may have maintained their integrity, but devolution has increased internal differentiation and thus enhanced the significance of regional boundaries. The result is the rise of territorial competition in western Europe. Obviously, the question as to whether Europe is less divided than it used to be is impossible to answer in any straightforward way.

Yet what we are witnessing is not a paradox of simultaneous integration and fragmentation. Instead, we need to understand contemporary Europe as an area in which the nature of borders is undergoing fundamental change. The very concept of ‘border’ is being differentiated by function: economic, social, legal, political and identity spaces are increasingly bounded separately. A multitude of border functions previously subsumed by a single border — that of the ‘nation-state’ — are being dispersed over borders at a variety of territorial levels. As a result, there are many more borders in Europe, but the quality of individual borders — whether at the regional, state or supra-state level — is changing fundamentally.

There is a further change which is ultimately more significant: the new borders of Europe are not, like old borders, simply dividing lines between jurisdictions. They themselves become two-dimensional spaces and subsequently the object — at times even the subject — of policy-making processes. In other words, the effect of borders in the new Europe is both to divide regulatory spaces and to create new ones uniting policy-makers from either side.

While the new territorial politics of Europe are a significant and valuable departure from the traditional, state-centred perspective of sovereignty, some normative issues related to this transformation remain, however, unresolved.

he concept of ‘border’, of an absolute division into ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ is quintessentially modern — perhaps even one of the defining elements of modernity, not just in political but also in economic and social life. It certainly has defined the modern state system: the principle of territorial sovereignty, on which states base their legitimacy and power, is otherwise unthinkable. The significance of state borders will be evident to anyone in the modern world who has ever crossed one. Citizenship rights, investment subsidies, welfare payments, military defence, laws, media and so on — all the most crucial elements of modern, public life — end, and begin, at the border.

There are, of course, numerous exceptions and counter-trends. In post-war Europe, hardly any country has relied on its own borders for military defence. Instead, alliances of states have pledged to defend one another, within a common space defined exclusively by this security guarantee. Thus NATO’s area of operations pre-1989 was bordered by the Iron Curtain, the Mediterranean, the north pole and the Tropic of Cancer (NATO Handbook, 1995: 114). Below the ‘nation-state’, federations have always maintained within their territories different regulatory régimes. These have not been insignificant either. The border between one us state and another can, quite literally, be the dividing line between life and death: in roughly half, the criminal code provides for capital punishment.

For those taking a second look it is easy to see, therefore, that non-state borders matter — not just in economic and social affairs, often regulated by ‘soft law’, but also with respect to the ‘high politics’ of peace and war, crime and punishment. And yet, despite such obvious trends towards internal and external differentiation, state borders continue to be regarded as the sole or ultimate dividing line.

State borders are indeed of pivotal importance for the modern state: they have a profound significance for individual states and for the system as a whole. Yet the image of state borders as the only borders, or even just the most important borders, is in conflict with changing political realities. The image of a boundary separating one state from another, with respect to all aspects of political and social life, has been one of the most powerful elements in the development of modern politics. But precisely this all-embracing imagery might also prevent us from recognising the changes taking place underneath it.

The state- and nation-building which occurred in western Europe, predominantly during the 19th century, was not just an integrative process. More than merely seeking to unite often disparate territories, economies and societies, state-building frequently also implied the disintegration or simply the division of previously united territories, economies or societies (Rokkan and Urwin, 1982; Keating, 1990; Sharpe, 1989). The results were usually smaller in size and peripheral in relation to the new centres. Such sub-national — or, to be precise, sub-state — spaces in western Europe are regions. There is no final definition of region, but for simplicity’s sake we can define regions as bounded spaces with no claim to sovereignty and no autonomous control over flows across their borders.

Where a strong sense of cultural identity among the population prevailed, minorities were thus created on each side of the new state border. Policies to deal with them ranged from assimilation to extermination, as the formation of national identity in support of consolidating state structures took priority. There was no question as to whether they should be made part of the nation — only how this was to be done.

Border economies, equally, had to face a reorientation in the wake of national economies being created around core centres of production and exchange (Hechter, 1975). The construction of centralised and separate networks of communication and transport — huge national projects — was meant to integrate these in what often became mercantilist economic orders. Consequently, ties with older production systems were progressively cut (Majone, 1990).

Most important, perhaps, in dividing pre-modern spaces, was the evolution of distinct jurisdictions, given the effects this had in all areas of public life — from the foreign-trade implications of tariff policies to the impact on language of education policy. The overall effect of these policies was to combine, in the single line that was the state border, all possible distinctions between territories: language, law, security, identity.

While this always remained an abstraction, border areas or peripheral regions have felt the concrete implications of these divisions, especially since, after the relative calm of peace in western Europe between the Napoleonic wars and the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 — the period which effectively saw the construction of ‘national borders’ — borders came to be seen, increasingly, as lines of conflict and, consequently, as security-sensitive zones. They were the territorial equivalent of ‘national’ — warfare-related — industries and were treated accordingly.

The period following the first world war, with its plethora of referenda and special régimes for many of the — newly or otherwise — divided border areas is perhaps the best example of the force, as well as the imperfection, of the state border arrangement. It is hardly surprising, against this background, that European integration was later to be hailed by many, not just as a unification of the whole continent but also as a unification of previously divided border areas.

The emergence of a growing number of small cross-border co-operation (CBC) schemes in the 60s and 70s was initially not much more than an oddity in the context of the cold war. The Iron Curtain, after all, had quickly become the dividing line in Europe. The attempts by some local authorities to go against the reason of states, with a new type of ‘low politics’, were thought unlikely to have any impact in the long run. To the extent that they were exceptions to the rule, the early instances of CBC arguably confirmed the basic structure of the system.

More importantly these examples of depoliticised, technocratic and mainly declaratory policy consultation across borders did not turn out to be very dynamic. Doing anything more ambitious than holding regular meetings between officials from either side, exchanging views on issues of common concern, proved highly contingent on prevailing moods in the respective capitals. Most schemes were thus left as if in semi-hibernation: certain co-operative frameworks had at one stage been put in place, and continued to operate, but they hardly ever realised their real potential — to overcome the divisions of borders.

What they did provide was a forum for social learning among local policy-makers. Only through constant contact were the great differences in administrative culture, centre-periphery relations and fiscal means rendered obvious to all parties. In this way, low-key cross-border endeavours were sensors for the difficulties of integration in general. Not merely political will and opportunity were at issue: fundamental problems were hiding within the state structures, waiting to be activated.

Consider what has proved a highly successful case: the Franco-German twinning system, which now embraces tens of thousands of municipalities in western and eastern Europe. This was a non-territorial scheme, linking distant communities through regular visits and exchanges. Its aim was to bring together and ultimately to integrate civil society Local governments were involved, of course, but the emphasis has been on schools, associations and families.

It has been an attractive venture precisely because it did not challenge borders, and therefore did not seek to interfere with the regulatory activity of the state. In contrast, projects of a cross-border nature — projects implying territorial integration — were greatly hampered by the ‘stateness’ that such activity called into question. Along the Franco-German border, for example, the Saar-Lor-Lux co-operation — bringing together regional governments from the Saarland, Lorraine and Luxembourg — was confronted with great difficulties in overcoming differences in the administrative culture, especially between centralised France and federal Germany (Hrbek and Weyand, 1994: 64-66).

A ‘cross-border region’ par excellence, Saar-Lor-Lux was founded on the historical affinity of the involved communities, on common production of coal-mining and steel-making, and on shared functional problems resulting from peripherality and economic decline. A regional, cross-border approach to reviving older economic ties, revitalising the economy and seeking solutions to the crisis from other than the national capital was perhaps not an instinctive course of action but was nevertheless a compelling one.

Saar-Lor-Lux and the many other such co-operation schemes in western Europe were novel institutions. It was a bottom-up approach to policy-making, often going against the wishes of the national centre and literally testing the limits of the state. ‘Testing’ is perhaps the best word in this context, since more often than not CBC remained declaratory and symbolic — a means of exchanging information and co-ordinating lobbying at higher levels. Modest attempts at adjusting vocational training schemes, combining infrastructure projects or otherwise integrating the local economy and society were quickly confronted with the limits imposed by different legal competences, functional capabilities and budgetary possibilities. In the main, even the more successful projects achieved little substantial policy output beyond tourist maps (Perulli, 1992; Rich, 1991; Scott, 1989).

Even in the 90s, after more than 20 years of experience, observers as well as participants are adamant that substantial progress is severely constrained. Practical difficulties — ignorance of legal systems, conflicts to be adjudicated, language barriers — have to a large extent been overcome. But moving further and giving CBC arrangements substantive policy-making powers remains unacceptable to many states.

The French state, endowed with both absolutist and Jacobin traditions, has been subject to particular tension in this regard. On the one hand, it has it been confronted with numerous cross-border projects at its borders — with Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Spain. On the other, it has it long been seen as one of the west European states most sensitive to — or paranoid about — ’fragmentation’.

CBC for France followed difficult historical fault-lines. In the east, the border area of Alsace-Lorraine had twice in this century been annexed by Germany In the south, across the Pyrenees, lay the ‘minorities’ of Catalans and Basques — nations whose territorial existence France, as much as Spain, had long denied. Giving in to the demands of CBC — devolving some decision-making power to the cross-border ventures — would therefore mean more than just accepting the dysfunctional nature of borders themselves. It would question the ‘natural’ and ‘eternal’ character of the Hexagon, probably invigorate the peripheral ‘minorities’ at maritime borders (in Britanny or Corsica) and thus also challenge the unity of the French nation and the constitutionally prescribed indivisibilité of the French state.

This is not a claim that French decision-makers sabotaged CBC, with such a scheme in mind. The point is that sensitivity about its borders is part of the very structure of the French state. Borders have not just been sensitive to attack and therefore given a specific meaning for national security, but their reification was a crucial aspect of state- and nation-building. The logic of cross-border cooperation was thus bound to be in conflict with that of the state. Consequently, bureaucratic reflexes in Paris did not allow much independent development on this front (Beyerlin, 1988).

Yet, without being able properly to challenge the conventional raison d’état, CBC did at least this: it broke the mould and laid the foundations for a new discourse. It did make clear, at least to a limited number of officials, that borders were a problem, even if CBC was not accepted as the solution. And, in the waste-bin view of policy-making, it provided a solution for future problems — a device that remained present waiting for its time. In this sense, the lack of dynamism in cross-border co-operation is not much of a failure. A novel concept survived in the face of overwhelming (structural) opposition, and thus provided a tool to assist future, more fundamental changes.

If France found it particularly difficult to accommodate CBC, others had less trouble. The more durable and load-bearing structures were built along the German-Dutch and -Belgian borders. It was here, in the framework of several EUREGIOs’, that CBC went beyond regular (or, indeed, irregular) meetings of local officials and climaxed, in the 90s, in cross-border regional associations, recognised as independent entities in international and domestic administrative law, carrying out a range of ‘sovereign tasks’. In this case, CBC had come a long way

The initial EUREGIO brought together district councils from the German Länder of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony and from four Dutch provinces. It gave rise to an international organisation, with a secretariat and a set of political institutions — a prime example of how loose co-operation gradually assists the emergence of a ‘soft institution’ (Lang, 1988).

In 1991, a state treaty (Landtag Nordrhein-Westfalen, 1991) accorded legal personality to EUREGIO, making it an extraordinary example of CBC. It did not simply occupy some uncontroversial niche and remain in the doldrums, but gradually expanded into a number of policy sectors and achieved the critical mass where institutionalisation and experience spoke in favour of, rather than in opposition to, CBC. Yet despite having a parliamentary body (the EUREGIO Council) organised along party-political lines with an elected president, the EUREGIO eschewed confrontational politics in favour of technocratic policy-making.

The range of its activities includes transport, environment, culture, technology, education and training, tourism and agriculture policies. And, from developing a cross-border economic-development programme it has now, in the 90s, moved to joint spatial planning. The state treaty of May 1991 has put the previously private-law EUREGIO on a public/international-law footing. Such was the implication of this move that the then German foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher (who, like his Dutch counterpart, Mr Van den Broeck, signed the related state treaty) made it clear this would be a singular event, not a precedent for expansion in the future.

In this process it benefited not only from the decentralised nature of the Netherlands and the federal republic, and their traditionally entrenched municipal autonomy but also the experience of intercommunal association on either side of the border. Local officials and politicians had been schooled in co-operative decision-making, through CBC activities where the borders where simply those of their own localities. In fact, the constituent units of EUREGIO are not the more than 100 participating councils, but three local-government associations. With the support of, or at least with no major obstacles from, the respective national governments, it was possible for them to build up a larger scheme across the German-Dutch border (Dentes et al, 1997).

It is a clear case of an idea taking hold: what started locally within the ‘nation-states’ but with the capacity to expand, due to the specific conditions present at this stretch of border, has been turned into a hub of wider networks of CBC. Gronau, the border town in which the EUREGIO secretariat is located, now also hosts the EU’S LACE programme, which aims to exchange CBC know-how across the union as well as the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR). It has become a centre and role-model for CBC in western Europe.

LACE (which stands for Linkage Assistance Co-operation for the European Border Regions), is an observatory collecting experiences of CBC across the union providing data for the commission and disseminating information back to border regions. This exercise — funded from the EU budget — has been organised by the AEBE, which was founded in 1971 by EUREGIO and other CBC projects as well as individual regions and towns.

In 1985, AEBR in turn joined other inter-regional associations — such as industrial regions organised in RETI and peripheral maritime regions linked through CEPMR — in the creation of the Assembly of European Regions, which was to become a formidable lobbying group preparing the regions’ input to the Maastricht treaty and the subsequent organisation of the EU Committee of the Regions (Christiansen, 1995). In this way European integration has come full circle — from the abstract plan to unite and make borders permeable, via the tackling of practical problems of this kind on the ground and the creation of ever-widening circles of specialised problem-solving, to the eventual arrival of regions at the European summit and the institutional reform of the EU to take account of regional concerns.

After its disappointing first decade, CBC inspired considerable institutional experimentation. Indeed, it has become one of the most dynamic areas of EU regional policy, with much progress made and yet still many challenges to come. Against this mixed background, the European Commission seized CBC as a particularly fertile ground for policy-making expansion. The INTERREG I and II programmes of the 90s combined already active instances of CBC with considerable moneys from the reformed structural funds, thus creating the necessary dynamism for substantive change.

The special nature of INTERREG is best understood against the wider background of EU regional policy. This policy was launched in 1975 at the behest of the UK, as a kind of replacement for Common Agricultural Policy funding which would not go to Britain, due to its small agricultural sector. In the following decade, global grants were given to member states who indicated individual projects as European Regional Development Fund projects. For the union, it was a process of ‘showing the flag’ of Europe in the provinces; for the member states it was one more device to receive what they saw as their just return. In this sense national borders were simply reproduced through the national allocation of funds.

This began gradually to change in the 80s, with pilots such as the integrated Mediterranean projects inaugurating novel administrative procedures and laying the foundations for a fundamental reform in 1988 (Evans and Martin, 1994). This reform was to combine the structural funds (the regional, social and agricultural-guidance funds) into concentrated spending on a number of ‘objectives’ — the needs of regions lagging behind, in need of agricultural regeneration or in industrial decline. Regions in the objective 1’ group (with gross domestic product per capita of 75 per cent or less of the EU average) were to receive 80 per cent of the funding. Its distribution, while genuinely regional in nature and undergoing elaborate procedures of development plans and support frameworks, remained strongly tied to member-state influence and the usual log-rolling in the Council of Ministers.

But 10 per cent of structural funding went into ‘community initiatives — including INTERREG, the initiative for border regions. Here the commission has the final say, and therefore much more freedom of choice in designating the regions and supervising the procedures of decision-making. This policy instrument has thus been favoured by the regions themselves, who frequently felt the interference of their parent states in the spending on the five objectives. They welcomed the more benign attitude of the commission and, with the commitment of both sides and the minimal involvement of member-state governments, INTERREG has become a success story of European integration (von Unruh, 1991).

Initially, 800 million ECU were ear-marked in 1991-93. This was later increased to over 1 billion ECU, making INTERREG the largest single initiative. There was great demand for this money the commission claiming more than 30 per cent over-subscription. Large projects where of the ‘national’ kind, motorways linking Portugal and Spain and crossing northern Greece being prominent examples. But there were many smaller projects, too, which tied in with previous experiences of CBC. Along the Dutch-German border, the EUREGIO institutions were charged by both sides and the commission with the drafting and implementing of the operational programme (EUREGIO, 1993).

INTERREG has supported three types of actions:

  • joint implementation of cross-border programmes;
  • measures to improve relations between public institutions, private organisations and voluntary bodies in border areas; and
  • the setting up of common institutional structures (European Commission, 1992).

This last point proved particularly vexed, since the idea of common institutions stretching across borders often clashed with incompatible legal régimes. INTERREG flexibly included support for networks or private-law constructions, but the management of public funds and the creation of lasting cross-border structures favoured public institutions. For this reason, EUREGIO was a prime example of where one wanted to go, and the special position of EUREGIO, as well as its close link to AEBR, led to the positioning of LACE within it (Wolters, 1994).

Yet even here, in the presence of practised cross-border institutions, the absence of a reliable legal framework was felt to be a problem (Grotefels, 1993). Hence the state treaty referred to above, paving the way for CBC associations between the Netherlands, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, in response to the gaps in the institutional structure that INTERREG exposed.

INTERREG I had its own deficiencies: maritime and external borders were not covered, with only a few exceptions allowed (European Commission, 1994a). The reformed INTERREG II, with stronger emphasis on the external border, more allowance for maritime CBC and an allocation of 2.4 billion ECU — making it by far the largest community initiative — has gone some way towards alleviating these gaps. Yet problems remain with regard to the external border, where both INTERREG and (to the east) PHARE funds can, and should, be used for CBC. A quarter of Polish PHARE money in 1994 — 59 million ECU — went into CBC projects.

But the value added by INTERREG at the union’s internal borders — through the commitment of money that could be spent on either side of the border to an integrated operational programme — is not possible at the external border, whether in the east or along the Mediterranean. While INTEEREG funds have to be committed to projects within the union territory, PHARE money has to be spent outside, thus hampering the build-up of common structures (European Commission, 1994a, 1994b) — especially since the administration of these different aid programmes is via different directorate-generals within the commission, DG XVI and DG IA respectively, using different guidelines. Following complaints about the lack of co-ordination, a Joint Monitoring Committee of officials from both DGs has been established to keep an eye on the issue.

When the commission initiated the review of the community initiatives in a 1993 green paper (European Commission, 1993b), a number of things became clear. First, member states — and, consequently, the council — had realised that the initiatives gave the commission considerable freedom (relative to expenditure on the objectives). While abolishing the initiatives was out of the question, the council tried to limit spending on them. In 1989-93 the initiatives had amounted to 10 per cent of the structural funds. (In the relevant regulation the limit had been set at 15 per cent.) The commission pitched for an equal share of 10 per cent for the enlarged 1994-99 funds, a figure which the parliament — highly supportive of the initiatives — tried to notch up to 12 per cent, and which the council subsequently moved down to 9. Even in the face of contestation the initiatives budget was thus in effect doubled for the 1994-99 period.

Secondly, sectoral initiatives (like RECHAR, EESIDER, RENAVAL, KONVER and so on) had been multiplying in the first programming Period — INTERREG, in fact, was only a second-generation initiative. In the green paper the commission sought to concentrate the initiatives on five topics, giving ‘transnational and interregional co-operation and networks’ special prominence (European Commission, 1993b). In essence, INTERREG moved up in status from one of 15 odd initiatives to one of seven priority areas. With envisaged funding of 2.9 billion ECU, out of a total initiatives budges of 13.5 billion ECU for the period, it is by far the largest initiative (European Commission, 1994a: 8).

CBC has become an established and indeed expanding concern for the union. It has brought together the institutions — the commission and the parliament-with the large and multiplying network of local and regional associations in the formulation, execution and agenda-setting of a specific and elaborate border policy.

The régime that has grown along state borders as a result of decades of CBC and five years of INTERREG is remarkable. The traditional predicament of CBC, the legal and fiscal discrepancies across the border, was countered through finance and — by way of implementation and technical assistance — establishment of ‘lasting action frameworks’. These factors together — grass-roots experience of the minutiae, considerable sums of money and the generalisation of positive instances of institution-building, like that at the Dutch-German border — have changed policy-making along intra-EU borders.

Borders are not what they used to be: from being dividing lines between separate spaces, they have turned into the reason for co-operation. Instead of defining exclusion, they now define inclusion. The familiar tension of cross-border existence between difference and sameness has been decided, in many areas of policymaking at least, in favour of sameness. Location along the same border — or, in the larger sense of networking across the union, location at some border — has generated extensive co-operation among regions.

At the same time, the complex of CBC and EU regional policies is a confirmation of territoriality — implying, of course, new borders. In a sense, it is fighting fire ‘with fire: the effects of borders are countered by drawing new lines around them. Regions and municipalities that qualify for membership in these new projects are united in a common cross-border region, creating institutions and eventually — if successful — a bounded space for policymaking and politics. A new construction of inclusion and exclusion naturally results.

Predictably, there has thus been debate about the number of municipalities that could participate in INTERREG — counted, in Euro-parlance, in the three NUTS levels of territorial size (European Commission, 1993a). Translated, this was a debate about how far borders reach into the state. Municipalities unsuccessful in their bids to join INTERREG thus became outlying localities — ’out’ meaning here, of course, more ‘in’ with regard to their national state.

In other words, old borders have been changed, and are changing, but they are also spawning new borders — perhaps not that significant, but growing in significance. Border are not disappearing: they are being reproduced and multiplied — there are many more borders now — and, for an increasingly large number of regions in the union, it is a matter of highest importance whether they are ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the map of objective 1 regions (those on which 75 per cent of the more than 140 billion ECU of the current five-year period is spent).

During the enlargement negotiations with the new Nordic members, for example, one of the main sticking points was the precise territorial limits of their participation in regional policies. As a result, a new objective 6 was created, designed to aid the development of ‘remote and under-populated areas’ in northern Finland and Sweden. With most of the regulatory issues already taken care of through the earlier negotiation of the European Economic Area, the drawing of these boundaries was a major issue for both the commission and the acceding countries — a good example of how participation in the project of integration questions internal borders (Mönnesland, 1994).

Indeed, INTERREG is only a little window into the territorial transformation of the union. The combination of large amounts of EU funding and novel forms of territorial governance to administer them is challenging traditional state-centred politics (Marks, 1991). But this is not the withering away of state or borders. What is withering away is the one-to-one match between the two: borders=states and states=territorial borders is an equation of the past.

The commission made the obvious point in its green paper that "INTERREG will not, by itself, bring about complete integration. Differences in fiscal and legal systems ... will continue to influence relations between border regions." (European Commission, 1993a: 14). In other words, the effects of state borders can only be fought to a limited extent at a local level. The encompassing nature of any such countervailing effort — the rationale, after all, of the initial integration project, reaffirmed by the single-market programme — demands a complementary, continental approach. The EU is now involved in designing just this.

A sense of scale of the task involved in CBC and an EU border policy grew over time. The more local authorities and the commission became involved in the management of cross-border activities, the more the multiple nature of borders became realised. The complementarity of functional (that is to say, sectoral) integration on a European scale and decentralised micro-projects along the borders was evidently not sufficient to counter the territorial effects of the state system.

EU regional policy and the overall concern with economic and social cohesion that followed the Single European Act went some way to alleviate this concern. Yet with most of the structural funds allocated to member states, regional policy has been an affirmation of national boundaries as much as a counter-force. INTERREG has been the only EU aid programme whose budget is not allocated by country, and, as such, an exception to the rule of national quotas.

INTERREG accounts for just some 2 per cent of the structural funds and this single initiative has been burdened — some would argue, overburdened — with the increasing complexity of managing the effects of borders. Since Maastricht, a process of diversification is discernible, with cross-border tasks now being shared between different budgets. INTERREG continues to deal with small and micro-projects along the internal and external borders and thus aims to diminish border effects through investments in hard and soft infrastructure.

The Cohesion Fund, meanwhile, seeks to level macro-economic differences between member states. In a way, it tackles the effects of borders at national level. And the Trans-European Networks (TENs) are designed to identify transport and energy infrastructure bottlenecks across the union and to fill the gaps. Most, though not all, of these bottlenecks or missing links are situated at borders, and an elaborate procedure is being put into place to identify priority projects and organise funding for their construction (Christophersen Group, 1994).

A further influence is spatial planning, a competence which the EU 15 still in the process of acquiring, and in which, therefore, policy is still in formulation. This involves the co-ordination of national spatial-planning policies, a pan-European vision for spatial planning and territorial management at an intermediate level between the member state and the EU (Williams, 1996). A number of regions — ’trans-regional study areas — have been identified in the trend scenarios drawn up by the Committee on Spatial Planning, an intergovernmental body reporting to irregular meetings of national spatial-planning ministers.

EU spatial planning covers the whole of the union territory, mainly in the form of the TENS and the creation of micro-networks of local and regional governments with spatial-planning competence — a new TERRA programme, one of the so-called ‘article 10, innovations financed from the structural funds, facilitates the creation of such local networks. On the meso-level, a budget line in INTERREG II (INTERREG IIC) is designed to fund projects which target spatial planning in the trans-national study areas and for whom the territorial impact of EU policies (and ‘non-policies’) is spelled out in the commission reports EUROPE 2000 and 2000+ — such as the ‘Atlantic arc’, the North Sea, the Mediterranean coast, the ‘central capitals’ region, the Alpine region and, more recently, the Baltic Sea.

The finance currently associated with this initiative is very limited: the 500 million ECU of INTERREG IIC is to be shared between this spatial planning, drought prevention and flood protection, and it is financing studies and research more than actual policies. But take the Baltic Sea region. Together with the activity surrounding the TENs — a number of Baltic projects are identified in the reports by the Christophersen group on transport infrastructure — and the creation and strengthening of policy-making networks on the local level through INTERREG and TERRA, the EU is indeed beginning to have an effect on region-building there. What matters most, though, is less the small beginnings of an underfunded policy — especially as the Scandinavian countries have substantial budgets and regulatory policies for spatial planning — but the design of a novel perspective for policymaking in the region.

The spatial policies of the ECU generate the expectation that planning, regulation and funding of transnational policies will be specifically designed for the Baltic region. The willingness and improving ability of the various partners involved to cross the boundaries not just of nation-states but also the increasingly important transnational groupings — EU, EEA, Nordic Council, the Visegrad Group, PHARE, TACIS — indicates that, despite the numerous divisions in the region, a common framework for policy-making is coming about.

Crucially, this framework — a territorial layer of meso-regions located between the national and the continental level — is closely linked to the integrated development of a number of EU policies. Managing borders, in other words, is now a competence being executed at a number of levels: local, national and continental. The attempt to bring potentially fragmented decision-making under control has led the argument for a spatial planning role for the EU. It is, without saying so, an element of centralisation — if not of decision-making, at least of information-gathering, agenda-setting and policy co-ordination. While the economic and functional logic of such a planning role for the union is apparent not just in itself, but also from tasks previously acquired, the political and financial implications are immense.

It might be relatively easy to imagine the union’s territory as a single space and to draw the resulting spatial-planning conclusion from such an image (European Commission, 1994c). Tackling the remaining borders and divisions within the EU then implies coherent planning, co-ordination of numerous policy instruments and significant investment in trans-European infrastructure. At the very least, it implies that member states restructure domestic planning to take account of what follows from the European ‘plan’. Yet transposing such a vision into policy — at a time when both public funds and the legitimacy of the union to take decisive action are in short supply — is a difficult undertaking.

But a spatial planning role for the union is accepted, even if the implementation of actual projects is not immediately forthcoming. We might be at the stage in development analogous to the early phase of CBC: a new dimension to policy-making is formulated, only to bring to the fore the tremendous difficulties of achieving practical results. But, as with CBC, the foundations for future practice are laid and acceptance of novel politics established. The council has begun to meet also in the format of ministers of spatial planning, while the commission is pushing the issue by producing encompassing reports on ‘European territorial development’ (European Commission, 1991, 1994c).

In this sense, the institutions are catching up with the way thinking has been developing for some time (Klaassen, 1989; Schmidthuber and Hitzler, 1991). There is an expectation that the union will introduce a new community initiative in spatial planning and that that policy will find its expression (in line with the 1996 revision of the treaty) in primary law. The adoption of a comprehensive European territorial-planning concept is expected even earlier. (Bundesministerium fur Raumordnung, 1995).

The move from mere regional policy to a set of measures aimed at integrated territorial development — with the resultant growth in the range of policy tools for the purpose — is a gradual but significant departure for western Europe. It means that for the first time the opportunity exists to view the union as a entity without state borders. In this sense, the regulatory and macro-economic path of integration is finding a territorial counterpart. For in the same way in which CBC has found its limits in the regulatory and legal functions of borders, the integration project — aimed at the eradication of just these borders — has found its limits in the material, demographic and territorial divisions between member states. What remains to be seen, therefore, is whether the union will be able better to combine regulatory and territorial approaches to integration.

Up to now, the efforts undertaken in different domains have not always been well co-ordinated. Initially, CBC and related territorial policies succeeded only to a limited degree, differences in the legal and administrative systems being too great. Later, the integration of administrative systems, facilitated through harmonisation and mutual recognition, left territorial aspects of integration behind. Now spatial planning and TENs are supposed to close the gap. But a concerted effort to eradicate state borders, in both their territorial and their regulatory function, will require immense political will and erudite administrative labour.

Whether either of these will be forthcoming in the near future — amidst the double effort of negotiating constitutional reform of the union and implementing a pre-accession strategy for the countries of central and eastern Europe — remains an open question. Instead of a concerted effort to tackle the remaining effects of intra-union borders, we will probably see protracted muddling through — with member-state interests, commission self-interest and lobbying from local and (inter-)regional bodies providing the main input. Like other supranational policies, spatial planning will combine collective European visions with assorted national positions, with the outcome a mixture of both. To the extent this new level of governance becomes politically significant, it might be worthwhile speaking of a ‘Europe of the meso-regions’.

Much has been said, so far, about the efforts at the sub- and supranational level to overcome the detrimental and disintegrative effects of state borders — efforts which have largely rested on the construction of new, alternative spaces for policy-making. New borders, more permeable and less all embracing than traditional state borders, have thereby come into being. Above this emerging structure of new borders and meso-regions stands a further structure — the European Union itself. Is the EU going to constitute a bordered polity which could, as it were, take over from a nation-state that clearly seems to be losing control over its borders?

There has, of course, been much talk of Fortress Europe, denoting the emergence of a union with recognisable, indeed impregnable, borders. The fortress analogy was initially coined in response to the single market: beyond greater competitiveness and enhanced trade within, one important consequence of the ‘1992’ programme was feared to be an increasingly protectionist Europe. This has not quite happened: as the lengthy negotiations leading to the establishment of the World Trade Organisation demonstrated, the EU does increasingly clash with the US and Japan over questions of fair trade and market access, but it remains ultimately committed to liberal trade. Obviously the culture of economic liberalism which has dominated national and European regulation in the 90s has also been applied to the union’s external economic relations.

In the meantime, the fortress metaphor has shifted to migration and the free movement of people. This has been a more controversial issue, and the charge that the EU drawbridge has been pulled up is less easily dismissed. Against a global trend of higher mobility, there has been a massive increase in those — mainly from eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Maghreb — seeking residence in the EU. In response, the number who may legally settle within member states has been progressively reduced. And most member states have in the past few years — the UK and the Republic of Ireland remaining notable exceptions — acceded to the Schengen agreement, which provides for harmonised visa and immigration rules.

Since Amsterdam, Schengen has been incorporated into the union treaty. At the same time, the incorporation of Schengen and of its acquis of previous decisions into the EU legal order has been widely criticised by human-rights groups. They are concerned that mutual recognition of visa policies — a natural consequence of the opening of national boundaries to the free movement of people within the EU — will eventually lead to the closure of the union to many who would otherwise have been able to enter at least a small number of member states. According to this view, integration at the lowest common denominator — the most stringent immigration policy prevailing — has resulted in the highest possible entry requirements for the EU as a whole.

Whatever the arguments about the exclusiveness of this ‘new Europe’, not all of the EU is part of this policy. The UK negotiated an opt-out from the common approach to border controls contained in the Amsterdam treaty. And, given the special status of the land border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, it is likely that the latter will have to make adjustments to its membership in the ‘borderless’ part of the EU.

This opt-out is only the most recent example of a strong trend in the recent phase of integration. In the past, opt-outs have been negotiated in monetary policy, social policy and foreign policy Indeed, in terms of monetary union, opt-outs have been part of the policy design. Developing a workable mechanism to manage the relationship between countries which are ‘in’ and ‘out’ of monetary union is seen as crucial for the continued success of the single market.

In defence policy, the Western European Union includes a significant proportion of member states and, since Maastricht, has been explicitly linked to the EU. Yet a number of members have opted out of that aspect of integration, preventing the wholesale incorporation of the WEU into the union; the Amsterdam treaty made no significant headway on this issue.

While the UK government has ended the Social Chapter opt-out, new gaps in the common boundary of the EU have opened up. This has been fuelled by two related trends.

On the one hand, the lack of a clear boundary results not only from opt-outs on the inside, but also from ‘opt-ins’ on the outside. The clearest example is the European Economic Area, which has brought Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein into the single market. While special arrangements have been made for the implementation, adjudication and enforcement of legislation, the single market has been effectively enlarged to a group of non-Eu members.

Similar effects are produced by the prospect of enlargement of the union. The pre-accession strategy vis-à-vis the countries of central and eastern Europe links the granting of economic and technical aid (PHARE), progress on political and economic reform and the timetable for eventual membership. The consequence is that a growing number of EU policies already find application in the applicant countries. This is both a result of assistance (early participation in selected EU policies deemed helpful for countries trying to achieve the conditions for membership) and sanctions (the requirement for applicant countries to develop mechanisms for effective regulation and enforcement before they can be permitted to join). Effectively, the union will gradually extend its single-market programme to central and eastern Europe.

The second feature muddying the waters of a clearly-bordered EU is the concept of ‘flexible integration’, introduced in the Amsterdam treaty and perhaps best understood as the other side of the opt-out coin. It provides a mechanism for groups of member states to develop more far-reaching policies than those that can be agreed by all (Edwards and Philippart, 1997). Under the special mechanism provided, such groups can use EU institutions and resources to make policies which then only apply to part of the union. An acknowledgement of the difficulty of obtaining general agreement on the expansion of competences in an enlarged union, flexible integration turns the vice of opting out into a virtue. The uneven development of EU policy is formalised as a standard procedure of the union; the identification of a boundary common to all becomes correspondingly even more difficult.

This is the shadow of the future post-Amsterdam. But even today, in areas traditionally regarded as ‘high politics’ — defence, currency, border controls — the union develops common policies, without establishing a common boundary. The consequence is a Europe which is, on the one hand, highly institutionalised but which, on the other, produces separate spaces: ‘monetary Europe’, ‘trade Europe’, ‘defence Europe’, ‘passport Europe’ and so on.

Thus, while the EU does possess a clearly defined membership, its borders are rather fuzzy. In contrast to the modern state, we cannot expect even the aspiration towards the development of a uniform policy. Once the issues of implementation and enforcement are taken into account, the picture becomes even more blurred.

Enlargement will add further dynamics to opt-outs and flexible integration. Just as pre-accession strategies have exported selected EU policies before membership, so will transition periods and exemption clauses ensure that less than the totality of the acquis communitaire will be of immediate application. This, after all, is the experience of previous enlargements and, given the relative economic situation of central and eastern Europe, it will certainly feature in the negotiations over membership. Long periods of preparation for, and adaptation to, the acquis will therefore contribute for the foreseeable future to uncertainty over the outer limits of the union (Friis and Murphy, 1997).

Thus we can see how ‘widening’ and ‘deepening’ — the territorial and institutional expansions of the EU — do not need to be exclusive; indeed, they have been organised in complementary manner. But their simultaneous progress comes at the expense of clearly defined boundaries of the polity. While the borders of member states are subject to fundamental change — turning them from binary dividing lines of separate spaces into two-dimensional spaces subject to specific policy-regimes — the borders of a uniting Europe are increasingly ill-defined. They, too, fail to provide the binary division expected from borders and they, too, have spawned policy régimes designed for spaces that are both ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the polity (Christiansen and Joergensen, 1995).

The walls around the alleged Fortress Europe are not drawn around one particular space — defining at one stroke the population, territory and raison d’étre of the polity. Instead, membership and space defined by different policies overlap; the walls ‘erected’ by individual policies intersect. Thus Maze Europe seems a more appropriate metaphor — a construction that manages to keep some out, some in and most confused as to their precise whereabouts. A highly organised space, but not even those on the inside know much about their final destination.

What are the governing principles of this ‘maze’? At first sight, it is a polity normatively superior to both to the inherently conflictual state system and to the exclusionary image of the fortress. At the outset of the 21st century, the European continent has developed a political system which combines high internal cohesiveness — sufficient to eliminate violence from relations between states — with a structured relationship with non-members that ensures eventual participation in the exchange and solidarity of the system. Whether by default or design, the EU has departed from the trade-off between integration at the core and disintegration at the periphery — the dual function of borders referred to at the outset. As national borders are being downgraded yet the common boundary remains lacking, Europe has moved beyond the apparent imperative of the inside/outside divide. Those critical of the disintegrative effects of borders regard this as a welcome move.

Yet, even if the ‘new Europe’ is taken as a practical example of a ‘post-national’ polity, serious question-marks remain over its political organisation. These relate mainly to the processes of representation, accountability and legitimation of political decision-making. Established processes, at the national level, are becoming hollow as, increasingly, decisions are being taken at the European level. To the extent these are still taken at the national level, or to the extent to which national actors continue to dominate the European decision-making process, the increase in personal mobility further delegitimises the domestic process.

On the European level, there is, of course, the widely discussed ‘democratic deficit’, an issue — together with the single currency and enlargement — which is bound to dominate the next decade of European integration. But the usual remedies offered to deal with the democratic shortcomings of the EU structure — an increase in the powers of the European Parliament, more direct accountability of the commission to parliament and the wider public, greater transparency of the council — do little or nothing to address the normative problems of Maze Europe.

The problem is that no single space and no single membership (whether of people or states) exists for which central institutions could be made directly responsible. As space and membership change from policy area to policy area, individual policies can be legitimised through the collective decision-making of participants, but the overall decision-structure — the EU — cannot be democratically legitmised. Since rights and obligations will vary across the polity, it will it difficult to establish a workable concept of citizenship which does not violate the demands of uniformity and equality.

Opt-outs and other partially exclusive mechanisms will thus detract from the role of supranational institutions or from the link between them and the citizen. But beyond the formal question of how such a structure can be democratised, there is the practicality of public accountability. A common arena for representative politics — based on the parliament-commission-council axis — will clearly not do, due to the absence of commonality across policy-areas. Separate arenas, with specifically arranged membership according to the spatial coverage of the policy, will be legitimate but will at the same time destroy the image of a single polity.

Put bluntly, the construction of Maze Europe, with all its special arrangements for special areas, can be expected to leave citizens in a fog of uncertainty over the role of European institutions, the location of final responsibility and the representation of political interests. Ultimately, the complexity of governance in the ‘maze’ — of the system as a whole as well as individual policy areas — will only be understood by an inner circle of decision-makers.

Flexible integration, then, is good news for bureaucrats and politicians, but bad news for the wider public seeking to hold them to account. Traditional mechanisms of representation, electoral control and accountability are already in decline due to the multi-national and multi-lingual nature of the process (Schlesinger, 1994). The absence of an effective communicative space for transnational politics makes it difficult to link the deliberations of elected decision-makers to the preferences of the wider public. It is symptomatic of the deep-seated nature of this problem that the democratic process does not stand up to scrutiny on the micro-level of cross-border co-operation either (Denters et al, 1997).

This difficulty is yet further enhanced by the multiple borders of European policy-making. In the process of integration the domestic polity loses its hold on the political process, due to the porousness of national borders and the enhanced mobility of citizens. Supra- and trans-national decision processes ought to compensate, but their legitimation is compromised not only by the weaknesses of the democratic process at European level but also — and crucially — by the absence of a unitary bordered space of the Euro-polity.

European integration, then, has to face the dilemma of a normative trade-off. It can continue along the lines of flexible integration, which will exclude some member (and non-member) states and citizens from the development of common policies and risk an increasing alienation and thus potential delegitimation of the entire structure. Or else it can work towards a polity with matching policies, membership and territory, and consequently universally applicable citizenship rights — and to accept either much slower and more limited progress or a move towards a state-like structure. Considering the widespread opposition to a European ‘super-state’, the latter is not likely to advance the legitimation of the European construction much further, even though it would provide the foundation for a democratic process.

Clearly, with the conflicting demands of flexible integration, on the one hand, and of democratic accountability, on the other, the legitimation of the EU appears as a no-win situation. The opt-out/flexible-integration provision — originally meant to make integration more acceptable in those member states that would rather lag behind or move beyond the overall movement — might ultimately come to haunt the entire structure of the union.

After more than four decades spent-quite successfully — overcoming the negative effects of borders, the effort remains double-edged. Overcoming the negative effects of borders between states is one thing, but establishing a democratic polity without the integration, cohesion and uniformity of a clearly defined membership does not necessarily follow.

It will be interesting to observe how the EU will address this issue in the post-Amsterdam future, with a fledgling monetary union, as flexible integration is implemented and as enlargement is negotiated. In each of these crucial areas of EU development, the boundary of membership looms large in the background. The next decade will demonstrate whether the union can come up with the institutional innovations to solve these puzzles of Maze Europe.


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