European institutions and a "Europe of the Regions": A comparative study of the Committee of the Regions and the Institute of the Regions of Europe, 2004-2018
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Powerful subnational entities are not a new invention; there is a historical pattern that can be discovered in the rise and fall of regions. The concept of a “Europe of the Regions” appeared in the late 1980s to refer to a possible new wave of regionalism. Nowadays, regions are on the rise again, aided by, among others, various European institutions. However, there are few timely relevant and analytical studies that compare the contribution of various institutions to the concept of a “Europe of the Regions”. This gap leads to the research question: How do the Committee of the Regions and the Institute of the Regions of Europe compare in contributing to a “Europe of the Regions”? The thesis utilises a wide range of secondary and primary sources including semi-structured interviews with the representatives of the case study institutions and relies on the comparative-historical methodology of the causal narrative. Besides, the study applies the conceptual framework of Max Weber’s bureaucracy theory to compare the efficiency of the institutions. The thesis can deduce that a “Europe of the Regions” has not been realised; however, it gave room to the idea of a “Europe with the Regions” and considerable progress has been made in the field of regionalism to which the examined institutions contributed substantially. The Committee of the Regions has been most active in the European legislative field to be the voice of regions and other subnational authorities in the European legislation-making process. Meanwhile, the Institute of the Regions of Europe is active on a smaller scale and mainly supports practical projects in Eastern and Southeast Europe (also outside of the EU) with no political influence. In line with current findings but contrary to Weber’s theory, the latter, less bureaucratic institute can be considered more efficient in achieving its own goals. The paper presents significant contribution in the field of European regional studies and the workings of European institutions. It also hopes to inspire further research concerning the effect of European organisations on regional mobilisation as well as the efficiency of these organisations.