Macro region building has found its greatest expression in the supranational project that has occurred in Europe since the end of the Second World War. This project has evolved from one aimed at promoting economic cooperation, free trade and employment growth among Western European states in the 1950s, to a complicated form of political, economic and monetary union in the 2000s that also incorporates former communist states in Central and Eastern Europe. The European project has simultaneously been a response to, and shaper of globalization. Macro region building in Europe has had a varied and chequered history. In its formative years emphasis was on the peace potential deriving from trade and economic cooperation, with the six signatory countries dismantling a range of barriers to trade in particular sectors. Enlargement of the project from the 1970s began to expose clear differences of political emphasis and support for further integration among its members. The 1980s witnessed a response by the European Communities to global economic challenges, particularly the growth of Southeast Asian economies. This resulted in a drive by some states for closer politico-economic integration in Europe buttressed by monetary policies and strengthened European institutions. During this period the European Union sought to protect its economy from outside competition whilst attempting to exert a global role and presence. The global financial crisis of 2008 unleashed destructive pressures on macro region building in Europe, leading to growing public disenchantment with the scope and direction of integration and increased demands for either the scaling back, or disengagement from the supranational project as in the UK.
Julian Clark and Alun Jones
The ‘Europe of the Regions’ is a malleable phrase shaped by political-geographical concepts of territory, identity and power. It refers to everyday sub-national processes of identity formation across Europe; attempts to define regions by nation-states and latterly the European Union (EU); and to the hypothetical idea of a European political order based on regions, rather than nation-states. This chapter charts how geographical work on the ‘Europe of the Regions’ changed from conceptualisation as bounded territorial entities within nation-states, to understanding regions as collective sociospatial evolutionary constructions. We show how the rationales and meanings attached to the concept have been subject to shifting power relations between sub-national, national, and supranational scales, and how these relations are conditioned increasingly by neoliberalism. These changing power relations will ensure that the 'Europe of the Regions' persists into the future, albeit in new geohistorical forms.