Research Goals

This research project addresses the underexplored topic of cooperation and conflict in regional paradiplomacy towards the European Union (EU), as there is much ambiguity about the consequences of it for the relationship between regional governments and the State. The project builds on an innovative theoretical framework which reconciles the contributions of North American and European academia to the topic. Our purpose is to explain differentiation in regional paradiplomacy towards the EU in four federal states(Belgium, Germany, Canada and the USA) and two regionalised states (the UK and Spain) between 1992 and 2022.

By means of a qualitative comparative analysis of 12 case studies both from inside and outside the EU, this research project aims to advance the current empirical and theoretical scholarship on paradiplomacy with particular attention to understanding the drivers that either facilitate intergovernmental cooperation or, alternatively, conflict, and how they inform the different strategic patterns adopted by sub-state governments. Although primarily focused on the EU context, some relevant expressions of similar patterns of inter-governmental relations related to paradiplomacy in North America will be also examined. Despite the rich body of scholarship that has developed over the years, the literature on sub-state territorial mobilisation in the EU fails to disentangle the factors that lead specifically to cooperation and those that lead to conflict. Furthermore, research has strictly focused on EU regional interest representation dynamics to the EU, putting a strong emphasis on the activities of Brussels offices, leaving, thus, identity promotion and territorial secessionist claims out of the big picture.

Similarly, despite many valuable contributions comparing several cases across the world, there is no robust theoretical framework to assess the conditions under which sub-state actors engage in cooperation over conflict or vary between the two at moments in time in their external representation to the EU. More specifically, systematic comparison and empirical contrast remains in its infancy, with the extensive literature on paradiplomacy failing to deliver an overarching theoretical framework to explain the conditions under which certain sub-states engage in cooperation whilst others vary between cooperation and conflict at different moments in time. In other words, what are the underlying causes for differentiation in paradiplomatic activities towards the EU in respect to its types (i.e., paradiplomacy and protodiplomacy) and consequences (i.e., cooperation and conflict)? And why do they change over time?

In sum, there is (still) much ambiguity about the consequences of paradiplomacy for the relationship between sub-state and the States’ governments. Having these precedents in mind, this research project will provide a more nuanced understanding of paradiplomacy and will unpack the notion of conflict and cooperation in paradiplomatic activism towards the EU to map and explain the evolution of regional paradiplomacy towards the EU with respect to its types and consequences over the last 30 years. Yet, in contrast to previous contributions, this research project will follow a distinctive research pathway for three main reasons.

First, it will examine the two dimensions of paradiplomactic action towards the EU, i.e., functional and territorial means of external representation to the EU will be considered. These are traditionally known as ‘paradiplomacy’ and ‘protodiplomacy’, respectively.

Second, this research will engage in a dynamic analysis through a time span of 30 years. Focussing on the period from 1992, a milestone in the development of a ‘Regional Europe’, to 2022, in the middle of the Brexit crisis and the uncertain effects of the pandemic, this research draws on sub-state case studies from federal and regionalised States. We aim to build a broad empirical picture of paradiplomacy in action as the basis for theoretical development and empirically grounded policy advice.

Third, this research will investigate the paradiplomatic activity of both European and non-European regional authorities within federal and regionalised states in the EU.