Publications of Sara Svensson
Health Policy in Cross-border Cooperation Practices: The Role of Euroregions and Their Local Government Members
The support for local cross-border cooperation in Europe has been built on the premises of new cross-border institutions (Euroregions) as primarily responding to policy problems that cannot be dealt with effectively within the national contexts, expressed as ‘filling the gaps’. One area with significant gains to be made by cooperating across borders is health policy. This article discusses the extent to which health policy has (not) become an activity in cross-border practices, and what the potential is for Euroregions to facilitate this. The article first relies on previous research in combination with a mapping exercise of 53 current structures to demonstrate that despite well-advertised ‘best practices’, the overall level of health cooperation is relatively low. It then looks into the motivations for cooperation and policy priorities of participating local governments. The empirical data consist of interviews with mayors of local governments in six Euroregions, located at three national borders (Sweden–Norway, Hungary–Slovakia and Austria–Germany). The analysis points to attitudes related to frustration, a sense of institutional inappropriateness and cognitive distances playing a role in the low salience of health policy. The article therefore argues that cooperation in the health area will derive from policy activity from other actors than Euroregions.
The Building Blocks of a Euroregion: novel Metrics to Measure Cross-border Integration
The article explores how the notion of European integration at the local level can be conceptualized and measured. Based on a process-oriented inclusive understanding of integration and using relational datasets that maps both domestic and cross-border communication ties among political representatives in four Euroregions along the borders of Hungary–Slovakia and Sweden–Norway, we begin by applying and theoretically dissecting network-analytical metrics based on frequency of ties. Despite finding that such measures capture analytically relevant properties of political cross-border networks, we argue that they are less than ideal for capturing the notion of political integration. Instead, with inspiration from the blockmodeling tradition in network analysis, we propose two novel metrics—cross-border connectivity and integrational overfitting. These metrics not only enrich our understanding of political integration in cross-border settings but also can serve as useful mapping tools for policy-makers. A software client enabling the analysis of these measures supplements this article.
Diversity and Development: Policy Entrepreneurship of Euroregional Initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe
The article builds on the authors' research into the formation of Euroregions in Central and Eastern Europe, addressing questions that may also be relevant on a broader European scale. Based on our empirical findings, in previous research we demonstrated why some local governments join Euroregions while others abstain. This article takes a further step and aims to discuss what happens once local governments become involved in them. How do motivations and expectations of local governments, as well as the power asymmetries between them, determine the capacity of these small-scale local cross-border collaborative initiatives to act as policy entrepreneurs? We take the three different Euroregional initiatives present in the Komárom–Esztergom region at the Hungarian–Slovakian border as illustrative examples. The empirical data were collected through personal interviews with the representatives of the Euroregions and with the highest political representatives of all local governments that are members on the Hungarian side. We find that differences in membership structure and in the motivational background influence their capacity to act as policy entrepreneurs operationalized as organizational development, diversification of resource base and appropriation of cross-border cooperation activities. We thus rely on a modified version of Markus Perkmann's theoretical framework built around the concept of policy entrepreneurship, but apply it to cases where we are able to control for variations in underlying macro-level conditions, such as politico-administrative or ethno-linguistic settings. The paper, therefore, highlights the differences in the internal dynamics of these initiatives and also challenges the perception of Euroregions as homogeneous institutions.
Forget the policy gap: why local governments really decide to take part in cross-border cooperation initiatives in Europe
The article investigates the motivations of European local governments to join formalized cooperation initiatives between sub-national authorities, referred to as Euroregions. Micro-level comparative empirical data are brought forward to argue against the European Union portrayal of Euroregions as primarily responding to local or regional policy problems that cannot be dealt with within the national contexts, expressed as “filling the gaps.” Instead, the paper contends that local government engagement mainly derives from normative beliefs, and when instrumental expectations appear, they are grant-driven rather than policy-driven. The empirical data consist of material generated by 136 interviews with mayors of local governments in six Euroregions, located at three national borders (Sweden/Norway, Hungary/Slovakia and Austria/Germany). Qualitative data from these interviews are used to investigate assumptions, beliefs, and practices underpinning Euroregional membership.