Home Sociology Integration Processes and Policies in Europe
Local Governments as Actors in Transnational Exchange
Numerous governments in European countries of destination support migrant initiatives or maintain linkages with municipalities in origin countries. These linkages are often associated with policies for strengthening social cohesion and integration in their own societies. The connection between international cooperation policies and policies on citizenship and integration at the local level is a relatively new phenomenon in Europe. Reflecting this, there is little scientific research on international cooperation between cities in origin and destination countries. Although several studies mention the existence of these bonds and the main reasons for establishing them, empirical evidence on these partnerships is scarce. There are also few policy-oriented studies.
Before discussing the role of local governments, it is important to note that government structures vary widely within Europe, in terms of their extent of decentralization and the mandates of local governments. These differences have a strong effect in the shaping of immigration and immigrant policies, as well as on international cooperation policies (Juzwiak et al. 2014). Beyond the extent of decentralization, the kind of local government entities involved in international cooperation varies widely. Whereas in Spain and Italy regions fulfil an important role, in the Netherlands international exchange is usually executed by municipalities, with regions playing only a minor role. Two general observations can be made: (i) not all European destination countries have experienced engagement of local governments in international cooperation with origin countries, (ii) in those countries where they do engage, only a limited number of local governments are involved.
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