Events & News


Development of “Cross-border regions’ in new modes of governance that facilitate border dialogue and integration

Dr Elisabetta Nadalutti, Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Université du Luxembourg

25 May 2015 (Monday)
Seminar Room 607 (6th Floor), NTU Executive Centre @one-North, 11 Slim Barracks Rise, Singapore 138664



Seminar Report [pdf/print]


The EU Centre in Singapore hosted a seminar on 25th May, by Dr Elisabetta Nadalutti on whether cooperation in the ‘cross-border regions’ can contribute to  new modes of governance that facilitate border dialogue and integration.

Dr Nadalutti, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Université du Luxembourg, is undertaking a comparative analysis of cross-border regions in Europe and Southeast Asia. . Her research focuses on the cooperation between Italy’s Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region and Slovenia, as well as the Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore (IMS) growth triangle. These zones have been picked due to their long (informal) historical trans-border cooperation, their geographical closeness to one another and their multi-ethnic composition The aim of her research is to contribute to theories on  regionalism / regionalisation and global governance.

Dr Nadalutti began her seminar with definitions of key terms in her research – regionalism, regionalisation and governance: she defined regionalism as cooperation between different states occupying a common regional space and regionalisation as the empirical process that leads to patterns of cooperation, integration, complementarity and convergence within a particular cross-national geographical space. , She then touched on the terms formal integration (i.e. Integration with is formalised through the establishment of institutions) and informal integration (i.e. integration that is driven by market activities). In the case of the EU, the desire to develop a more cohesive and integrated policy among old and new states as the Union enlarged and to secure unstable borders can be seen as factors that drove cross-border cooperation, while in ASEAN the goals for transnational cooperation included the strengthening of economic ties  and closer cooperation to boost their economies.

She next touched on governance in cross-border regions through the viewpoint of the new regionalism theory – here, governments still keep control of the centre-periphery and state-society gates, but the interaction and combination of ‘formal’  and ‘informal’  institutions now coexist within a ‘new’ understanding of governance. Essentially, the development of cross-border regions has meant that governance has undergone a process of “reterritorialization” upwards to international organizations, downwards to cities and regions, and horizontally across nations, regions and communities. This has resulted in multi-level governance where regions and subnational actors have gained importance in policy-making – be it through autonomy or participation in politics.

This, Dr Nadalutti argues, has been the case in the Italian-Slovenian example. The Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region wields considerable power since being granted autonomous status in 1963 – it has set up an office in Brussels to lobby at the EU level and plays a leading role in cross-border cooperation activities. . Cooperation on cross-border regionalism has been forged with the Slovenian state. However, cooperation is not always smooth sailing – Slovenian municipalities are different from Italian regions in terms of power, autonomy, financial resources and administrative capacity. Nevertheless, this case study  shows that the clear cut division between “states” and “regions” have been blurred, and that regions such as Friuli-Venezia-Giulia has effectively become a “quasi-state” in developing its own foreign relationships without going through the centre.

Dr Nadalutti next turned to the Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore (IMS) example which is based on the growth triangle model in Asia. In the Asian context, cross-border regions are top-down efforts by national and state governments to pursue economic activities and encourage companies to relocate their investments to various countries. However, such cross-border activities are not facilitated through ASEAN.  Nevertheless the regional bloc actively supports ‘growth triangles’ since they are perceived as ‘test-beds’ for developing and boosting further economic integration in ASEAN. At the moment, states and non-governmental actors such as businesses are at the forefront of such cross-border cooperation.

She then compares the EU and ASEAN. The EU has had a strong role in shaping cross-border cooperation in the Slovenia-Italy example, and a complex net of multi-level governance is taking place as governments, businesses and civil society actors at the national and state levels are all strongly engaged in cooperation. Within ASEAN, however, cooperation is fostered through intergovernmental agreements, and private sector companies act on behalf of the national government in triggering development and cooperation in border zones. (IMS) There are some similarities with the Slovenian-Italian case, Dr Nadalutti asserts: asymmetrical linkages have been built between a national government such as Singapore with parts of states such as Johor and Riau, and a blurring of jurisdictional differences in processes of industrialization and  economic integration acrossborder zones.

To sum up, Dr Nadalutti concludes that while governments still control the centre-periphery and state-society gates, the interaction and combination of formal and informal institutions are helping to give birth to a new understanding of governance that has undergone a process of ‘re-territorialisation’. The integration of cross-border regions can be seen as a market-led affair with the state playing a less important role as compared to market coordination and social networks by businesses and non-state actors. Such activities may transform the operation of power across various levels of governance on a local, national and/or supranational level, leading to a new mode of multilevel governance. The central government, too, can be strengthened or weakened by such cooperation, but more importantly, it must grasp the concept and embrace the impact of networks and cross-border movements that will inevitably play a major role in shaping the cultural and economic activities in cross-border regions.