How to 'connect' micro-regions with macro-regions? A Note (9 pages)

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point of view). Macro-regions, on the other hand, are typically studied by scholars with an

(international) economics or political science/IR background focusing on processes of

regional cooperation and integration, with inter-governmental and/or supra-national


In this note, I will present some ideas about how these two concepts (and discourses)

could be (re-)connected. I distinguish three ways to connect micro-regions with macro-

regions: (i) the merger of micro-regions and macro-regions into one conceptual category;

(ii) the consideration of micro-regions and macro-regions as similar emerging international

actors; and (iii) the consideration of (cross-border) micro-regions and macro-regions as

related processes.

2. Micro-regions and macro-regions as elements of one conceptual


At the centre of conceptual debates in regionalism or regional integration studies

during the last decades is the transition from the old regionalist concept to the new

regionalist concept(s). Nye’s definition (“a limited number of states linked together by a

geographical relationship and by a degree of mutual interdependence”) exemplifies well the

‘old’ understanding of regional integration (Nye, 1971:vii). Regions are thereby either

assimilated with regional organizations or are considered as a mainly geographical concept.

The regional organizations are supposed to be functionally specialized in either economic

integration or security cooperation. By contrast, new regionalism tends to refer to a multi-

dimensional and multi-actor phenomenon that should be seen in the context of



By emphasizing more the process characteristics of regionalization, less

attention went initially to the underlying concept of ‘region’, although there was and is a

growing understanding that there is a plurality of regions, including more informal



It has therefore been argued that the definitional question should be seen in

combination with the research problem at stake rather than to be settled ex ante (De

Lombaerde et al., 2010). In other words, definitions, it is argued, should be problem-based.

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