Study title
European Regional Mountain Initiatives: From Pyrenees to Caucasus (ERMI)
Ref study 10957
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Région
  • Europe
  • Environment
  • Governance
  • Mountains
  • Cross-border cooperation
  • Scale
Geographical space
Pyrenees, Jura, Alps, Carpathians, Dinaric Arc, Balkan Mountains, Caucasus
Europe is home to numerous transboundary regional initiatives and many of these have focused on mountain regions (massifs). From the Pyrenees to the Caucasus, mountain regions have been the focus of institution building for more than two decades, ranging from established, legally binding international treaties such as the Alpine Convention to emergent processes focused on fostering regional partnerships of researchers and practitioners. Individually and in combination, the phenomenon of regional mountain initiatives raises an important question the ERMI project seeks to answer: Are these initiatives and associated formal agreements genealogically or formally linked to each other? Or are they ultimately unique to their respective contexts? The ERMI project hypothesizes that transboundary regional mountain initiatives in Europe are neither independent occurrences of governance rescaling and inter-territoriality, nor simple duplications of a pre-existing institutional model. Rather, these initiatives need to be seen as interdependent trajectories inextricably linked to each other through similar modes of framing, circulating models or institutional diffusion, and understood at the same time as singular outputs of contingent processes where local, national, contextual conditions have played a role. The ERMI research plan evolves around a comparative analysis of seven existing or emerging arrangements intended. The project is organized in four work packages:
1) interdisciplinary protocols;
2) Massif making, scaling, and framing;
3) Governance, institutionalization and policy diffusion; and
4) Types and models, knowledge integration.
The analysis is designed to generate knowledge of their genesis through a focus on the role of models, prototypes, and referents on the one hand, and the role of contextuality and the will to produce ad hoc arrangements and specific territories on the other. Beyond the thematic focus of the research and the case studies, the project seeks to contribute to academic debates on multilevel governance and regionalization processes. The ERMI project is highly interdisciplinary, combining the knowledge and expertise of researchers in law, political science, and geography. Although these disciplines share a concern for concepts that are central to the project (territoriality, governance, scale or level, etc.), the meanings of these concepts differ widely. Without impoverishing these disciplinary meanings, the ERMI project will build a common set of conceptual interpretations that can help shed light on the intertwining of political, juridical and geographical modes of territorialization and regionalization.
Methods (description)
The project examines the trajectory and the legal/institutional forms of regional mountain initiatives in seven mountain regions in Europe, both individually and from a comparative perspective. Each case study will be analyzed from the perspective of the following themes:
- The scaling and framing of a massif: According to what framing, scaling and set of criteria is a massif identified as a relevant one? Which actors bring the range to the political agenda? What issue linkages are emphasized/hidden? What collective identities are activated and/or newly promoted?
- The institutionalization of a massif: What forms of collective action are mobilized in support of the massif? How is collective action organized across national borders? What normative (legal and non-legal) frameworks are used to justify rangewide mobilization? What institutional mechanisms are created to ensure continuity in the policy initiative? What incentive structures underpin the institutional landscape? How influential have the European Union’s own frames and models of action been?
- The diffusion of massif-wide governance: What channels of exchange have been established and what kind of information is circulated? What actors have supported the diffusion and what arguments have they drawn on? What opposition has been evident? What modifications have been attempted/implemented? How balanced are arguments for policy diffusion and arguments for endogenous building? The researchers will use the following tools.
- Identification and interviewing of regional stakeholders: the research team is already in touch with several actors in the regions to be studied. It will deepen its contacts, assessing additional informants and experts, explaining to all of them the research project, asking for a coordination between the research calendar and political events, and getting everyone ready for the following steps of the research. A set of interviews will be carried out according to a detailed list of stakeholders that will be developed and reviewed in research team meetings. Interviews will be analyzed by Atlas TI software and social network analysis tools.
- Documentation analysis: each regional initiative will be studied by means of printed and electronic materials: legal status and publications, public documentation, minutes of meetings, etc.
- Participation in regional meetings: the research team will attend regional meetings whenever possible and useful for the project. Many of the regional institutions have at least an annual meeting with major partners.
- Focus groups: for each massif, the research team will set up a focus group with a selection of stakeholders, ideally just before or in the wake of one of their institutional meetings. We are confident to get a real interest from stakeholders, who tend to be eager to gain insights from comparative research that helps them reflect on their own modes of action and institutionalization.

Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 28.09.2012
Date modified 28.09.2012
Start - End date 01.01.2012 - 28.12.2014