Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 May 2013
To what extent and in what way does European integration fuel state restructuring? This is a long-standing but still not a fully answered question. While the theoretical literature suggests a positive link between the two, previous empirical studies have reached contrasting conclusions. The article offers an alternative testing of the proposition, centred on the role of party strategies as a causal mechanism, analysed across space and time. On the cross-sectional axis, it focusses on parties in Flanders and Wallonia (Belgium), Lombardy and Sicily (Italy), Catalonia and Andalusia (Spain), and Scotland and Wales (United Kingdom). On the cross-temporal axis, it focuses on four critical junctures connecting integration and state restructuring. It analyses the degree to which ‘Europe’ has been strategically used in connection to state restructuring and which conditions have been necessary and/or sufficient to that outcome. The analysis has been conducted on the basis of a Qualitative Comparative Analysis methodology. Five main results emerge: (1) overall, parties have generally exploited ‘Europe’ in connection with state restructuring to a limited extent only but in a few cases exploitation has been very intense and intimately linked to strategic turning points; (2) ‘Europe’ has overwhelmingly been used to support state restructuring; (3) the most intense use has been made by regional parties with a secessionist position and positive attitude to the EU; (4) ‘use of Europe’ is a product of a complex conjunctural effect of several conditions; (5) it has increased over time but is not a linear product of integration, a sharp drop can be observed between the two most recent time points. These findings show that European integration can indeed exercise causal influence upon state restructuring via party strategies but that this is highly contingent on the complex interaction of multiple factors.