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 interterritoriality, 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.