RECONNECTING CROSS-BORDER REGIONS IN THE ALPINE SPACE Economy, Anti-Immigration Speech and Public Opinion

Ureta Vaquero, Ivan and Blazquez, Victor (2017) RECONNECTING CROSS-BORDER REGIONS IN THE ALPINE SPACE Economy, Anti-Immigration Speech and Public Opinion. In: UNSPECIFIED.

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This paper studies the implications of anti-immigration public speech for politico-economic relations and innovation in cross-border regions (CBRs). In particular, it assesses how bilateral relations between CBRs may affect broader political initiatives that have already been launched by a larger group of regions or nations. The paper studies two specific cases: Ticino (TI) – Lombardy (LO) and Trentino & Alto Adige/South Tyrol (TAA) – Tyrol (TIR). The political, social and economic relations between states and especially within CBRs are very sensitive to anti-immigration discourses, and over the past few years, migration has been central to the European agenda. Since 2008, the economic and financial crisis has challenged collective policy-making processes in the EU and jeopardises the continuity and sustainability of existing initiatives. The paper builds upon realism-constructivism (Jackson & Nexon, 2004), a theoretical framework that helps to understand how political entrepreneurs and brokers behave (Walker, 1974; Christopoulos, 2006; Ureta, 2017). This approach brings together “the study of power in international politics and the study of international relations as a social construction” (Barkin, 2003). The relevance of this framework becomes more apparent in the discussion about cross-border relations and the specifically opportunistic anti-immigration rhetoric that political entrepreneurs deploy. Methodologically, the paper evolves along four main axes. First, we perform a theoretical analysis by focusing on regionalisation and integration at the European and the Alpine levels. Second, by processing official data, we study and compare the export-import relations between the proposed units of analysis. This section shows the importance of economic and trade relations among the units of analysis. Third, we put forward some examples of anti-immigration speech within the studied CBRs. For the purpose of this study, we sought to avoid specific analyses relating to critical discourse analysis or corpus linguistics. This will be done in future studies. Fourth, we conduct a study to gain a better understanding of the impact of anti-immigration speech on public opinion and subsequently on economic and innovation activities across the Alpine space. This study was carried out by studying online usage habits within the areas of study and using the data provided by Google Trends as a relevant “nowcasting” tool (Etredge et al. 2005; Choi & Varian, 2012). The paper concludes by confirming the impact of anti-immigration speech on existing multilateral and bilateral mechanisms and on public opinion. However, economic and trade relations, as well as mutual dependency, force regional and national governments and private stakeholders to find alternative and pragmatic solutions that circumvent the short-term effects of populism.

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