Overcoming barriers to institutional integration in European second-tier urban regions

Rodrigo Ordonhas Viseu Cardoso*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)
    39 Downloads (Pure)


    Within the debates about the socio-economic advantages of cohesive urban regions, several barriers to institutional integration are said to exist, especially when a metropolitan government is absent and integration relies on inter-municipal cooperation. Some barriers are associated with different urban region structures, such as the asymmetric power relations and sociocultural contrasts between municipalities in systems with dominant core cities, or the lack of a leading city to overcome fragmentation and provide a shared identity in polycentric urban regions (PURs). This paper investigates whether urban regions formed around second-tier cities, whose features depart from both dominant core and PUR models, are able to mitigate these barriers when pursuing integration strategies. The analysis relies on interviews with municipal leaders in three representative European case studies, examining how they perceive the barriers to inter-municipal relations in second-tier urban regions. The findings show that perceptions vary not only between regions, with the three cases following different trajectories of integration, but also within regions, according to the geographical and socio-economic context of municipalities and the legacy of past relations. In general, barriers to integration are not minimized without explicit efforts to rebalance power relations, approach political cultures, mobilize core city leadership and develop a metropolitan identity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-20
    JournalEuropean Planning Studies
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Nov 2016

    Bibliographical note

    Accepted Author Manuscript


    • institutional integration
    • inter-municipal cooperation
    • metropolitan identity
    • Second-tier cities
    • urban regions


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