The sub-national level in the Nordic countries is currently undergoing a process of major
transformation. A central issue concerns the role of municipalities in regionalization
processes. The purpose of the article is to analyse the positions and strategies of municipalities
regarding interlocal cooperation and regional governance, in relation to a failed
attempt to create a new large region in southern Sweden during 2013-2014. This attempt
was based on a reform strategy, initiated by the government, which gave the main role in
the creation of larger regions to municipalities and regional actors in a bottom-up process.
How can we understand the roles of municipalities, and what are the drivers and barriers
in a bottom-up strategy of regional formation? Our study shows that the views expressed
by municipal representatives in Sweden regarding regional governance are anchored in
the strong institutional position of municipalities in that country. Our conclusion is that a
bottom-up strategy has several shortcomings as a method for making institutional reforms
in a system of regional governance. There are obvious drivers in such a process, but there
are also difficulties in achieving cooperation that result from high transaction costs
(which lead to a collective-action dilemma), from an uncertain national policy, and from
problems of legitimacy.
2015. Vol. 19, no 4, 71-88 p.