Regions and their role in Scandinavian countries


The last third of the 20th century was characterized by a general strengthening of the regional level of government in many European countries. During this period of New Regionalism, entirely new levels of regional governance was established and existing levels gained in powers and legitimacy, reaching a peak at the end of the century.

The Scandinavian countries used to follow a common model for regional self-government with directly elected councils responsible for significant welfare services such as secondary education and health care, while Finland developed a system of inter-municipal cooperation. In a European comparison, the Nordic countries were latecomers with regard to regional reform. It was not until after the European peak of regionalism that the regional transformation really started to take off in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. During recent years, the number of regions have been reduced to five in Denmark, with responsibility primarily for hospitals. Norway has kept their 19 counties, although mainly as units of policy coordination at regional level, since much of their previous service tasks have been transferred to central government. In Sweden, responsibility for health care has remained the dominant regional function but the reforms have been extensive but only partial, resulting in a mix of different models. Hence, opposite to the past there seemingly is no common direction in contemporary Scandinavian regional reform. Given the overall similarities between the Scandinavian countries this is arguably surprising.

This special issue welcomes manuscripts addressing challenges and tendencies of regional governance in a Scandinavian setting. Research questions to be addressed may include:

(1)    How can regional institutional diversity in the Scandinavian countries be understood? Do we need new theoretical perspectives or new combinations of existing theories in order to grasp the developments?

(2)    To what extent is there a Scandinavian exceptionalism in regional reform? How do changes in the Scandinavian countries compare to the general development in the field?

(3)    What are the political powers of current regional governments, and how do regional politicians exploit this power?

(4)    To what extent do regions function as policy coordinators, and what are the main barriers to such a role?

(5)    What are the consequences of regional reform and what lessons can be transferred between the Scandinavian countries?

Professor Asbjørn Røiseland, University of Nordland, Norway
Professor Eva Sørensen, Roskilde University, Denmark
Senior researcher Hege Hofstad, NIBR, Norway
Professor Anders Lidström, Umeå University, Sweden

Dead-line for submission:  December 1, 2014

Submit your manuscript in accordance with the SJPA author guidelines, see, and mark your submission “Regions and their role – special issue”.
Questions/Information: For additional information regarding the special issue, please contact Asbjørn Røiseland, University of Nordland (

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Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413