Styrning genom frivillig koordinering?
EU-funding opportunities create incentives for local governments to partake in the implementation of EU regional policies; yet there is a lack of knowledge on the local effects in everyday municipal work. In this article we examine how the European Social Fund (ESF) is used by the EU and national level to govern local activities, how the subnational level acts in response to this and with what consequences for local autonomy. We analyze policy instruments within the ESF, with particular emphasis on how funding criteria are used for governing purposes, here analyzed in terms of soft and hard governing. The results show that despite the EU’s emphasis on local implementation, municipalities lack a formal place in the ESF-governance archi- tecture as the rules target the project level directly. This results in municipalities establishing new local roles, services and agencies in order to facilitate funding and implementation. Governance by incentives may appear as soft. However, when analyzing conditions for funding a number of mandatory requirements shows. Thus, autonomy is opened up, yet circumscribed through formal requirements