Taking the example of the contested closure of Belgium's last coal mines in the Province of Limburg and the subsequent tumultuous attempts to reconvert the region's economic base, the paper assesses the importance of the political armature in structuring processes of regional change under conditions of prolonged economic stress. Particular attention is paid to the relationship between supra-national (European) programmes and the negotiation of these with regional institutional power configurations, resulting in a new articulation of European and local scales of governance. In the first part, we shall summarize the recent political-economic history of Limburg and indicate the role of hegemonic political apparatuses in shaping development trajectories. In a second part, we shall detail the more recent epochal changes that have changed the political-institutional framework in decisive ways and altered the economic restructuring process. We shall assess the functioning of the recently evaluated First Programme (1989-93). Finally, we shall suggest why the Second Programme (1994-98) has been so unsuccessful in meeting its objectives. We conclude that a regional analysis and planning that ignores the subtleties of power relations, their institutional configuration and shifting power geometries will invariably fail to account for or influence regional socio-economic development paths.