Europe has come to recognize that its regions have a major role to play in achieving its cohesion and competitiveness objectives. EU policies and Structural Fund principles are therefore increasingly geared towards enhancing regional capacities. Regions across Europe are responding, with varying results so far. The Randstad, in the Netherlands, presents itself as a ‘far from best’ example. Despite continued and serious attempts to strengthen capacities and institutions, the region still lacks effective governance. This paper explores the question why it is next to impossible to establish a framework for effective governance in the Randstad and distils some lessons for other regions in Europe.