Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

This new text introduces the history, evolution and contemporary state of one of the European Union's most important, expensive and controversial policies. It examines the role that cohesion policy plays in European integration, as well as in economic development across regions, and analyzes the key debates and issues at stake.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
If one visits the website of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, the main body responsible for administering EU cohesion policy, in the menu under ‘Project examples’ you will find the link to a searchable database of activities funded by the structural and cohesion funds in the 2007–13 programming period. The search options allow the user to select one or all of the EU’s 28 member states — along with some neighbouring non-member countries or candidate states for EU accession — and one or all of the statistical regions of each member state. It also allows the searcher to select one or all of 12 different project themes, ranging from ‘Business support’, ‘Environment’ and ‘Health’ to ‘Tourism and culture’, ‘Transport’ and ‘Urban development’.
Michael Baun, Dan Marek

Chapter 1. The Origins and Early Evolution of Cohesion Policy

Abstract
Cohesion policy was not an original policy of the EU, like the CAP or the common commercial policy. While the preamble of the 1957 Rome Treaty, the founding treaty of the European Community (EC, later the EU), referenced the desire of the signatory states to reduce regional disparities in the Community, it was not until nearly 20 years later that an EC regional policy was finally established. What we now know as cohesion policy was only created in the late 1980s, following the signing and ratification of the SEA, which among other things established the strengthening of economic and social cohesion as a core objective of the EC. The creation of cohesion policy was accompanied by a dramatic expansion of structural funds spending, and by the late 1990s cohesion policy had grown to account for more than a third of the EU budget, making it the second largest area of EU expenditure after the CAP.
Michael Baun, Dan Marek

Chapter 2. The Transformation of Cohesion Policy: Alignment with the EU’s Growth and Competitiveness Strategy

Abstract
After 2000 EU cohesion policy underwent a major thematic reorientation, adopting a new focus on economic growth and competitiveness in alignment with the EU’s Lisbon and Europe 2020 strategies. While the promotion of economic convergence and the reduction of regional disparities remained official goals of cohesion policy, they would now be pursued in the context of efforts to make the EU as a whole more economically dynamic and competitive. This reorientation was necessitated by changing economic and political conditions, and by the need to demonstrate the continued relevance and added value of cohesion policy in a period of slow economic growth, high unemployment and tight budgetary constraints. The 2008 global financial crisis and the subsequent euro-zone crisis only added to the pressures on cohesion policy spending, but also provided cohesion policy with a potential new role as a source of growth-inducing public investment in a period of national fiscal austerity. As a consequence of these developments and the 2006 and 2013 policy reforms, cohesion policy has entered a new era with new goals and changes to its basic purpose or rationale. These changes, and the various economic and political factors influencing them, are the focus of this chapter.
Michael Baun, Dan Marek

Chapter 3. Cohesion Policy and the EU Budget

Abstract
As the second largest area of EU expenditure after the CAP, it is not surprising that cohesion policy should play a major role in EU budgetary politics. Historically, cohesion policy spending has been utilized as a compensatory mechanism to secure the agreement of poorer member states to further economic integration and liberalization, a fact that accounts for the very creation of cohesion policy and the expansion of EU structural spending after 1988. In a similar manner, but on a much smaller scale, special allocations under cohesion policy have become an increasingly utilized means for adjusting the net balances of individual member states and securing intergovernmental agreement on complex multi-annual budgetary packages. Spending on cohesion policy has also become a major issue in the growing split within the EU between net budgetary contributors and recipients, who are also generally the main beneficiaries of cohesion policy. While this north—south divide has always been a factor in EU budgetary politics, it has become a more significant cleavage since the late 1990s because of a worsening economic climate and the budgetary and fiscal constraints imposed by EMU.
Michael Baun, Dan Marek

Chapter 4. Implementing Cohesion Policy

Abstract
It is in the implementation phase that cohesion policy reveals its unique multi-level character. The decision-making steps examined in the previous chapters — the multi-annual agreements on the basic design of cohesion policy, including its priority objectives, programming procedures and implementation rules, and on the budgetary allocation for cohesion policy, including the distribution of funding among its various objectives and the indicative amounts for individual member states — take place predominantly at the EU level, involving proposals from the Commission and negotiations between the member states, with final intergovernmental agreements on both the MFF and the cohesion policy regulations requiring the approval of the European Parliament. The implementation phase, on the other hand, occurs at the EU, national and subnational levels and involves public actors from each: the Commission, national governments and subnational (regional and local) authorities. In accordance with the key operational principle of partnership, non-governmental and civil society actors are also supposed to be involved.
Michael Baun, Dan Marek

Chapter 5. Cohesion Policy and Multi-level Governance

Abstract
A distinctive feature of cohesion policy is the partnership principle, which requires the involvement of subnational and non-governmental actors in the implementation of cohesion policy. The purpose of this requirement is to promote a participatory approach to cohesion policy implementation, which it is argued will result in greater transparency, higher quality programmes and the more effective use of EU funds. Many scholars have argued, however, that through application of the partnership principle cohesion policy also has helped to promote new modes of multi-level governance in the EU more broadly. In this manner, the promotion of multi-level governance can be regarded as an important ‘side effect’ or secondary objective of cohesion policy (Tarschys, 2003: 76–8).
Michael Baun, Dan Marek

Chapter 6. The Economic Impact of Cohesion Policy

Abstract
Through its alignment with the Lisbon and Europe 2020 strategies cohesion policy has been assigned the task of promoting broader EU economic growth and competitiveness, while also contributing to such goals as the fight against climate change and the promotion of social inclusion. These new tasks have been layered upon the original purpose of cohesion policy, which was the reduction of economic disparities in the EU and the promotion of convergence — or the economic catching up of poorer regions and member states with their wealthier counterparts. Convergence thus remains an official goal of cohesion policy today, even if it is now pursued in the context of cohesion policy’s new growth and competitiveness mission.
Michael Baun, Dan Marek

Chapter 7. Conclusion: The Future of Cohesion Policy

Abstract
After final approval of the new regulations for cohesion policy by the Council and European Parliament in December 2013, the implementation of cohesion policy for the 2014–20 programming period officially began. Partnership Agreements for each of the member states were finalized and operational programmes formulated by national authorities in cooperation with regional, local and nongovernmental partners. On the basis of these agreements and programmes, over the course of the next seven years more than €350 billion (2014 prices) will be disbursed to Managing Authorities in the member states to fund programmes aimed at developing transportation and ICT infrastructure, promoting innovation and R&D, enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs, improving energy efficiency and promoting the shift to a low-carbon economy, strengthening education and training systems, and ending discrimination and combatting poverty, all with the ultimate goal of reducing economic and social disparities in the EU while supporting the Europe 2020 strategy of ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive’ growth.
Michael Baun, Dan Marek
Additional information