The Regional and Urban Policy of the European Union

The Regional and Urban Policy of the European Union

Cohesion, Results-Orientation and Smart Specialisation

New Horizons in Regional Science series

Philip McCann

The regional and urban development policy of the European Union, or more precisely, EU Cohesion Policy, is undergoing change. This development is driven by the enormous transformations in European regions and by shifts in thinking and analysis. The issues raised by the changes to regional and urban development policy in Europe span many academic disciplines and build on different research methodologies. A broad approach is required in order to address these issues and this book explicitly incorporates insights from a range of different disciplines. After examining the major regional and urban features of the European economy and discussing the analytical underpinnings of the current re-design to EU Cohesion Policy, the book also aims to provide a road map of the various EU regional and urban data-sources which are available to researchers and policy-makers. This book is aimed at all economists, geographers, regional scientists, spatial planners, transportation scientists, sociologists, urban studies researchers, environmental scholars, political scientists and policy-analysts who are interested in regional and urban issues.

Chapter 3: The logic and workings of EU Cohesion Policy

Philip McCann

Subjects: economics and finance, regional economics, urban economics, geography, cities, urban and regional studies, cities, regional economics, regional studies, urban economics, urban studies


In this chapter we provide a brief overview and outline of the origins and evolution of EU Cohesion Policy, as well as its current workings and economic impacts. As we see, the policy has evolved over recent decades as Europe itself has evolved and additional features of the policy have been incorporated into the overall policy architecture and logic as a response to particular issues which have arisen as Europe has changed. Fundamentally, however, the policy architecture and logic which existed as of 2013 was still basically the same as that which was originally constructed in 1988, and this chapter explains the basic architecture, logic, and selected impacts of the policy over a 25-year period. The EU regional and urban policy agenda, or more precisely EU Cohesion Policy, on some measures can be considered as being possibly the largest single integrated development programme in the Western and OECD world. The limited evidence available suggests that regional development policies within the USA are probably larger than those operating within Europe (Drabenstott 2005). However, this is open to question because there are no comprehensive and consistent data available on nationally-financed development activities for all EU member states (European Commission 2010b) while at the same time the US policies are somewhat scattered across thousands of different state and sectoral programmes (Drabenstott 2005).

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