The chapter discusses the nature and relevance of the social dimension in both the regulations and operational programmes of Cohesion policy, with a specific focus on the 2007_2013 and 2014_2020 programming periods. A distinction is made between measures oriented at increasing employment and those which are more explicitly devoted to social inclusion, in order to assess: (1) whether _ in line with the discourse in official documents _ the balance between the opposing rationales underpinning Cohesion policy (that is, increasing competitiveness, on the one hand; and promoting solidarity, on the other) has actually shifted in favour of equity and social inclusion; and (2) whether (and to what extent) European Union (EU) institutions are able to steer the national process of fund allocation while preserving a coherent policy strategy. Although, since 2012, EU institutions have undertaken several initiatives aimed at reinforcing the Europe 2020 social and anti-poverty dimension, their effective impact remains unclear. In the authors’ view, social inclusion is still apparently caught between the entrepreneurial role of socially oriented EU bodies and the ordinary political bargaining between EU institutions and national governments.
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