Lessons and Policy Implications for the Lisbon Strategy
INFER Advances in Economic Research series
Chapter 4: Lessons from 20 Years of Cohesion
John Fitz Gerald 4.1 INTRODUCTION Over the last twenty years the four poorest states in the EU 15 have experienced very significant benefits as a consequence of their membership of the EU. Ireland became a member of the then EEC as early as 1973, whereas Greece became a member in 1980 and Spain and Portugal in the middle of the 1980s. These four ‘cohesion’ states have pursued rather different policies over the past twenty years and have undergone rather different experiences of integration into the EU economy. For three of the four countries the last twenty years have seen a significant convergence in living standards towards the EU average. For Ireland the period of convergence in the 1990s was quite dramatic in terms of its speed. However, the progress in Spain and Portugal was also notable over the same period. It is only in the case of Greece that the progress has been less marked over the same period. These differing experiences of integration into the EU economy carry some lessons. It is clear from the sheer diversity of the policies pursued and the differing pace of adjustment that there is not a single ‘model’ of convergence. There are many different possible paths for states to promote economic development and no single strategy dominates the other possible strategies. Nonetheless, out of this diversity there are a number of common themes which may prove useful to the ten new member states, which are already well down the path to integration into...
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