Handbook on Cohesion Policy in the EU
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Handbook on Cohesion Policy in the EU

Edited by Simona Piattoni and Laura Polverari

This Handbook covers all major aspects of EU Cohesion policy, one of the most significant areas of intervention of the European Union. Over five parts, It discusses this policy’s history and governing principles; the theoretical approaches from which it can be assessed; the inter-institutional and multi-level dynamics that it tends to elicit; its practical implementation and impact on EU member states; its interactions with other EU policies and strategies; and the cognitive maps and narratives with which it can be associated. An absolute must for all students of the EU.
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Chapter 13: Cohesion policy and regional mobilisation

Eve Hepburn


The aim of this chapter is to explore the changing perceptions of European Union (EU) Cohesion policy by Europe’s diverse regions, and the opportunities it has created for subnational engagement. Much has been written about the ways in which the reform of the Structural Funds in the late 1980s brought regions into the ambit of EU decision-making, thereby leading to new forms of ‘multilevel governance’ (Marks 1992; Hooghe 1995; Jeffery 2000; Marks and Hooghe 2001; Piattoni 2009). However, less attention has been given to how the regions themselves used the opportunities presented by Cohesion policy, and European integration more generally, to meet their own political aims (Lynch 1996; Elias 2009; Hepburn 2010). The main question this chapter seeks to address is thus: how have substate regions mobilised on the issue of EU Cohesion policy? This discussion explores the changing attitudes of regional actors towards European integration over time, and how this has been linked to EU Cohesion policy. It begins by reflecting on the cautious (and at times hostile) approach adopted by substate regions towards the European project in the 1970s and early 1980s. It then considers the ways in which the reform of Cohesion policy – also known as the ‘regional policy’ of the EU – began to be correlated in the minds of regional actors with an institutionally reformed ‘Europe of the Regions’ during the 1990s. At this point, the economic and political empowerment of the regions – through receipt and implementation of EU regional development funds, as well as access to European decision-making – were seen to go hand-in-hand.

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