Handbook of European Policies
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Handbook of European Policies

Interpretive Approaches to the EU

Edited by Hubert Heinelt and Sybille Münch

This definitive Handbook addresses the current lack of research into European policymaking and development using an interpretive perspective. Questioning areas that mainstream approaches tend to neglect, contributors target the ways in which ideas, arguments and discourses shape policies in the institutional context of the EU.
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Chapter 7: The structural funds and EU cohesion policy

Hubert Heinelt and Wolfgang Petzold


This chapter analyses the narrative of EU cohesion policy and the way it has changed over time. Since the later 1980s, the ‘cohesion narrative’ framed an EU policy addressing regional economic and social disparities by the transfer of funds through a distinct delivery mechanism. Its ideas, concepts and categories dominated debates among actors at EU, national and regional level. By applying an interpretive approach to both official documents and academic literature, the chapter proceeds as follows: first, information is provided on the political and scholarly debates about EU cohesion policy. Second, characteristics of policy-making (politics) as well as of the institutional structure (the polity) of the EU cohesion policy are presented. Third, the chapter shows how the narrative has gradually changed since the beginning of the 2000s. The chapter concludes that the communicative interactions around EU cohesion policy have lasting effects despite changes to its basic ideas, concepts and categories.

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