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EU Cohesion Policy: The Debate on the 2014–2020 Programming Period (Editor’s Note)

0 Comments 🕔12.Dec 2014

This article is part of our EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 feature.

European Parliament. Credit: Daniel Sancho

European Parliament. Credit: Daniel Sancho

by Nicola Francesco Dotti

In 2014, a new programming period of the European Union (EU) Cohesion Policy (CP) started, which will shape the EU regional intervention for the next seven years, until 2020. Differently from the previous programming period, the CP has been renewed to face the current crisis. It is the first time that the CP is called to face such a fundamental challenge, shifting from a policy for “convergence, competitiveness and cooperation” to also becoming an “investment policy.” This special CritCom feature aims to provide diverse contributions on this topic in order to animate a broader debate on the policy and on how the EU can contribute to face the crisis from a place-based perspective.

The challenge of the CP is a particularly difficult one, as the CP is probably one of the most complex EU policies, and this special feature aims to highlight some of the most controversial issues. We collected contributions from scholars with different scientific and geographical backgrounds to provide an overview that addresses some of these challenges. The contributions can be grouped into two major blocks: the articles by Bubbico and myself, Dabrowski, Dellmuth and Chalmers, and Reinhart address the CP from a general perspective, analyzing specific aspects from the political level to new financial tools, while the forthcoming articles by Antunes, Armondi, and Salageanu provide national perspectives from three of the most representative European countries interested in the CP.

In the first article, Lisa Dellmuth and Adam W. Chalmers address the problematic relationship between politics and the implementation of the CP. Despite new, stricter regulation of the allocation of funds, the authors examine how to allocate funds according to regional needs and how this can be legitimized. In the second article, Simone Reinhart provides a direct perspective from the decision-making process in the European Parliament (EP), which was involved as a co-legislator for the first time together with the EU Commission and the Council. This is a direct result of the ‘new’ Lisbon Treaty, and Reinhart’s analysis highlights the EP’s contribution in the new decision-making process. In the third article, Bubbico and I analyze the ‘hidden’ challenge determined by the reduction in state-region transfer. While the regional dimensions of the crisis have received little attention in the debate on the crisis, the reduction in funds for regional administrations risks to further undermine the possibility for place-based policies as an approach to recover from the crisis. In the forthcoming fourth article, Marcin Dąbrowski discusses the new financial engineering instruments of the CP to address the crisis. These new financial instruments are significantly changing the way the CP intervenes, and the article analyzes two particular cases in Poland and Spain.

In the second part of this feature, three national case studies are presented: Portugal, Italy, and Romania. These countries are significantly involved in the CP, yet each case presents significant particularities. While Italy is a founding member of the EU with strong internal disparities, Romania is one of the most recent member states in need of major investments. Portugal is one of the countries that has been hit most severely by the crisis, and Ferreira Antunes presents the case of the Região Norte to discuss issues related to a centralized system such as Portugal’s. Armondi writes about the Italian urban agenda, analyzing the implications determined by geographical definitions of what is ‘urban’ in a heterogeneous and articulated country like Italy. Finally, Salageanu provides evidence from the Romanian case, where the institutional framework seems more uncertain in its process of regional devolution.

Far from being exhaustive, we have selected these topics to open up the discussion on the new programming period of the CP. We acknowledge the complexity of issues addressed; nevertheless, we want to contribute to the debate on one of the most important EU policies. We hope this feature can be the beginning of a broader debate to further enhance the CP, by integrating different disciplinary approaches and combining both general, national, and regional perspectives towards a ‘better Europe’.


Nicola Francesco Dotti is a post-doc in Economic Geography at Cosmopolis, Centre for Urban Research at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). He did a PhD on the territorial impact assessment of the EU Cohesion Policy based on the territorial capital theory. His current research interest is in European research geography, and how research can support territorial policy innovations.

This article is part of our EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 feature.

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