Political concern with interpersonal and interregional socio-economic disparities has grown in Europe in 2017-18, in response to national election/referendum results and wider unease at the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities. Studies suggest that: Regional disparities in GDP per capita in Europe have widened since 2008, partly due to an increase in inequalities between countries. Lagging regions in Europe can be divided into those characterised by ‘low income’ (eastern regions) and those characterised by ‘low growth’ (southern regions). Key drivers of interregional inequality in Europe in the past decade include: long-run technological change; structural changes in central-eastern countries since 1990; the diverse impact of the 2008/09 financial/economic crisis; and political and policy decisions. Household disposable income inequality rose in most EU Member States in 1989-2015, due to increased disparities in labour income and growing concentration of capital income and wealth. Key regional policy changes in 2017-18 In response, governments are taking new steps to address interregional inequalities.
Major regional policy reforms are underway in a number of countries. At country-level, mechanisms for negotiating new ideas are focused around new national strategies for regional development or are driven by domestic political commitments. At regional/local levels, methods for ideas-generation require regional partnerships to develop integrated and innovative approaches. Peripheral, rural and urban areas are being targeted more strongly New instruments and/or more intense discussions have been launched for ‘marginalised’, ‘peripheral’, ‘interior’ or ‘mountainous’ areas. More broadly, there is a stronger focus on rural areas and on small or mediumsized towns which are seen to be experiencing increased difficulties. Concern with industrial restructuring is growing Industrial restructuring areas are also the focus of new instruments and support packages Coal transition regions are a particular focus of additional funding, linked to national climate protection policies aimed at shifting out of coal production and coal-fired energy generation.