Regional Policies in Europe: Managing Territorial Inequalities and Global Transitions

Cite as: Georgieva, N (2022) Regional Policies in Europe: Managing Territorial Inequalities and Global Transitions, EoRPA Report 22/1, EoRPA Regional Policy Research Consortium, European Policies Research Centre, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and EPRC Delft

Regional policies across Europe in 2021- 2022 have been operating in a volatile and uncertain environment framed by the continued recovery from COVID-19, the conflict in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis. Despite these challenging conditions, an overview of developments in regional policy over the past 12-18 months indicates that strategic thinking has been largely shaped by long-term political and policy priorities, although the implications and lessons learnt from the pandemic are being reflected in some implementation mechanisms.

National economic activity has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels, although the recovery in most countries is asymmetric at regional and local level. Economically prosperous and industrial regions have been more able to return to previous development paths. Tourist regions, including both rural and large urban areas, as well as regions with pre-existing structural weaknesses, however, have not been able to recover as quickly.

Apart from the National Recovery and Resilience Plans, a number of recovery measures to address the medium- to long-term implications of the pandemic which include a strong local and social dimension are anticipated. The potential for longer-term opportunities for regional policy, in particular associated with teleworking and its implications for rural areas and small towns, continue to stimulate considerable policy and political interest, although the full extent of changes will take time to emerge.

In addition to recovery measures and crisis responses, developments in the long-term approach to regional policies over the past 12 months are evident in three main areas: strategic objectives, implementation mechanisms and institutional arrangements. A strong common focus emerges in terms of ensuring coherent territorial development and advancing the integration of sustainability and climate objectives in regional policies. In some countries, more fundamental re-thinking is underway (including Germany, Switzerland and the UK) while in others, developments are a continuation of existing longer-term strategic thinking and approaches to regional policy.

Reviewing in more detail recent prominent trends in regional policies, this overview provides comparative analysis of efforts by European governments to manage sustainability transitions and build territorial resilience through public services, and identifies areas for further policy reflection and action.

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