A Europe of the regions – What is EU Regional Policy?


Johannes Hahn – Current EU Commissioner for Regional Policy.

The European Regional Policy has three overarching objectives.The EU’s Regional Policy (also often known as ‘Cohesion Policy’) is the European Union’s way of dealing with the social and economic and territorial disparities that exist between the 27 countries and 271 different regions in Europe. EU Regional Policy provides funds for projects to be enacted by local officials at a regional level, largely bypassing the nation state. In doing do regional policy represents one of the key tools of European governance across the EU space.

  1. The first, known as convergence, aims to boost the economic and social progress of the poorest regions of Europe. This is to help them catch up (converge with) the richer more prosperous regions of the EU. Most of the poorest regions are in Eastern Europe. A number of countries however, noticeably in southern Europe, have a number of both poorer ‘convergence’ regions and richer regions (Italy or Greece for example).
  2. The second objective is Regional Competitiveness and Employment. This objective is focused on all those regions that do not fall under the convergence objective above. Under this objective the EU aims to boost economic competitiveness, promote innovation and entrepreneurship, improve transportation, environmental protection, workforce adaption and training and investment in human resources.
  3. The third objective is known as European Territorial Cooperation. The aim here is to boost cooperation between regions (transport links, economic interaction) particularly between the border regions of different countries (such as the south east of England and the North of France).

Have a look at this map that highlights the Convergence areas (red) and Regional Competitiveness and Employment areas (blue).

Read this webpage on the Regional (Cohesion) Policy.

  • Notice what percentage of the Regional Policy funding is spent on each objective? – It is sometimes said that the EU is not really involved in the politics of redistribution – to what extent is that true when we think of the convergence objective?
  • What conditions mean that a region qualifies to receive funds under the convergence objective?
  • Notice how many regions fall under each objective

For more history on the EU’s Regional Policy have a look at this document.