On 9 November 2016, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) organised a conference to present and debate on the “Handbook on Cohesion Policy in the EU”, edited by Prof Dr Simona Piattoni, from the University of Trento, and Dr Laura Polverari, Senior Research Fellow at the European Policies Research Centre of the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. The conference was moderated by Sarah Sheil, Head of Unit “Structural Policies” at the European Parliament Research Service.
Dr Piattoni presented the handbook. Instead of chapters on how Cohesion Policy (CP) impacted each one of the EU Member States, a different approach, focussing on problems, was chosen. Authors insisted on the highly political nature of this policy and the debates behind it. Several chapters analyse the relations between EU institutions and CP. The Handbook addresses several questions. For example, what are CP’s goals? How does CP contribute to democracy? How is it related to institutional capacity? Which are its relations with other European policies?
Dr Polverari explained that, in the handbook, countries are grouped according to perceived development problems. These groups are the Southern Periphery, the Service Economy of the North, the Rich Central Regions, the Sparsely Populated Countries and the Central and Eastern European Countries. A long-term overview was provided. Among the interesting facts, the impact CP has had in administrative practices in the Southern Periphery, and the high level of catching up, although not regionally balanced, of Central-Eastern European Countries and of Sparsely Populated Countries thanks to its implementation.
Dr Polverari then mentioned other chapters of the book. Massetti and Shakel, for example, wrote on the influence CP has on regionalist parties’ stances towards the EU. Atkinson and Zimmermann highlighted the problems pertaining CP implementation in urban areas. Fargion and Profeti discussed the social dimension of CP.
Dr Justus Schönlau, advisor at the CoR, took part in the conference as well. He wrote a chapter of the handbook on the relations between the CoR and CP, highlighting that the CoR is acting to defend more regional interests in CP. He also mentioned that multilevel governance has moved from an analytical concept to a practically implemented issue.
Wolfgang Petzold, Deputy Director at the CoR, spoke on behalf of Peter Berkowitz (Head of Unit, European Commission, Regional and Urban Policy DG), who could not attend the conference. According to Mr Bergowitz, simplification is a key issue to work on in the future, as well as better understanding conditionality and recuperating the links between CP and European Integration.
A discussion followed the speakers’ interventions.