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European cohesion, regional and urban policies and the perceptions of Europe


Specific challenge: Regional policies were the second largest part of the EU budget in the period of 2007-2013 and they will maintain a large budget share in the new multiannual financial framework as well. The contribution of these policies towards European economic, social and territorial cohesion has been constantly monitored and critically analysed in recent years. On the contrary, our knowledge is much less significant on the contribution of this vast European policy to a positive identification with the European project as such or to the emergence of a valued, popular sense of European identity among the beneficiary population.

Europe's regions are very diverse in terms of institutional history, distinct cultural (or even linguistic, ethnic or national) identities as well as administrative and governance functions. In some regions, indigenous peoples' issues and demands are affected and challenged by European policies. In the context of a perceived democratic deficit of the EU and bearing in mind the importance of local practices and mental representations in the construction of identities, it is highly important to analyse the triangular relationship between European regions, the European framework for the application of cohesion, regional and urban policies (including the notion of smart specialisation and the role of creativity in modern development policies) and the impact of European regional policies on a positive identification with the European construction.

Scope: The tailor-made, multidisciplinary, geographically balanced and comparative research will aim at exploring the interplay between (1) European regions with highly different administrative roles, civil participation, history, culture, creativity and identity, (2) the application of cohesion, regional and urban policies in the EU, including the subsidiarity aspects and decentralised decision-making and the aims of smart specialisation and (3) the contribution of regional policies to a positive identification with the value-based European integration project by European societies. In analysing the potential of EU cohesion, regional and urban policies for fostering a more positive identification with the European project, it is crucial to also incorporate the interplay with regional policy regulatory implementation experiences, both positive and negative. Based on a critical review and assessment of the existing conceptual and methodological background supported by modern creative practice, the research should include a comparative analysis of genuine and innovative case studies from Members States with different current and historical territorial administrative frameworks and regional identities in order to identify the channels by which European regional policies impact the perception of Europe by its citizens. Finally, the research activities should consider the impact and effectiveness of communication efforts related to EU-financed regional development projects.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1.5 and 2.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact:  The research is expected to make major conceptual, methodological and analytical contribution towards a better understanding of the relationship between European regional policies, local and regional identities and the perception of the added value of the EU by its citizens. These activities will inform communication strategies at the EU, Member State and regional levels regarding the European regional policies and specific projects. They will provide insights on how to adapt these communication efforts to local and regional realities in order to maximise their impact. At the same time the research will consider how to increase the civic appreciation of these policies and how to improve regional policy relevance and efficiency.

Type of action: Research and innovation actions