Periodic Reporting for period 2 - COHESIFY (The Impact of Cohesion Policy on EU Identification)
Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2018-04-30
1. to develop an analytical framework based on a critical review and assessment of the current state of conceptual and methodological knowledge for exploring the interrelationship between policy implementation, communication and citizen perceptions at regional and local levels
2. to assess regional variation in the perceptions of the relevance of EU policies across the EU and over time
3. to analyse regional differences in perceptions of the implementation and performance of Cohesion policy among civic society groups and individual citizens at regional and local levels and how they influence citizens’ support for and identification with the EU;
4. to assess the effectiveness of EU Cohesion policy communication channels and initiatives targeting the public;
5. to formulate policy recommendations for adapting communication strategies at EU, national and regional levels to improve their impact and increase civic appreciation of Cohesion policy; and
6. to disseminate the research outputs to journalists and stakeholders and reach out to citizens at EU, national and local levels.
1. The image of the EU among the public has deteriorated over the past decade, especially in Southern Europe. Importantly, attachment to the principle of European Union remains either neutral or positive.
2. There is clear evidence of the impact of Cohesion Policy on individual perceptions of the EU and European identity. Survey results demonstrate that awareness of (in particular) the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund, and communication about their benefits for citizen's daily lives and for their region's development contributes significantly to citizen identification with the EU.
3. Spending through Cohesion Policy improves recognition of the advantages of EU integration. Focus groups show that people recognise the importance of Cohesion Policy for convergence – narrowing differences in quality of life – and common action to address regional and local development problems. The citizen survey shows that the vast majority of people think that the economic impact has been positive for their region or city.
4. Perceptions of Cohesion Policy are influenced by exposure (the scale of funding in a country/region), the effectiveness of the policy (what it does and achieves), and the quality of its management (regularity, efficiency, transparency).
5. Perceptions are also affected by the coherence between citizens’ perceptions of development needs/challenges and how the funds are deployed. Focus groups show that many citizens believe that EU spending needs to be more focused on the perceived needs of their region or city.
6. Perceptions of Cohesion Policy are influenced by communication. Citizen awareness and the perceived effectiveness of Cohesion Policy are determined by media exposure and communication of EU funding. Regional and local news are generally more positive towards the EU than national news
7. The significant territorial differences in attitudes to and identification with the EU between and within countries mean that both the use of EU funding and its communication need to be regionally differentiated.
8. Communication strategies are improving but are failing to rise to the challenge in terms of a focus on citizens and their daily lives, clarity in presenting EU funding, sophistication of methods, effective use of both traditional and social media and local differentiation. Focus groups with citizens show that they are inadequately informed about Cohesion policy and want to have more say on how funds are allocated.
9. A new, more citizen-focused approach to the programming of EU funds is needed. Further, the role of communication in programming and implementation should be upgraded to connect more directly with citizens and increase their appreciation of the EU.