The EU Cohesion Policy (CP) is one of the most prominent and hotly debated of EU policies since decades, while being a fundamental reference for urban and regional policy even beyond the EU. This policy aims to support all the European regions and cities through a unique multi-level governance system and the use of a constantly evolving set of instruments to tackle emerging regional and urban challenges, making the CP a unique test bed for new approaches and ideas.
The CP is also highly debated by both academics and policy-makers, making this a perfect topic for the Regional Studies Association. In fact, the CP has been credited for generating a ‘European added value’ providing concrete support all over the EU through public-private partnerships, multi-annual programming and place-based approach, as well as promoting cross-border cooperation, supporting administrative capacity, mainstreaming policy evaluation and proposing new policy practices such as the smart specialisation strategy (S3) and the ‘new financial instruments’. On the other hand, strong criticism and important reductions in the budget (about -8% from 2007-2013 to 2014-2020, and about -7% from 2014-2020 to 2021-2028) have characterised the recent debate on the CP, making observers arguing that the CP is ‘just a leftover’ from the past because of lacking tangible results. In this framework briefly sketched, academics can contribute by improving knowledge about the CP, though this require a new approach to promote a research-policy dialogue.
The Regional Studies Association (RSA) Research Network on EU Cohesion Policy (CPnet) aims at providing a forum for debating EU cohesion policy, its effectiveness, impacts, paradoxes and its future. Our network is active since 2011 within the RSA having successfully organised ten workshops and special sessions at all the last RSA conferences (Izmir 2014, Piacenza 2015, Graz 2016, Dublin 2017 and Lugano 2018). The CPnet has succeeded in animating the policy debate with two policy-oriented workshops in Brussels discussing research-based papers with high level EU policy-makers (MEPs, Commissioner’s cabinet, EU Commission staff, Committee of the Regions and other high-level EU policymakers) as well as contributing to the academic debate with three edited volumes and one special issue on Regional Studies based on the outcomes of the RSA-funded workshops
- Eduardo Medeiros (ed.) 2017. “Uncovering the territorial dimension of European Union Cohesion Policy”. More information: https://www.routledge.com/Uncovering-the-Territorial-Dimension-of-European-Union-Cohesion-Policy/Medeiros/p/book/9781138049178;
- Nicola Francesco Dotti (ed.), 2016. “Learning from Implementation and Evaluation of the EU Cohesion Policy: Lessons from a Research-Policy Dialogue”. More information: https://www.regionalstudies.org/uploads/documents/Lessons4CP.pdf
- Marcin Dąbrowski, Ida Musiałkowska and Laura Polverari (2018). “Drawing lessons from international policy transfer initiatives in regional and urban development and spatial planning”, special issue in Regional Studies. More information https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00343404.2018.1462490
- Ida Musiałkowska and Piotr Idczak (ed.), book on Southern, Central and Eastern Member States, forthcoming in 2019.
Based on these successful experiences, the goal of the CPNet for the period 2019-2021 is to promote the emergence of new research on Cohesion Policy in terms of ideas, approaches and methods that can contribute to renovate the scientific debate on CP. For this purpose, a specific focus is devoted to the involvement of new researchers, especially early career researchers that could ‘refresh’ the debate on the CP. To achieve this goal, the CPNet proposes a new way of working. First, five themes are proposed by a mix of well-established scholars and young researchers to combine experiences and new ideas. Second, each workshop will be organised by a different team involving young researchers since the preparation of the call for paper as well as the follow-up of the scientific outcomes. Third, the coordinators of the CPNet will guarantee the overall coordination of the different workshops and activities. Finally, each workshop will be supported by a specific strategy of online dissemination via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to maximise the visibility of research outcomes (see below sections VII and VIII for more information).
Our ambition is to build on our previous experiences of open discussions between academic research and policy experts, while developing innovative research-based ideas to refresh the debate on CP. In order to increase our organisational capacity and reach wider audiences, we will expand the Network by working closely with a range of tried and tested collaborators as well as new young scholars that will be directly involved in the organisation of the workshops, while some of them have already proactively contributed to the preparation of the present proposal.
The CPNet has chosen five themes for the workshops:
- Building Administrative Capacity [Delft, NL, Nov-2019]
- The Social Dimensions of Cohesion Policy [Glasgow, Apr-2020]
- Theoretical Reflection on Cohesion Policy [Poznan, PL, Sept-2020]
- The Urban Dimension of Cohesion Policy [Madrid, Apr-2021
- Territorialisation of Cohesion Policy [Milan (tbc), Sept 2021]
- Research-Policy Dialogue [Brussels, to be confirmed]