Marcin Dąbrowski, Department of Urbanism, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands

John Bachtler, European Policies Research Centre (EPRC), University of Strathclyde, UK

Oto Potluka, Department of Management, University of Economics Prague, Czech Republic

Associated Research Network Members:

Magdalena Sapala, Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Nicola Francesco Dotti, COSMOPOLIS, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium


EU cohesion policy remains one of the most prominent and hotly debated of EU policies, while being a test bed for a range of new policy approaches and ideas. This innovative policy provides assistance to disadvantaged regions and localities through a unique multi-level, rationalised and partnership-based approach and the use of a constantly evolving set of instruments. EU cohesion policy is also highly contested and controversial, which makes it a fascinating topic for scholarly inquiry and debate.

On the one hand, it has  been credited for generating 'added value' in terms of improvement of administrative capacity and triggering modernisation processes within territorial administration across the Member States by diffusion of standards of 'good governance' and policy practices such as partnership, multi-annual programming, place-based approach to development policy, evaluation, cross-border cooperation, etc.

On the other hand, EU cohesion policy has been heavily criticised for the lack of tangible results, an issue which is becoming increasingly debated in the current context of crisis and austerity. It is thus critically important to deliver a more effective EU cohesion policy, which would be capable of  providing the European regions with a much needed stimulus, while creating more added value and providing innovative policy instruments to tackle the current daunting economic challenges.

This RSA Research Network aims at providing a forum for debating EU cohesion policy, its effectiveness, impacts, paradoxes, and its future. Through the organisation of three highly successful international workshops in the course of 2011 and 2012 and of several special sessions at the recent RSA conferences, this RSA Research Network has succeeded in bringing together academics investigating EU cohesion policy as well as practitioners working with this policy.

The workshops addressed the key issues structuring the debate on the assessment of the effectiveness and impacts of EU cohesion policy as well as its future post-2014, such as multi-level governance and partnership, cross-border cooperation, macro-regional approaches, budgetary politics, geographical allocations or conditionalities. The Network has created numerous opportunities for inspiring exchange of ideas, has helped to foster new research collaborations and has led to joint publications (e.g. the forthcoming special issue of European Urban and Regional Studies on multi-level governance based on the contributions to the 2011 Vienna workshop). Given these achievements we would like to apply for renewal of the RSA’s generous funding for the activity of this   Research Network. We would like to continue promoting research on EU cohesion policy and the fruitful dialogue between academics and practitioners. We are convinced that the Network can offer an outstanding contribution to the on-going debates on the effects and the future of this policy.

Our main ambition is to organise three international workshops to be held in Vienna, Prague and Glasgow. As with our past activities, each workshop will have a particular focus: local perspective on EU cohesion policy (Vienna), evaluation (Prague), and financial engineering instruments (Glasgow). Their aim will be to encourage an open discussion and understanding between academics specialising in EU cohesion policy, while at the same time engaging with, and learning from, practitioners and policy-makers. For this reason an indicative list of carefully selected speakers representing both groups has been put together (see section VI). We have already secured preliminary confirmations from several leading academics and policy-makers who have indicated their willingness to participate in the workshops. Nonetheless, the selection of papers for each workshop will be based on an open call for contributions.

The Network will strive to disseminate its outputs across the RSA and beyond. The outcomes of the workshops will be disseminated through publications of special issues in academic journals specialised in regional studies and joint academic papers. A blog will be established to publicise the conclusions from the workshops and make workshop papers and working papers available for download. In addition, the Network will be present at the upcoming RSA conferences and will propose several special sessions revolving around EU cohesion policy issues.

We are convinced that the Network’s activities will strengthen the visibility of the RSA and will be of great interest to its Members and beyond, as has been the case with our past workshops. On the basis of our previous experience, we expect that the Research Network will create a significant value added for its participants and offer an outstanding contribution to knowledge and policy practice, while contributing to the RSA’s efforts to shape the debate on EU cohesion policy.

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