Regions 2020 Report Analyses Future Challenges for Cohesion Policy

On 9 December, Danuta Hübner, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, presented the findings of a new report on the future challenges facing regions in Europe. As described in IEEP’s December 2008 Policy Briefing, many Member States are beginning to look at the relationship between the CAP and cohesion policy, potentially with a view to streamlining policy.

The ‘Regions 2020’ report provides input into the ongoing debate on the future of EU cohesion policy which was launched by the publication of the Fourth Cohesion Report in May 2007. This review takes place in the context of the ongoing debate on the EU budget review, which DG Regional Policy, as one of the EU’s largest spending departments, has been actively trying to influence.

The report provides the European Commission’s first analysis of the regional impacts of four key challenges facing Europe, namely adapting to globalisation; demographic change; climate change; and the energy challenge - with a 2020 perspective. These challenges were among those identified in the EU budget review consultation paper published by the Commission in September 2007, and as noted in the report a key issue in the budget review process will be how EU policies, including cohesion policy, can best contribute to addressing these challenges.

Using a series of indicators, the report maps out a ‘vulnerability index’ for European regions to each of these challenges, and examines the potential differences in impacts across the EU. Regions are defined at a relatively broad scale (the so-called NUTS 2 level, which generally corresponds to state or provincial administrative units) and encompass both urban and rural areas.

The extent to which the Commission reflects on the mutual roles of the CAP and cohesion policy in this report may provide an important influence on future discussions on the role and scope of European agricultural policy.

The report indicates that there will be wide variations across the EU with regards to the impacts of globalisation. Many regions in the north-west periphery of the EU, including regions in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the UK and Ireland stand to benefit in terms of estimated productivity, employment rate, and education levels. Other regions located in the southern and eastern parts of the EU appear to be more exposed to the challenges of globalisation. In terms of demographic patterns, the report predicts that around one third of European regions will experience a population decline. These regions are located mainly in rural parts of central Europe, eastern Germany, southern Italy and northern Spain.

The report highlights the asymmetric impact of climate change in the EU, predicting that regions in the south and east of Europe will face the greatest challenges mostly due to changes in rainfall and temperatures. More limited pressures are expected in northern and western Europe, apart from the lowland coastal regions around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Moreover, in certain cases the impact of climate change will be more pronounced in regions with lower GDP per capita and thus with less capacity for adapting to the challenge of climate change. The report points out that energy related issues are influenced by national energy policies and energy mixes; and thus the energy challenge is largely country specific rather than differentiated at the regional level. The report however notes that peripheral regions located mainly in eastern and southern Member States appear particularly vulnerable in terms of energy security, efficiency and carbon emissions.

The Commission will report on the progress of its reflection on the future of cohesion policy in the Sixth Progress Report on Economic and Social Cohesion to be presented in spring 2009. Clearly, the CAP, and in particular, rural development policy, already play a role in responding to a number of the challenges identified by the ‘Regions 2020’ report. The extent to which the Commission reflects on the mutual roles of the CAP and cohesion policy in this report may provide an important influence on future discussions on the role and scope of European agricultural policy.

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16 Dec 2008




The Institute for European Environmental Policy coordinates CAP2020. It is an independent not for profit institute which undertakes research in a number of policy areas including agriculture and rural development.