THE IMPACT OF REGIONAL AND COHESION POLICY ON THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE EU
Keywords:EU, Regional policy, Cohesion, Europe 2020, recovery
As the global financial and economic crisis hit the European Union, no country was left unharmed. To this day, the Member States share the burden of excessive foreign debt, inflation, budget deficit, high unemployment levels, shaken stability of the currency, and many more. Multiple responses were introduced to these damaging effects, including adopting changes to the use of the Globalisation Adjustment Fund, enabling a Financial Stability Mechanism for the Euro zone and introducing a number of micro-financing instruments, particularly to support SMEs. Nevertheless, these have all been short-term actions, which will not suffice to ensure a long-term, sustainable economic growth of the European economies and maintain the EU's position among global political and economic leaders.
European leaders have adopted the Europe 2020 strategy for economic growth, which addresses all key-areas of economic growth - from innovations to employment and environment. Yet, the greatest challenge to this goal remains regional cohesion - namely, full economic and social convergence of the regions and Member States of the European Union.
After thirty six years of a common Regional policy and over twelve years since the creation of the Cohesion policy, the remaining economic and social disparities within the Union are striking. What is more, the distribution of cohesion financing, similarly to the Common Agricultural policy direct payments, continues to portray a significant weakness in the common objectives of fair competition and solidarity among Member States.
Within the next multiannual financial framework of 2014-2020, Regional and Cohesion policy of the EU will have a fundamental importance in eliminating existing disparities among regions, providing for a sustainable economic growth, increasing the EU's competitiveness and implementing the ambitious Europe 2020 goals. It can therefore be considered as a key element in Europe's economic recovery.
This paper provides an analytical examination of the goals, strategies and current trends in the Regional and Cohesion policy as a tool of economic growth of the European Union. It provides a brief insight into the history, objectives and functioning of the policy in order to continue with analysis of its results and provide recommendations for improvement of the policy and increase its positive impact on the EU's economic development.
Materials, statistics, working documents and analysis provided by EU and national institutions, as well as independent analysts have been used in the production of this paper. Results and conclusion are presented in a descriptive, logically constructive manner of synthesis.
More specifically, the paper concludes by stating that in order to achieve full convergence and be able to ensure sustainable economic recovery and growth throughout the EU, greater flexibility and sovereignty need to be employed in political decision-making and regulations on allocation of funds. To raise the positive effects on Member States' economies, equality must be ensured to attain the Union's strategic goals without harming the weakest Member States' economies and competitiveness. It is therefore essential that the convergence objective be formulated as the leading goal of the Regional and Cohesion policy. Policies under the upcoming multiannual financial framework must be results-oriented.The EU's economic recovery, hence, also its Regional and Cohesion policy and allocation of funds, have to reflect the practice of fair competition, solidarity and equality. Only then will the European Union be able to fulfil its political and economic ambitions.