This paper presents a critical account of the process of integration and its implications for the future of European Union. It analyses the type, strength and direction of trade and factor flows among places and the emerging geography of development in Europe. It argues that integration is not a space neutral process, as its main drivers are characterized by spatial selectivity and diverging performances, generating an overall unfavorable environment for lagging-behind regions in the EU. The paper also discusses the current policy dilemmas in the EU, arguing that top-down uniformity in policy choices and a strict framework of policy directives should be avoided, as different places may have to choose a different mix of regional policy that will correspond better to their needs. The paper also examines why the persistently underperforming regions in Europe cannot learn and benefit from best-case examples and the success stories of other regions. A growing bibliography indicates that EU regional policy has not taken sufficiently into consideration the experience of these regions and as a result has limited relevance to their needs. Although factors affecting economic potential are usually different in advanced and less advanced regions, cohesion policies attempt to solve the underdevelopment problems of the lagging regions, only informed by the experience of the successful ones. The paper concludes that regional policy has to change in important ways. The new territorial approach requires policy to become more flexible and more adaptive to local and regional needs. This means that uniformity in policy priorities and mix should be avoided and the proposed ‘pan-European approach’ should leave enough room for bottom up and place based approaches, as the experience shows that no single path or an a priori mix of policy tools exists for every place.
Petrakos G., (2012) Integration, spatial dynamics and regional policy dilemmas in the European Union, Discussion Paper Series., DPRD - U.Th., 18(2): 27-40