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EU cohesion policy and the role of the regions: investigating the influence of structural funds in the new member states

Bachtler, J.F. and McMaster, I. (2007) EU cohesion policy and the role of the regions: investigating the influence of structural funds in the new member states. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 26 (2). pp. 398-427. ISSN 1472-3425

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Abstract

This paper undertakes a critical assessment of the influence of the EU Cohesion policy on regionalisation and the role of regional institutions in Central and Eastern Europe. It addresses questions that are central to ongoing theoretical debates about the role of the region in the new member states. Have the powers and resources of the regions been strengthened by their involvement in EU support programmes? Are regions increasingly involved in integrated 'bottom-up' responses to regional development challenges? The paper offers a fresh perspective on these issues, with a cross-national analysis of practical experience in the postenlargement period and a detailed assessment of the technical, variable, and complex reality of working with EU Structural Funds. A distinctive approach of the analysis is to disaggregate the stages of Structural Funds programme management and delivery, thereby highlighting the varied nature of regional involvement in Structural Funds. Ultimately, the paper questions the notion that Structural Funds build regional structures and competence, and lead to 'stronger regions'. Instead, it is argued that there is no guarantee that the Structural Funds will necessarily promote regionalisation in Central and Eastern Europe, at least in the short to medium terms.