The Impact of EU Cohesion Policy on European Identity : Results from the COHESIFY Citizen Survey

Borz, Gabriela and Brandenburg, Heinz and Mendez, Carlos (2018) The Impact of EU Cohesion Policy on European Identity : Results from the COHESIFY Citizen Survey. COHESIFY, Glasgow.

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This paper investigates the impact of EU Cohesion Policy on citizens’ identification with Europe. To do so, an original and representative survey was conducted in 17 regions across 12 EU member states, which vary considerably with regard to allocations from EU Cohesion Policy and attitudes to the EU. We estimate the impact of awareness about the EU Funds, perceived benefits and exposure to publicity on the likelihood that a respondent develops a European identity. We adopt a novel gradual approach to measuring EU identity by considering various stages in the shift from a sole identification with one’s home country to a mixed national-European identity and then a sole identification with Europe. Multilevel models allow us to control for well-known individual drivers of identification with Europe, such as political interest, trust in EU institutions, or attachment to Europe, as well as regional/national factors, such as actual Cohesion Policy allocations as well as frequency, saliency and tone of national and regional media coverage of Cohesion Policy. We find that knowledge of Cohesion Policy matters for developing a European identity, and indeed awareness of the Cohesion Fund matters more than awareness of the European Regional Development Fund or the European Social Fund. Further, exposure to EU publicity of funded projects also increases the likelihood of developing a Europeanised identity. Wider theoretical and policy implications are discussed in the context of the debate on the post-2020 EU budget and Cohesion policy reform.