Juan R. Cuadrado Roura y Miguel A. Marcos Calvo

Regional Disparities in the European Union. An approach through economic and social cohesion

According to the Treaty of the European Union of 1992 and the Constitution actually in process to be accepted by all Community members, the accomplishment of a higher economic and social cohesion is one of its main objectives. This aim includes a variety of aspects, but not clearly well defined in the European documents. GDP per capita has normally been considered the most useful indicator to measure the progress in terms of regional convergence. This indicator is also used to determine the «eligibility» of the lagging regions to receive funds from the Structural Funds (particularly the «Objective 1» regions). It is also used to evaluate regional successes. Nevertheless, the progress towards a higher regional economic and social cohesion is not adequately measured through this simple way. The objective of this paper is to propose and estimate a more complete approach using a high number of variables and applying multicriteria methods such as the «Electre». Demographic, educational, economic and social indicators are used, as well as other directly related to regional competitiveness. Results referred to «Objective 1» regions and regions between 75-100% of the European average in GDP pc. show some relevant changes in terms of interregional cohesion in the EU-15 between 1987-2000, with significant differences compared to the most conventional approaches to regional disparities. Findings suggest a way to better qualify the regions to be considered as «eligible» by the European Regional Policy.

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