Special Issue Linkages and channels between Cohesion Policy and European Identity – Spring 2020





Nicholas Charron , Monika Bauhr

Do Citizens Support EU Cohesion Policy? Measuring European support for redistribution within the EU and its correlates

As the European Union enters into the next decade, its leaders seemingly strive towards more future integration rather than less, despite the recent setback of Brexit and the rise of anti-EU populist parties. In his state of the Union in 2018, Jean Claude Junker emphasized s ‘European solidarity’. One key policy ‘expression of solidary’ would be Cohesion Policy and the Structural Funds, which are “the only real, significant redistributive mechanism in the EU…” (Fratesi 2017). . Despite elite commentary, we know surprisingly little about what EU citizens think of the rationale behind the policy of Cohesion – e.g. economic redistribution within the EU. As part of the PERCEIVE Horizon2020 project, we launched a unique survey to investigate how citizens feel about economic integration within the Union, where 17,200 citizens were interviewed. In this paper, we show how we measure support for the policy, the results as well as a host of correlates. Our analysis shows the variation in citizens’ support for EU Cohesion policy between countries, how support varies between demographic groups, as well as the extent to which support is correlated with utilitarian and ideational factors as well as cue taking. Implications for future developments of this policy are discussed.

Keywords: European Union; Cohesion Policy; Redistribution: Public Opinion: Survey Research
Rosina Moreno

EU Cohesion Policy Performance: Regional Variation in the Effectiveness of the management of the Structural Funds

The effectiveness in the absorption of funds is a permanent challenge for EU member states, and therefore, the analysis of the absorption capacity is needed. The present paper deals with the dimension of the absorption of EU resources and focus on an aspect that has been widely forgotten so far in previous literature: the regional variation in the absorption of the structural funds. Based on EU regional aggregate data on funds allocation and payments provided by the European Commission for the Operating Program 2007-2013 at the NUTS2 level, we observe that full absorption was more the exception than the rule. In addition, the high regional heterogeneity detected in the absorption of the Structural Funds is not only observed across countries but also within the regions in a country, contradicting some explanations that were given in the past about the effect of administrative structures on the absorption capacity. Finally, we offer a discussion on how lack of timely available regional data on EU fund payments hinders the analysis of the effectiveness of the regional absorption of the funds.

Keywords: Funds allocation, Absorption rate, NUTS 2 regions, Funds effectiveness, OP 2007-2013
Vicente Royuela , Enrique López-Bazo

Understanding the process of creation of European identity – the role of Cohesion Policy

This paper reviews the theoretical arguments provided by the extant literature for understanding the process of creation of a European identity. We discuss the grounds of mechanisms and determinants driving citizens’ identification with Europe, stressing the role of the territorial dimension on European identity formation. More precisely, our focus is on the literature that have considered the link between European identity and EU policies that influence the citizens’ socio-economic conditions, in general, and Cohesion Policy in particular. This is a major policy within the EU that accounted for some 350 billion euros in the 2007-2013 programming period, about a third of total EU budget. Consequently, it is expected to determine the way citizens identify with the European project, both in the regions more and less benefited by the policy. The study also considers arguments supporting a sort of urban-rural divide in European identity, which could interact with the influence of the Cohesion Policy. Initial descriptive evidence on these links is provided based on results from a comprehensive survey for 15 EU member states.

Keywords: Identification with the EU; Cohesion Policy; Public Attitudes; Urban-Rural divide
Cristina Brasili , Pinuccia Calia , Irene Monasterolo

Profiling identification with Europe and the EU project in the European regions

Recent political events in the European Union (EU) highlighted a growing dissatisfaction of citizens in several EU regions with the EU institutions’ management of socio-economic and financial challenges. This eventually led to a political legitimization crisis, whose drivers are partially shared among EU regions and partially area-specific. However, the relation between citizens’ identification with the EU project and the regions’ characteristics has not been analysed yet. In this article, we fill in this gap by addressing three research questions: i) To what extent do EU citizens identify with Europe and the EU project? ii) Do European regions have different patterns and level of identification? iii) Are the results driven by specific socio-economic variables?
Answering these questions is crucial to inform a more inclusive and resilient design of the EU Cohesion Policy in a crucial period for reforming the EU. To this purpose, we develop a novel probabilistic classification model, IdentEU, which embeds with the concept of individual identification with Europe. We use micro-level data from a survey implemented within the PERCEIVE project. We find that the influencing variables that mostly affect (citizens and) regions’ identification with the European project are: trust in the EU institutions, the effectiveness of EU Cohesion Policy and spending, and the level of corruption. These issues gain relevance at the light of three main challenges that affected the EU socio-economic development path in the last decade, i.e. the 2008 financial crisis, the globalization process, and Brexit.

Keywords: Identification; Citizens’ perception of the EU; Cohesion Policy; probabilistic model; IdentEU
Giovanni Perucca

When Country Matters More than Europe: What Implications for the Future of the EU?

This paper studies the determinants of the imbalance between country and European identity. While the two sentiments are positively correlated, recent empirical evidence showed the emergence, in the last years, of an increasing imbalance in favour of the identification with individuals’ country of residence. In the political arena, this phenomenon is accompanied by the increasing support to nationalisms and Eurosceptic parties almost everywhere in the EU. It is therefore interesting to understand what are the individual and contextual factors associated to this identity imbalance. The assumption tested in this paper is that the unequal distribution (among individuals and regions) of the benefits from EU integration is the main determinant of the emerging antagonism between European and national identity. Empirical results support this hypothesis. Individuals with lower education and income, and those living in the lagging-behind regions of the EU are more likely than the others to identify more with their own country than with Europe.

Keywords: European identity; national identity; European regions
Vitaliano Barberio , Ines Kuric , Edoardo Mollona , Luca Pareschi

The use of social media in EU policy communication and implications for the emergence of a European public sphere

Cohesion policy is the European Union’s (EU) main investment policy and seeks to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion. While accomplishments in this regard are constantly measured, European citizens are not always aware of the policy’s impact and the role the EU plays therein. This is especially relevant as the communication of EU policies is central to the emergence of a European public sphere, an acknowledged condition for European integration. In this paper, we aim at advancing research in this regard through the analysis of cohesion policy communication on the social media channels of ten Local Managing Authorities (LMAs) responsible for managing and communicating structural funds at the local level. By building on a bottom-up construction of shared meaning structures through semi-automatic analysis techniques, we make the following three observations: first, social media communication is indicative of ‘horizontal Europeanization’; second, Europeanization occurs both in the form of the spontaneous amalgamation of shared discontent expressed by citizens and the institutionalization of top-down EU communication measures adopted by LMAs; and third, a cluster of topics articulated internationally and showcasing a negative attitude towards the EU funding scheme suggests that, counter-intuitively, Euroscepticism seems to facilitate the emergence of a European public sphere.

Keywords: Cohesion policy; European Public Sphere; Topic Modeling; Social Media; Euroscepticism
Giovanni Cunico , Eirini Aivazidou , Edoardo Mollona

European Cohesion Policy performance and citizens’ awareness: A holistic System Dynamics framework

As Cohesion Policy constitutes the major funding scheme of the European Union, not only does literature explore if the policy’s performance is satisfactory but also investigates the extent to which the policy is effectively communicated to citizens. To integrate analysis of implementation and communication, we develop a novel qualitative framework that elicits a holistic analysis of the causal mechanisms behind: (i) the distribution of the Cohesion Policy funds, their management at a local managing authority level and the related impact on projects’ quality, and (ii) the communication processes that underpin citizens’ awareness about the Union’s role in funded projects. The multilevel nature and the dynamic behaviour of the system, as well as its multiple feedback loops, render System Dynamics appropriate as an approach to model its complexity. The proposed framework aims at stimulating a focused discussion on Cohesion Policy by providing policy-making insights for designing efficient schemes to improve the actual and the perceived performances. Finally, it is anticipated to support research in the field from a new organisational perspective through considering the impact of local actors’ structures, procedures and actions on Cohesion Policy outcomes.

Keywords: European Cohesion Policy; funds’ absorption; projects’ quality; citizens’ awareness; modelling framework; System Dynamics