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Video of David Miller's keynote and pdf version of slides. Summary and reflection remarks by Ken Cameron. Event overview and photos. Program and backgrounder pdf. Keynote on regionalism and legitimacy by Dr. Zack Taylor pdf. Invitation and program pdf. Our newsletter Want to know what's happening in our program? You can also view previous editions of our newsletter You can also connect with us on social media. Below are selected supporting materials and event documentation from previous years. April 2, AlphaMetroVancouver? This seems to be at the expense of a growing number of rural and old industrial regions.

These regions are characterised by economic and demographic stagnation or even decline see Eurostat and the outmigration of mainly young people to the better off, mainly metropolitan areas which also attract the largest share of transnational migrants Lang and Haunstein ; Dax and Fischer In a growing number of declining regions, those people who stay have an increasing feeling of being left behind Neu Thus, the big metropolitan areas and urban agglomerations can be seen as the winners of regional polarisation, whereas rural and old industrial regions face increasing development problems.

However, this is only one part of the finely grained picture which is characterised by multiple divides across Europe. Given their high importance for the economic, social and political future of the European Union Iammarino et al. Whereas there are numerous studies at different spatial levels evaluating and analysing the impact of EU regional and cohesion policies and stressing their limited success e.

Hadjimichalis and Hudson ; Piattoni and Polverari ; Begg , this book suggests a perspective that goes beyond the analysis of current forms of policy and governance. It works out the political geographies of spatial injustice and seeks alternative approaches to regional and local development offering new avenues towards socio-spatial cohesion instead of furthering polarisation through focusing on global competitiveness.

Based on recent research about socio-spatial polarisation and peripheralisation processes in Europe, the book combines conceptual contributions and empirical research, both aiming to better understand these processes and linking it to current debates on territorial cohesion.

Soja ; Harvey The normative concept of spatial justice allows us to question these prevailing foci, analyse the impacts of such policies and discuss arising alternatives.

In this context, the book shall also contribute to the debate what kind of regional and local development approaches are fruitful to reduce current disparities and achieve progress towards a more balanced territorial development see Pike et al. In the following section of this introduction, we expand, on the one hand, more on our understandings on socio-spatial polarisation and, on the other hand, spatial justice as a useful concept to overcome a narrow economic understanding of development.

The third, fourth and fifth sections will introduce the three main parts of the book and their respective contributions. The third section is dedicated to the contributions of this book dealing with questions of power, since unequal power relations, especially on the European level, do play a considerable role when we are speaking about socio-spatial polarisation. In the fourth section, we shed light on the reasons why cohesion policy fails in creating a more balanced territorial development and instead reproduces socio-spatial disparities.

In contrast, the fifth section of the introduction will show that, in spite of increasing regional disparities, there is some room for alternative perspectives and responses to polarisation that show potential to influence decision and policy making in the long run.

Ready for the regional renaissance?

In recent years, an understanding of polarisation as a relational, multi-dimensional and multi-scalar concept has emerged see also PoSCoPP ; Nagy et al. This development is closely linked to a shift in European cohesion policies during recent decades. During the s and the early s, the goal was to ensure balanced growth between the regions by compensating those areas which did not profit from the integrated European economy.

Although the EU as a whole seems to be back on a growth path judged from a mainstream perspective , the newly generated wealth does not reach the people in a sufficient and territorially balanced way. In recent decades, economic growth has de-coupled from the growth of well-being and life satisfaction.

In this sense, it can be seen as a basic human right and thus a powerful concept to overcome polarisation. It is not restricted to the economic realm but links social justice with space and can bring notions of well-being, quality of life, as well as ecological aspects in the debate on territorial cohesion see Jones et al. This means that the socio-communicative peripheralisation of certain regions in turn affects these processes. It could lead to a vicious cycle of decline and stigmatisation and hinder regeneration of the affected regions. Today, it seems widely acknowledged that development not only comprises an economic dimension but includes also social, ecological, political and cultural concerns leading to more complexity in decision-making.

This complexity asks for a continuous debate about fundamental values like democracy, equity, justice, fairness, liberty and solidarity see Hadjimichalis ; Soja ; Pike et al. Which of these visions prevails in the debates on regional development depends upon the institutional structures and power relations and the underlying interests of the involved actors as we will show in the chapters of the first part of the book.

The recent crisis and the following economic recession raised new polarities and reproduced historical fault lines within Europe, making the failure of policies that targeted stronger cohesion apparent and placing the relevance of institutional structures, practices and underlying principles at the centre of public discourses. Nevertheless, as is discussed in academic and also in policy papers, recent shifts in economic power and political conflicts are rooted in two developments which had already evolved prior to the crisis: 1 in the long-term geopolitical and geo-economic changes that questioned the dominance of the global North in controlling global flows and placed the European economy on a slow-growth track UNCTAD , ; Hudson and 2 in the pre-crisis inequalities within Europe that manifested in uneven patterns of capital flows, innovation and knowledge production, labour productivity and migration Hadjimichalis ; Ehrlich et al.

The changing position of the European economy in global flows, persisting inequalities and the recent emergence of new dimensions of unevenness indebtedness, the spread of deep poverty, and the decay of public services resulting from austerity schemes, etc. Moreover, the regulative deficits revealed by the crisis raised criticism towards existing institutional structures and reheated debates on institutions as agents of change also in academic circles Pike et al.

The unfolding discourse on institutions as mediators of power driving uneven development is linked to debates on retheorising power itself. Accordingly, the multi-dimensionality of power and the variety of fields of power in which individuals are acting simultaneously gained more attention, and various modalities of power were identified from coercion, domination, authority to manipulation and seduction Hudson ; Allen Relying on this broad understanding of power, scholars of various academic fields researched institutions as arenas of social struggles embedded in a multiplicity of actual social relations, being changed from inside and outside, yet preserving and reproducing historical values, norms and practices.

Studies with such foci highlighted how institutional structures and practices regulatory regimes, power geometries, policies are shaped by and reproduce power relations and how they operate and shape everyday social practices and consequently regional and local development in a multiple and uneven way Brenner ; Hudson ; Massey Even though multiple institutional rearrangements of markets, firms, NGOs, state and semi-state organisations, etc.

By driving such changes, the state emerged as an agent of uneven distribution of power and wealth through the changing regulative framework and the related institutional practices backing financialisation, introducing austerity schemes, subordinating social policies to economic growth, shifting responsibilities to regional and local actors, etc.

The changing role of state institutions has been widely discussed in relation to their spatial reorganisation. Rescaling processes of national state power were a central issue even though scalar reorganisation was going along with other spatial transformations such as the rise of horizontal networks, new modalities of place making and changing territorialities Brenner The debates were revolving around the state as the key agent of producing a new spatial scalar fix in the neoliberal regime of capitalism Jessop , the significance of architectures of institutional models driving state reorganisation Bohle and Greskovits , and the technologies of power in particular socio-spatial contexts.

Yet, the growing body of scholarly work on the European context i. The rise and the post-crisis revival of neoliberalism have been widely discussed as series of re-regulative processes reinforcing market rule over social relations, placing not only historical national institutions as agents in focus, but their international embedding resulting in conflicts, learning, policy experimentation and structural changes across scales. Understanding the power relations and strategies driving institutional restructuring, as well as the socio-cultural diversity and interrelatedness of institutional practices, we can reveal and also challenge their bias towards reproducing inequalities, and gain deeper insight into the mechanisms behind reproducing unevenness and the failures of cohesion policies in making a more just European society.

By doing that, we can also enhance existing knowledge on the recent crisis and the resurgence of neoliberalism through the lens of complex, interrelated and contested European institutional settings, such as the limits of national state agency austerity schemes imposed on national governments, public policies geared towards supporting capital accumulation instead of socio-spatial solidarity, the re-regulation of labour-capital relations, etc.

Along these lines, the first part of this book engages with current power structures in Europe and the resulting polarisation processes. Ray Hudson and John Pickles engage in a conversation based on their seminal works on critical economic geography and regional development. Hence, they see a clear need for a political economic geography. The path dependency of the regions and questions of redistribution seem to be widely ignored.

The recent crisis has shown that these strategies do not lead to territorial cohesion but to increased spatial injustice. These factors strengthen the existing power imbalances and further the importance of metropolitan regions and the continuous marginalisation of rural peripheries.


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The contribution of Hadjimichalis already indicates what Merje Kuus reveals in her chapter on state power, spatial inequality and their interrelationship with the flows and networks of geographical expertise. Spatial planning in Europe is becoming an increasingly transnational process that combines national, sub-national and international elements in new and ever-changing combinations.

Diplomats from the richer member states do seem to have a better stand as they tend to dispose of these networks as a result their pre-Brussels training and can build on long-standing traditions of policy expertise. Nevertheless, European and national interests cannot be isolated from each other, but are intertwined and often diffuse. The chapters in the second part of the book discuss European and regional policies and their impact on territorial cohesion within and between EU member states. While regional policies claim to contribute to a decrease in regional disparities and to foster convergence between the regions, their application often actually intensifies regional polarisation, especially in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe Hadjimichalis in this volume.

This spatial polarisation is not a linear process but a consequence of a combination of various factors. Governance is one of them. For instance, Central and Eastern European countries CEEC carried out numerous administrative and public policy reforms during the last 25 years Swianiewicz There are several factors that made CEE governance evolve considerably differently from governance in the older member states of the European Union.

Decision-making was concentrated into larger, arguably globally more competitive units. Consequently, the centralisation of power from lower administrative tiers to the national central agencies led to a political peripheralisation of remote regions. At the same time as Western Europe continued on a devolution track, CEEC made a sharp turn and did gradually centralise their public administration Loewen and Raagmaa ; Loewen Europeanisation has never been a uniform and parallel process in all countries and European policy concepts have obtained different meanings in different countries due to distinct administrative structures, normative development models and politically accepted regional policy paradigms Loewen and Raagmaa History and an administrative culture rooted in the past do matter: path-dependency is one of the factors shaping the real application of policy.

However, EU directives often ignore the specifics of European peripheral regions and countries. Furthermore, there are many more hidden contestations.

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In order to secure the usage of EU structural funds, for instance, double standards have been created: official project reports normally show good results and are in turn summarised in regional and country reports as a great success Raagmaa and Stead For the purpose of fighting against fraud, the European Commission has strengthened accountability at the same time preaching about simplification resulting in even more centralisation.

The related complex bureaucratic rules nurture a city-based project class and specialised firms and exclude peripheral localities that are unable to co-finance and manage such projects. That way, the gap between real needs and what policies can achieve for concrete places, thus spatial injustice, is rising. The authors in the second part of this book criticise the strong growth-oriented focus of European cohesion and regional policies.

Rhys Jones et al. The focus on economic development in cohesion policies is also apparent for Bradley Loewen and Sebastian Schulz. They have observed that despite the theoretical incompatibility between cohesion and innovation policies, the two areas often converge in a common economic strategy and further rather than diminish regional disparities. Given this fact, the authors argue that economic growth and innovation objectives should be disconnected from Cohesion Policy and refocus on its traditional domains, such as infrastructure or social investment in underdeveloped regions.


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  • However, looking closer at cross-border cooperation programmes between Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the funding periods — and —, they have found a significant difference in the strategic focus in old Germany and Austria and new Czech Republic and Slovakia member states with a stronger emphasis on growth and innovation in old and on employment and cohesion in new member states.

    Along with the focus on growth and innovation, spatial development policies often centre on urban growth poles assuming that their successful development will create spillover effects that drive the development and economic growth of more remote regions. These growth pole strategies are good examples for a Europeanisation process that is uncritically pushed further without taking into account national and regional characteristics.

    They reveal the strongly dualistic pattern of Hungarian housing policies and trace how capital investment in housing is channelled and mediated by public policies.

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    The authors claim that state intervention in Hungary has deepened inequalities in the housing market on various scales—from the European to the neighbourhood scale—by promoting a middle-class oriented, depth-based property model while having very little support for social housing models. The third part of the book will focus on strategies to cope with regional polarisation on a micro level to address the responses of individuals, firms and communities while acknowledging their limitations.

    The chapters in this part are based on the conviction that a dignified life, creativity and satisfaction Iammarino et al. Scholars have increasingly argued in recent years for place-sensitive and distributed policies Iammarino et al. We think that every region or locality has its own specific needs and concerns, which have to be addressed Dax and Fischer ; Jones et al.

    The first chapters in this book show that regional and innovation policies often further regional polarisation instead of achieving cohesion.

    Rethinking Lagging Regions: Using Cohesion Policy to Deliver on the Potential of Europe’s Regions

    Neoliberalism is about to hollow out the foundations of a social market economy. Within most operational programmes, the overemphasised competitiveness objective overruns distributive elements and often hinders innovative bottom-up movements. There are also business cases of innovative companies operating far from the so-called hotspots of the global economy, yet still managing to be successful in global markets Graffenberger in this volume.

    Thus, regional development strategies have to take into account the specific social and economic needs of regions and of regional and local actors. In many cases, traditional approaches to regeneration e. One key element here could be to build communication platforms and support networking activities see Graffenberger in this volume. However, regional development is not only a question of empowering regional and local actors. Governments have to set the necessary frameworks to support structurally weak regions and locations e.

    It is a question of how exogenous state-influenced and endogenous bottom-up approaches can be coordinated among the different levels to bring about harmonious collaboration in all dimensions and to reduce inequalities Jones et al. The contributions in the third part of the book seek to better understand the currently dominant social, political, economic and discursive tendencies towards polarisation and ask what we can learn from such cases and initiatives and how we can help to achieve more equal societies and more balanced spatial development.

    Aura Moldovan outlines out-migration as an individual life strategy, which ultimately affects local development capacities. Using the example of North-West Romania, she shows that commuting or migration flows are, on the one hand, contributing to uneven development while being at the same time an outcome of regional inequalities. In focusing on individual life stories of people coping with the increasing disparities of the region they live in, she uncovers the issues that they are facing like missing higher education and high-income employment opportunities.

    Furthermore, she reveals the dependency of the researched regions on external funding to implement modern infrastructures and develop local potential. Renewable energy projects and social and solidarity economy initiatives that use these external funds do have important strategic potential for community-centred, sustainable local development. However, the room for manoeuvre of community-based initiatives is constrained by a centralised logic of organisation, limited space for public participation and existing policy practices and administrative norms.