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January 29, 2016 No tags

Project: Towards territorial cohesion? Path dependence and path innovation of regional policy in Central and Eastern Europe

 ESR 7: Bradley Loewen (Host: MEPCO)


This research used a historical institutionalist interpretation of path dependence to investigate EU Regional Policy and its impact on domestic institutions for tackling regional inequalities in Central and Eastern Europe.


Within the project focus on regional polarization in Central and Eastern Europe, the research addresses political and institutional aspects of the primary policy tool for addressing regional inequalities, EU Regional Policy, in the Czech Republic, Estonia and Hungary. Following their accession to the EU in 2004, hopes were high that regional disparities between the East and West as well as cores and peripheries would narrow. After more than ten years of Regional Policy, ample attention has been paid to the content of policies guiding regional development, investment and growth strategies, but comparatively little attention has been paid to the institutions surrounding such regional policies. This research aimed to fill that gap.


The research was comprised of policy analysis and expert interviews to trace the policy development and institutional transformations in the three countries. The first part delved into EU Regional Policy and national implementations through the examination of key policy instruments over three programming periods of EU membership. It was found that despite an increasing focus on neoliberal aims of competitiveness and growth set forth in the Lisbon Agenda, the three countries had room for different interpretations of core concepts even though they reproduced them similarly in policy documents. This pointed to the need to investigate institutional arrangements further over a longer time period.

Tracing institutional development back to the political and economic transitions of the early 1990s, the second part utilized expert interviews to reveal three stages of institutional development associated with transition, preparation for EU accession and post-accession EU membership. Attention to institutions peaked in the pre-accession period, while in the post-accession period, institutional capacity fell by the wayside in favour of economically motivated results of interventions. This had implications for institutional stability and capacity, which are in turn related to centralization and decentralization of regional policymaking. Given the recent rise of political and social movements across Europe related to growing regional polarization, it is argued that increased attention should be paid to institutions for the future success of Regional Policy.

In addition to secondments at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Centre for Economic and Regional Studies in Autumn 2015 and University of Tartu in Spring 2016, the research benefited from feedback from presentations at the following external international conferences and workshops:

  • 5th EUGEO Congress on the Geography of Europe, 2015, Budapest, Hungary
  • 2nd Evolutionary Economic Geography Workshop in Central and Eastern Europe, 2015, Szeged, Hungary
  • Gesellschaft für Regionalforschung (GfR) Winter Seminar, 2016, Innsbruck, Austria
  • American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, 2016, San Francisco, USA
  • 56th ERSA Congress, 2016, Vienna, Austria
  • European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) Master Class on EU Cohesion Policy, 2016, Brussels, Belgium
  • Tartu Planning Conference, 2016, Tartu, Estonia
  • Regional Studies Association Annual Conference, 2017, Dublin, Ireland
  • RegPol2 Final Conference, 2017, Leipzig, Germany

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Main Contact Persons
  • Lead Partner: Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography

    Thilo Lang (Project coordinator):

    Franziska Görmar (Project manager): F_Goermar@ifl-leipzig.de

    Franziska Weyrich (Financial manager): F_Weyrich@ifl-leipzig.de

    WP leader for Dissemination and Outreach activities: MEPCO

    Martin Guba:

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