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Friday, 12 June 2020 12:17

New issue (number 46 - Special issue on "Linkages and channels between Cohesion Policy and European Identity”) of Investigaciones Regionales - Journal of Regional Research

Volume 46 of Investigaciones Regionales-Journal or Regional Research is published under the form of a Special Issue devoted to the analysis of “Linkages and channels between Cohesion Policy and European Identity”. The volume has been coordinated by Professors Jordi Suriñach (Universitat de Barcelona) and Edoardo Mollona (Università di Bologna) and is associated with the results of the European H2020 project named PERCEIVE, being six papers related to this project, while a seventh work, the one signed by Giovanni Perucca, is associated to another EU-funded project – COHESIFY, with similar objectives and perspectives.

This issue consists of an editorial and seven other research articles. In the Editorial, the coordinators of the volume describe the search of a main better understanding of the channels through which European policies contribute to create both different local understandings of the EU and different levels of European identification across profoundly different European regions. The papers presented in this special issue display the multidisciplinary portfolio of competences and analytical methods to elicit the meaning structures in public discourse about the EU. The papers mobilize two theoretical perspectives: a rational choice and a social constructivist perspective. The former puts forward an idea of institutions as “rules of the game” and that emphasizes the calculative rationality of actors as determinants of European identities and identification, while the second stresses the idea that European identities and identification emerge from a process of “social learning” associated with different institutional discourses.

The first paper opens the special issue and report empirical research to describe the general features of the phenomena under investigation. In the paper Do Citizens Support Cohesion Policy? Measuring European support for redistribution within the EU and its correlates, Nicholas Charron presents the results of a survey that investigates how citizens feel about economic integration within the Union and what attitudes they have towards cohesion policy. Grounding on 17,200 interviews to European citizens, the survey shows the variation in citizens’ support for EU Cohesion policy between countries and describes how support varies between demographic groups. To speculate on the relative exploratory power of rational versus cultural approaches, the survey studies as well as the extent to which utilitarian and ideational factors underpin support.

The paper written by Rosina Moreno, EU Cohesion Policy Performance: Regional Variation in the Effectiveness of the management of the Structural Funds, investigates the dynamics of absorption of EU cohesion funds at NUTS2 level. The effectiveness in the absorption of funds is a crucial challenge for EU member states and this article takes an original perspective by focusing on the regional variation in the absorption of the structural funds. A dimension, this latter, that has been overlooked in previous literature. The paper suggests that full absorption is more the exception than the rule and high regional heterogeneity in the absorption of the Structural Funds is not only observed across countries but also within the regions in a country.

A review of the theoretical arguments that explain the process of creation of a European identity is provided in the article written by Vicente Royuela and Enrique López-Bazo, Understanding the process of creation of European identitythe role of Cohesion Policy. In the article, the authors discuss the grounds of mechanisms and determinants driving citizens’ identification with Europe, stressing the role of the territorial dimension on European identity formation. The authors analyse the main theoretical arguments on the construction of European identity. They also analyse the role of Cohesion Policy by confronting the concepts of spatial identities with a historical perspective of the European project. Finally, they inspects the role of European institutions by providing some basic figures on the regional expenditure on Structural Funds and its association with the awareness, support and identification with the EU project

In their paper, Profiling identification with Europe and the EU project in the European regions Cristina Brasili, Pinuccia Calia and Irene Monasterolo investigate to what extent do EU citizens identify with Europe and the EU project, whether European regions have different patterns and level of identification and what, if any, is the role of socio-economic variables. The authors develop a novel probabilistic classification model, IdentEU, and use micro-level data from a survey implemented within the PERCEIVE project. The reported empirical research reveals that trust in the EU institutions, the effectiveness of EU Cohesion Policy and spending, and the level of corruption are three relevant drivers of citizens’ identification with the European project.

To conclude the group of papers addressing the formation of EU identity, the paper by Giovanni Perucca. When Country Matters More than Europe: What Implications for the Future of the EU? studies the determinants of the imbalance between the identification of a citizen’s with her/his country, on the one hand, and with Europe on the other. The work reported in the paper moves off from noting how recent empirical evidence shows an increasing imbalance in favor of the identification with individuals’ country of residence. This phenomenon, the author suggests, may be connected with the increasing support to nationalisms and Eurosceptic parties almost everywhere in the EU. The results presented, based on a panel data model using data from five Eurobarometer survey studies conducted between 2014 and 2017, suggest that individuals with lower education and income, and those living in the lagging-behind regions of the EU, are more likely to identify more with their own country than with Europe. Thus, the paper supports the hypothesis that unequal distribution (among individuals and regions) of the benefits from EU integration is a determinant worth considering of the emerging antagonism between European and national identity. 

A second thread of investigation reported in this special issue addresses whether and how the communication strategies of Cohesion policy affect the perception of the policy and the identification with the EU.

In their paper, Luca Pareschi, Edoardo Mollona, Vitaliano Barberio and Ines Kuric (The use of social media in EU policy communication and implications for the emergence of a European public sphere)  analyze cohesion policy communication on social media of ten Local Managing Authorities (LMAs) that manage structural funds at the local level and communicate to stakeholders information concerning Cohesion Policy. The authors use semi-automatic text analysis techniques to elicit shared meaning structures as they emerge in the discussion on social media. The aim is to understand whether an European public-sphere exists in which a shared EU identity can emerge. The reported results show the emergence of an internationally articulated cluster of topics that showcase a negative attitude towards the EU funding scheme and a generally skeptic attitude towards the Europe Union. This fact suggests that, counter-intuitively, Euroscepticism seems to facilitate, and be inflated, the emergence of a European public sphere.

The paper by Giovanni Cunico, Eirini Aivazidou and Edoardo Mollona (European Cohesion Policy performance and citizens’ awareness: A holistic System Dynamics framework) integrates the analysis of implementation and communication. Namely, based on the interviews to policy-makers, stakeholders and beneficiaries of cohesion policy, the paper develops a holistic qualitative framework that elicits the causal structure underpinning the distribution of the Cohesion Policy funds, the impact on projects’ quality of the management capability at local managing authority level, and the related, communication processes. The authors developed the qualitative causal model with the aim at stimulating a focused discussion on Cohesion Policy. The motivation behind this modelling effort is to provide policy-makers, stakeholders and scholars interested in Cohesion Policy analysis with a conceptual tool able to elicit the interconnections among the key processes at work and, more specifically, between the dynamics of funds absorption, policy communication and the mechanisms that produce awareness about the policy.

This issue has been sponsored by the Directorate General of Community Funds and co-financed by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund).

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