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The Evolution of Thematic Concentration within Cohesion Policy

Rocco L. Bubbico, Johannes Langthaler

Thematic concentration is a key element in the European Commission's reform of cohesion policy for the 2014-2020 period. This principle and the related regulatory requirements have the purpose of aligning cohesion policy with the Europe 2020 Strategy, in an effort to integrate EU regional policy with the larger policy framework of the EU and aiming to improve its added value. This paper looks retrospectively at the programming period 2007-2013, analysing the strategic concentration in the main priority areas of operational programmes. The analysis shows that the structure of most operational programmes in 2007-2013 was already quite focused, from a thematic standpoint, on the areas of the Europe 2020 Strategy. As a consequence, many operational programmes were already consistent with the new thematic concentration approach. These findings are in line with the evolution of cohesion policy, as well as being consistent with its targets, although further thematic concentration might not fit with the evolution of specific regional needs. In the context of the crisis, some regions were particularly hit and are struggling now to recover suffer from limited fiscal space for public investment, also in basic public services. Hence, these regions might benefit from a larger scope of interventions leaving margin of manoeuvre, at least in the short run and on localised actions or horizontal measures which are in line with the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds’ aims and meet local demand, but which are not necessarily fully aligned with the main Europe 2020 objectives.

Rocco L. Bubbico, Economist, European Investment Bank, <>; Johannes Langthaler, Economist, Austrian Financial Market Authority, <>; The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the EIB, its shareholders or FMA.


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