With Europe in flux, EU regional policy finds itself in a critical situation. On the one hand, regional policy is expected to deliver more and better results. Intensifying economic and monetary integration requires a further reduction in internal inequalities. With the recent and forthcoming accession of less wealthy countries in Eastern Europe and perhaps even beyond, the big challenge for the new programming period of EU regional policy (2007-2013) will be to close an even greater gap in regional economic performance. Moreover, across Europe, regional policy has been granted a key role within the Lisbon Agenda. Through encouraging innovation and economic specialisation; nurtured by local partnering and good governance, regions are expected to act as power engines to revamp Europes competitiveness. On the other hand, both the concept and instruments of regional policy are under clear pressure. In the face of growing neo liberal tendencies, all forms of state aid that might interfere with the natural play of market forces are heavily curtailed, while government budgets are being cut. This is compounded, in addition, by the shift in policy priorities induced by recent global political and social developments. The weakening of interstate solidarity is an emerging trend which may threaten future consensus about the aims and objectives of EU regional policy.
Given these tensions, what role and shape can we foresee for EU regional policy in the coming decade? Taking place near the heart of Europes political and administrative centre, this conference will bring together a multitude of views from a range of disciplines and policy backgrounds to discuss the future scope of regional policy. The meeting will consider EU regional policy from both strategic and practical perspectives.
The conference will work through a mixture of plenary, roundtable and parallel workshop sessions. The plenary sessions will discuss the role and meaning of territorial cohesion, a concept that raises numerous questions in the light of actual debates and developments. How will territorial cohesion be positioned alongside the long-standing goals of social and economic cohesion? How will it be understood in a more market-oriented, liberal Europe which is curtailed by stability rules and in which the basis for solidarity may be eroding? Another topic will be the basic outlines for, and controversies surrounding, the development of the EU regional policy for the new programming period 2007-2013.