Macro-regions and the European Union: The Role of Cohesion Policy

Cite as: McMaster, I., & van der Zwet, A. (2016) Macro-regions and the European Union: The Role of Cohesion Policy in Gänzle, S and Kern K.(eds) A Macro-Regional Europe in the Making: Theoretical Approaches and Empirical Evidence Palgrave, pp. 47-72

‘Macro-regions’ are an established concept in economic and political geography, as well as in spatial planning (Smith et al., 2002; Pain and van Hamme, 2014). As such, they are widely applied in a range of contexts. However, following the adoption of EU macro-regional strategies for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), the Danube Region (EUSDR) and the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR), as well as an agreement in the European Council for a strategy to be developed for the Alpine Region (EUSALP), the concept of macro-regions has gained increased prominence in contemporary policy practice and debates. Under EU Cohesion Policy, a ‘macro-regional strategy’ is defined as ‘an integrated framework endorsed by the European Council, which may be supported by the European Structural and Investment Funds among others, to address common challenges faced by a defined geographical area relating to Member States and third countries located in the same geographical area which thereby benefit from strengthened cooperation contributing to achievement of economic, social and territorial cohesion’ (CEC DG Regio, 2014). In theory, EU macro-regional strategies are a new multilevel governance instrument providing an opportunity for new thinking about territorial spaces, the opportunities and challenges in these spaces and new thinking on forms of intervention.

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