This paper examines the theme of peripherality from a conceptual and policy viewpoint. A simple regression analysis of correlations between, on the one hand, indicators of accessibility and population density and, on the other, socio-economic strength, shows that there is a statistically significant correlation betweeninaccessibility / low population density and structural socio-economic weaknesses, both at the level of the EU as a whole and in most Member States.The priority given to peripheral areas within countries’ domestic regional policy varies greatly, depending on the degree of economic concentration, population density andaccessibility problems, as well as political decisions on policy priorities. Three main approaches can be identified: those countries where peripheral areas have a high priorityon the national regional policy agenda (Finland, Norway and Poland), those countries wherethe issues of peripheral areas are reasonably important but are not the main focus of policy (Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, France and Germany), and those countries where theproblems of peripheral regions do not have a high profile in national policy terms but aresignificant in a minority of regions (Italy and the United Kingdom).
Many of the instruments which have the most profound impact on thedevelopment of peripheral areas operate outside narrow regional policy. One set ofinterventions concerns efforts to enhance key capacities or potential for development inperipheral areas, notably natural resources, as well as human and social capital. A secondset of interventions relates to accessibility and openness, both in terms of humaninteractions and transport and broadband infrastructure networks. A third set ofinterventions focuses on the provision of local services of general economic interest, whichare often limited due to the fiscal constraints affecting many local and regional authoritiesin peripheral areas.