The benefits of economic growth and growing employment have been unequally spread not only throughout society, but also geographically. Many European countries display distinct regional disparities. In many cases, economic growth and employment is limited to certain areas – mostly dynamic urban centres. Meanwhile, rural areas and those that have experienced industrial decline are falling behind. Democratic actors and institutions have failed to solve the underlying socioeconomic issues. As a result, the failure to address these social and spatial inequalities has fueled dissatisfaction with the political and democratic systems in many European countries, contributing in many cases to the rise of rightwing populism.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, together with the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), has investigated the extent of regional disparities in Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Italy and Romania. The project “Unequal Europe - Tackling Regional Disparities in Europe” tries to answer questions such as:
The recommendations outlined in the country reports form a basis for reform of the EU’s regional and cohesion policies. Policymakers need to take a broader approach when it comes to economic and social well-being. The EU should address social and economic inequalities in all their dimensions. Fostering local development and well-being in all areas of a country is not only a goal for economic policy. Rather, it is a matter of strengthening democracy and ensuring opportunities and participation for all.
Please also find the translation of the French disparities report.
The » gilets jaunes « (yellow or »hi viz« vests) protests in France have brought to light far-reaching regional grievances and socioeconomic disparities that run counter to the aspiration to equal living conditions for all. A closer look at these regional disparities shows a »fragmented« country, riven at all administrative levels by numerous faultlines. Despite – or perhaps even because – of the centralised redistribution policy an active state is no longer discernible for many people living in the regions.
Rather they have increasingly been getting the impression that the public authorities pay little attention to their affairs; that they and their regions have been left behind. This has cultivated a fertile breeding ground for populism. The present study provides an x-ray of this »fragmented« France, riven by multiple lines of inequality. It also lays bare the limits of France’s centralised policymaking and makes clear that this is no longer an effective tool for tackling inequality. Instead, the experts recommend that regional authorities be provided with more competences and resources and that new forms of solidarity should be promoted within the framework of regional cooperation. Such a policy switch appears to have proved successful in combatting the health care, economic and social crises unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic in recent times.
This publication is based on the study »Les inégalités socio-spatiales en France et en Allemagne« published in French in February 2020 by the Jean-Jaurès-Stiftung and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.