Unequal Europe

Unequal Europe - Tackling Regional Disparities in Europe

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.

National disparity reports

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:

  • What are the answers to these challenges?
  • How should policies in EU-member states and in the EU tackle regional socio-economic disparities?

Not just growth, but equal opportunities

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.



Dr. Philipp Fink,
Director Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Nordic Countries Office


+46 8 454 65 91

David Rinaldi
Director of Policy Studies
Foundation for European Progressive Studies                 

 +32 (0)2 234 69 00

EU report

Hacker, Björn

Unequal Europe

Tackling regional disparities in the EU
Stockholm, 2021

Download publication (8 MB, PDF-File)

Presentation of the EU report on 04/10/21 (video)

Country reports

Unequal Finland

Unequal Finland

Regional socio-economic disparities in Finland
Stockholm, 2021

Download publication (1,1 MB PDF-File)

Unequal Romania

Fina, Stefan; Heider, Bastian; Raţ, Cristina

Unequal Romania

Regional socio-economic disparities in Romania
Bucharest, 2021

Download publication (1 MB, PDF-File)

Unequal France

Le Bras, Hervé; Warnant, Achille

An inegalitarian France

Regional socio-economic disparities in France
Stockholm;Paris, 2021

Download publication (16 MB, PDF-File)

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.

Unequal Italy

Fina, Stefan; Heider, Bastian; Prota, Francesco

Unequal Italy

Regional socio-economic disparities in Italy
Rom, 2021

Download publication (1,7 MB, PDF-File)

Unequal Sweden

Unequal Sweden

Regional socio-economic disparities in Sweden
Stockholm, 2021

Download publication (1,3 MB PDF-File)

Unequal Estonia

Fina, Stefan; Heider, Bastian; Masso, Märt

Unequal Estonia

Regional socio-economic disparities in Estonia
Riga, 2021

Download publication (1 MB, PDF-File)

In cooperation with

Further Projects on regional disparities

Unequal Germany


Unequal Hesse


Unequal North Rhine-Westphalia


Unequal Spain


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