Assessing the impact of EU Cohesion Policy: What can economic models tell us?
The challenge of evaluating the impacts of cohesion policy lies in the complexity of the public policy instruments being used in terms of individual projects, wider measures, operational programmes and the entire investment package taken as a whole. The goal of cohesion policy – to promote accelerated growth and development in lagging EU member states and regions, i.e. development at the aggregate macroeconomic level – is ambitious and theevaluation of its likely impacts draws on economic and other research that is still at an early stage of evolution. The context within which cohesion policy is designed, implemented and evaluated is also complex and this should serve as a warning against simplistic evaluations and premature judgements. In the course of cohesion policy impact evaluation there are really only two crucial decisions to be taken. First, do you need to construct an explicit policy counterfactual? Second, if the answer is “yes”, how does one define thecounterfactual? If one wishes to identify the specific contribution of a policy action, it would be difficult to answer other than “yes” to the first question. But there are a range of possible answers to the second question.
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