Unbalanced development strategies and the lack of regional convergence in the EU
European regional growth patterns have undergone two important changes in recent years. First, the process of convergence that dominated regional growth until the late 1970s and early 1980s has progressively given way to stability and divergence. Economic dynamism is increasingly concentrated in core metropolitan areas, whereas lagging regions in Europe are finding increasingly difficult to keep up with the pace of core regions. Second, the evolution of regional disparities, which in most countries tended to be pro-cyclical in the years of economic convergence is becoming anti-cyclical: lagging regions tend to outperform core areas in periods of relative economic decline. These two transformations are happening in spite of the efforts made by the EU, in order to promote development in the poorest regions of the EU, the so-called objective 1 regions. There are many possible reasons that may explain why European regional development policies have, so far, been unable to deliver greater growth in the periphery than in the core. Lack of adequate funding to curb centripetal market trends, lack of adequate co-ordination between actors are two of them. In this paper we will focus, however, on the inadequacy existing of regional policies. The implementation of unbalanced development policies, with a main focus on infrastructure development, together with other factors like the existing level of transfers and the rapid increase in non-market oriented jobs, is contributing to the generation of increasingly sheltered economies. The combination of these factors may be contributing, in our view, to the increasing of the gap between a competitive market-oriented core of Europe and an assisted and ill-prepared to compete periphery.
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