Contextualising regional policy for territorial cohesion in Central and Eastern Europe
After a decade of EU membership, Regional Policy, including Cohesion Policy, has been widely disseminated and implemented throughout CEE Member States. However, the ability of national policies to deviate from established paths and the neoliberalisation processes underway in different political-institutional contexts have implications for the movement of policies, transformation of content and effectiveness of implementation. Amidst evidence of increasing polarisation and peripheralisation in CEE and the ongoing neoliberalisation of Regional Policy, the effectiveness of national policies to achieve territorial cohesion is brought into question.
Comparative historical analysis provides a method of inquiry into path dependent processes shaping institutions and affecting policy outcomes, and is therefore a useful tool for conceptualising regional political-institutional contexts and their implications for Regional Policy. Operational Programmes encompassed in national strategic documents from the Czech Republic, Estonia and Hungary over three programming periods are examined as key instruments for the implementation of Regional Policy, the comparison of which suggests different national perspectives towards common EU goals of competitiveness and growth as a means of achieving territorial cohesion. The research thus points to the need for deeper comparative understanding of regional policymaking institutions in order to understand the factors of effective policies in specific regional contexts.