Objective and mission of the project
The GRINCOH project focuses on two major challenges facing the CEECs that are central to the goals of cohesion: they need to embark on a more innovation-driven process of development to secure long-term competitive and sustainable growth; and, at the same time, they need to create conditions for their citizens that allow them to enjoy more equal opportunities and to mobilise their full potential for economic and social development.
In spite of unquestionable successes in economic growth, social advancement, and political and institutional reforms, post-socialist transformation and the early years of EU membership did not allow the CEECs to overcome several critical weaknesses in their overall socio-economic and institutional structures. In particular, there is a disjuncture between fast productivity growth and a rather poor performance to develop innovative capacities to support longer-term sustainable growth and assure their competitive positions. These countries are striving to achieve international competitiveness relying more on low costs of production rather than offering innovative products and services to demanding customers. Partly as a result of this development paradigm, most CEECs were disproportionately affected by the 2008-2009 crisis. It is arguable that the CEECs are not sufficiently prepared to meet the ‘smart growth’ goals of the Europe 2020 strategy, and many challenges for sustainable growth and development remain.
A second area of concern is that growth is territorially unbalanced in the CEECs, more so than in most other parts of the EU. This is a key message of the European Commission’s Fifth Cohesion Report. Economic, social and environmental territorial disparities are among the more pronounced outcomes of the CEECs accelerated growth. The benefits of transformation in these countries have been unequally distributed among particular social groups and territories – with the emergence of highly educated and internationally successful professionals and entrepreneurs on the one hand, but structural unemployment, persistent poverty and social exclusion on the other hand. Furthermore, regional imbalances are characterised by a process of metropolisation that has privileged a handful of dynamic urban centres while exacerbating the structural problems of old industrial regions, vast rural areas and regions located on borders, and especially the EU’s eastern borders. As different as they are in social, cultural and geographical terms, these declining regions share general problems of economic peripherality and many negative effects of structural change, such as rural de- population, ‘brain drain’, disinvestment and, frequently, below-average levels of socio-economic well-being. This polarised economic and territorial development within CEECs poses challenges not only for the respective CEECs, but also for European cohesion. Accordingly, addressing territorial disparities – and associated social and economic disparities – in CEECs remains a key priority for EU Cohesion policy.
Therefore, GRINCOH will focus on the relations between economic, social and environmental factors of development and the policies adopted in CEECs during transformation and after EU accession.
The overall objectives of the project are:
- to establish development scenarios for the CEECs for the period up to 2020 under different assumptions of political frameworks, institutional conditions and development strategies;
- to identify the implications for sustainable growth – based on innovation and the development of technological capabilities – and greater economic, social and territorial cohesion in the CEECs; and
- to advise on future policy options for the CEECs, and in particular for EU Cohesion policy.
The final objective of the research is to provide policy recommendations in the light of the main results and lessons learnt from the past. These policy recommendations will be provided for several sectoral policies. They will also cover the horizontal approaches of regional policy and be tailored to the multi-level system of regional policy governance addressing: the Cohesion policy of the European Union, the regional policies of Member States, and – where appropriate – specific regional development policies of regions of different types. Thus, the project should contribute in considerable manner to policy recommendations for the CEECs so that they can achieve key objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy and its ‘flagship’ policies.