Macro-regions and the EU: the role of cohesion policy

Arno Van Der Zwet, Irene McMaster

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Macro-region' is an established term in economic and political geography and spatial planning. As such, it is widely applied in a range of contexts. However, following the adoption of EU macro-regional strategies for the Baltic Sea Region and the Danube Region, and European Council agreement for strategies to be developed for the Adriatic and Ionian Region and Alpine Region, the concept of macro-regions has gained increased prominence in contemporary policy practice and debates. Under EU Cohesion policy, a 'macro-regional strategy' is defined as an integrated framework endorsed by the European Council, which may be supported by the European Structural and Investment Funds among others, to address common challenges faced by a defined geographical area relating to Member States and third countries located in the same geographical area which thereby benefit from strengthened cooperation contributing to achievement of economic, social and territorial cohesion. In theory, EU macro-regional strategies are a new multilevel governance instrument providing an opportunity for new thinking about spaces, their opportunities and challenges and forms of intervention. However, in practice there have been difficulties in reconciling the different visions and interests of stakeholders, and the breadth of strategic objectives and priorities in relation to the available resources. Conceptually, macro-regional strategies have also been criticized for their incoherence, questionable legitimacy and effectiveness. This paper will review the role of macro-regional strategies as an instrument of EU Cohesion policy, their design and implementation to date, and the theoretical and policy issues surrounding their use.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2015
Event45th UACES Conference - Bilbao, Spain
Duration: 7 Sept 20159 Sept 2015


Conference45th UACES Conference


  • cohesion policy
  • EU
  • European Union


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