CE FLOWS – Spatial dynamics and integrated territorial development scenarios for the functional area of Central Europe


The Interreg Central Europe (CE) programme area encompasses the territory of nine EU Member States, i.e. Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as parts of Germany and Italy. It makes up 23% of the EU territory and covers countries from both sides of the former ’Iron Curtain’.

Despite major progress, economic and social differences between ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ countries are still pronounced.  The area is characterised by an uneven distribution of economic strength, which is rooted in the historical, political and economic development (East-West divide: command economy vs market economy) as well as in structural differences between regions (urban and industrialised areas vs. rural and peripheral areas). Research and development (R&D), as well as investments, are concentrated in few, mostly urban growth poles including capital city agglomerations like Warsaw, Prague, Berlin, Vienna, and Budapest. As a consequence, rural and peripheral areas often show lower competitiveness combined with significant brain-drain. Also, social disparities within CE can be observed especially along the former ‘Iron Curtain’ and the eastern external frontier of the EU.

A recent study analysed the main challenges for the CE region which were identified as: a) globalisation, b) digital economy, c) transport and accessibility, d) energy, e) circular economy/environment, f) climate change, g) employment and skills, h) social risks, i) demographic change/migration and j) governance. The study concluded that CE is a functional area and that this functionality is not only based on the geographic proximity of countries but on spatial interactions and linkages within different sectors such as economics and business, governance etc.

The CE-FLOWS targeted analysis shall look into the spatial dynamics and existing flows across the regions making up the CE functional area. With this focus on the functional geography of CE, the project is well anchored in the European policy context in view of the objectives of European regional development and Cohesion Policy for the forthcoming funding period 2021-2027.

The draft ETC regulation introduces the notion of functional areas, therefore the methodology and approach tested by CE-FLOWS in the CE area can be applied in the analysis of functional relationships in other transnational Interreg programme areas outside the four Macro-Regional Strategy (MRS) areas (e.g. South-West Europe, North-West Europe, Mediterranean, North Sea Region). Furthermore, the methodology developed in CE-FLOWS can be applied to a smaller scale than the transnational one, i.e. for capturing dynamics and flows at the cross-border level.

The analysis in the framework of CE-FLOWS shall also consider complementarities and synergies with other EU instruments and policies, including macro-regional strategies. A better understanding of the flows and interdependencies within CE will allow to increase the impacts of other EU policy instruments through better coordination and valorisation of synergies as well as strengthen the linkages of CE with other adjacent functional areas. This will further reinforce cooperation between stakeholders and territories, leading not only to an effective integrated territorial development of the CE functional area but, considering its location at the heart of Europe and its economic importance, to more cohesion in the entire EU.


Policy questions 

  • Which spatial dynamics of CE as a functional area can be observed? How can the current situation be characterised (e.g. by which indicators) and which are the main development trends/scenarios in view of 2030? What is going to be the territorial impact of the predicted/expected development trends?
  • What are the main spatial development potentials able to reduce economic and social disparities in CE and foster integrated territorial development? Which drivers and bottlenecks can be best addressed by transnational cooperation to further strengthen functional links?
  • Building on existing cooperation patterns and partnerships, how can transnational cooperation structures, governance mechanisms and solutions be tailored to fit spatial dynamics of the CE functional territory? How can their impacts be further strengthened in view of 2030 (i.e. by when impacts of 2021-2027 programmes will be achieved)? What is the special niche of transnational cooperation in this context (in relation to other EU instruments and policies)? How can complementarities and synergies with other EU instruments and policies, such as macro-regional strategies be used?



  • The city of Vienna, Municipal Department for European Affairs / Joint Technical Secretariat of the Interreg CE Programme, AT (lead stakeholder)
  • Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism Directorate VII/5 – Coordination Regional Policy and Spatial Planning, AT
  • Ministry of Regional Development, CZ
  • Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development, DE
  • Thuringian Ministry of Infrastructure and Agriculture, Strategic Spatial Planning, DE
  • Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds, HR
  • Bratislava Self Governing Region, Managing Authority of INTERACT Programme, SK
  • Veneto Region – Joint Programming Department, IT
  • Ministry of Investment and Economic Development, Territorial Cooperation Department, PL
  • Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, Spatial Planning, Construction and Housing Directorate, SI



  • VVA Brussels, BE (lead contractor)
  • OIR, AT
  • Politecnico di Milano, IT
  • Civitta, RO



280,350 EUR



February 2020 – February 2021


  • Inception delivery, 3 April 2020
  • Interim delivery, 2 October 2020
  • Final delivery, 2 April 2021



Michaela Gensheimer (Senior Project Expert), [email protected]

Caroline Clause, (Senior Financial Expert) [email protected]


CE FLOWS Synthesis Report.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 324KB

CE-FLOWS_Main Report.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 7.51MB

CE FLOWS Scientific Report.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 5.27MB