Flows are essential for Central Europe

Significant discrepancies are sizable between the regions of the Interreg Central Europe (CE)[1] area in terms of research and development patterns, accessibility, pollution, energy production and consumption. In particular, the CE-FLOWS targeted analysis displays that the East-West divide, rooted in the historical, political and economic development of these countries, is still visible despite decades of interactions between regions.

For instance, highly urbanised hubs of the western regions are the drivers of innovation of the whole functional area, thanks to their strong endowment of researchers and dense connections in Horizon 2020 networks and INTERREG partnerships. Highly qualified human capital in the East is lagging behind, as is the case of car and rail infrastructure, which remain relatively weaker in the eastern region, reducing accessibility and limiting commuting patterns. Electricity generation also shows heterogeneous patterns across the CE area: some western regions are highly specialised in renewables, while cheaper fossil fuels remain very important in many eastern regions, despite large numbers of renewable powerplants (with low installed capacity) in some countries (e.g. in the Czech Republic).

The CE-FLOWS project analysed the connections between Interreg Central Europe (CE) regions on different thematic areas, highlighting the existing transnational cooperation structures and projects in which CE area regions have been involved over the 2014-2020 programming period: the future of the process of integration of economic, environmental and social patterns within Central Europe (CE) will depend on these cooperation structures and on those policies that will be introduced to overcome the highlighted bottlenecks and barriers to cooperation between countries.

However, the current COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures taken across Europe to prevent the spread of the disease have increased the uncertainty of this integration process. Econometric modelling allowed the study team to forecast different trends and scenarios of the future integration process within the CE area in view of 2030, highlighting what is going to be the territorial impact of the predicted/expected development trends including the impact of the pandemic. The CE-FLOWS project produced three scenarios with different outcomes for 2030, depending on the extent of the economic rebound from the pandemic and based on the likelihood that long-term impacts of COVID-19 might affect other and non-economic indicators (e.g. trust among people, quality of urban networks, greenhouse gas emissions).

Based on the analysis of spatial dynamics and on these scenarios, the CE-FLOWS project draws a set of policy recommendations, seeking to achieve synergies with existing cooperation patterns, transnational cooperation structures and governance mechanisms, exploiting also complementarities with other EU instruments and policies. The proposals for transnational policy implementation range from high-level issues (e.g. the alignment in terms of strategies and policies and an overall functional approach to the CE territory) to theme-specific interventions such as the need to promote technology transfer and knowledge sharing in advanced manufacturing and R&D.

The results of the CE-FLOWS project are available on the ESPON website.

[1] 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) making up 23% of the EU territory.



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