Interregional relations in Europe - a new project by ESPON

A new ESPON research activity, "Interregional relations in Europe" (IRiE) launched yesterday with its first working meeting among partners and collaborating entities taking place online due to the known restrictions posed due to the COVID crisis. 

Interdependencies between European countries are well known and strongly documented, but this is not the case for the relations between European regions. This new ESPON project aims at providing a new understanding of the interrelations between Europe’s economies at the regional level. To achieve this goal, this research will use innovative methods to overcome data limitations on interregional linkages and flows of people, goods, capital, knowledge and services. The analysis of the relationships between regions will determine the extent to which the existence and the intensity of interregional flows are drivers for and/or barriers to the development of regional competitiveness and cohesion.

The result shall be both a big picture of regional interdependencies and specific insights according to different identified situations (e.g. border regions, outermost regions, regional relations within countries, peripheral versus central regions…). The overall ambition is to provide a new frame of reference for supporting regional development policies and informing regional convergence. As an example, this should give regional and national policymakers useful understanding of the potential impacts of the European Green Deal.

But the projects aims to go further and to explore the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on interregional relations as well as the level of exposure of European regions to its long terms consequences.

ESPON IRiE will carry out its activity over the next two years and will have a budget of one million euros.

According to the Vice President of the Government of Navarra, José María Aierdi, “the project will contribute to reinforcing the European principle of interregional cooperation and solidarity, essential for facing crisis situations such as the current one and for overcoming protectionist and border closure temptations, which in little or nothing contribute to the development and territorial cohesion”.

José María Aierdi also congratulated Nasuvinsa public society for its new European commitment and stated that this success consolidates its growing international projection. He recalled that this public company currently participates in 12 projects financed by the European Union, developed in sectors as diverse as the construction of social rental housing, energy rehabilitation, climate change or renewable energy.

Nasuvinsa, from the Government of Navarra, is responsible for leading a work team made up of the following academic organizations and institutions belonging to six European countries: Center for Economic Prediction – CEPREDE (Spain), University of Eastern Finland (Finland), S&W Urban and Regional Research (Germany), University of Thessaly (Greece), Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization - Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland), Delft University of Technology (Netherlands).

Xabier Velasco, head of the Territorial Observatory of Navarra (NASUVINSA-LURSAREA) and coordinator of the project, said that “the team's high scientific qualification, with first-rate European organizations, provides the project with the greatest guarantees to achieve success in an area certainly complex, and highly relevant in the world emergency situation in which we find ourselves”.

A pan-European analysis of 276 regions

The scope of the Interregional relations in Europe project includes regions of the European Union 27, in addition to all the regions of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, UK and candidate countries.

The project will be implemented in cooperation with national and regional stakeholders and with the European institutions (European Commission, Committee of the Regions, European Parliament).

Among the planned actions it is worth highlighting the collection of data through official organizations, such as the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat), and commercial ones through big data analysis (Teralytics, European Central Bank, Amadeus, etc.), as well as the elaboration of personalized databases by regions and related to each of the flows that are the object of study (people, capital, merchandise, services, knowledge).

Likewise, the team will develop a dedicated web portal for the project, to make all data, maps, results and recommendations fully accessible.