GROSEE - Growth Poles in South-East Europe

Thematic scope

The economy of South-Eastern Europe is lagging behind most of Europe. Recent studies have highlighted the emergence of a second area after the Pentagon with a high concentration of economic activities. This emergent area is situated in Central Europe but does not reach South-Eastern Europe.

The project shall study the three main growth poles in South-Eastern Europe - Athens, Sofia and Bucharest - their relation to the European core development areas, their competitiveness and the role that the three capitals can have individually as well as together in the European polycentric network as economic drivers of South-Eastern Europe. A key factor in the project is the cooperation of the capitals with surrounding territory. Furthermore, as accessibility has a great impact on competitiveness, the project should assess alternatives to overcome the long distances in order to improve the accessibility of South-Eastern Europe and its competitiveness.

The project aims are in line with the objectives of key policy documents such as the Territorial Agenda of 2007, the Territorial Agenda 2020 and the Green Paper for Territorial Cohesion, which highlight the importance of polycentric development in achieving territorial cohesion and enhancing the competitiveness of areas outside the European core.

Please read more about the main areas of analysis and main results envisaged.


  • Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism – Romania (Lead Stakeholder)
  • Ministry for Development, Competitiveness and Shipping – Greece
  • Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works – Bulgaria

Main stakeholder interests

The following questions shall be addressed:

  • What is the role of Bucharest, Sofia and Athens in the European polycentric network?
  • What does the accessibility of these cities look like and how can it be improved? What is the efficiency of European transport corridors?
  • What are the main drivers for competitiveness in the three capitals? Do metropolitan areas play an important role as drivers for competitiveness in the region?
  • What are the key policies and measures that can be taken to support an emergence of a competitive area concentrated on the Bucharest - Sofia - Athens triangle?

The added value of the project will consist of:

  • A focused view on the most important growth poles in South-Eastern Europe and an identification of policy measures that can improve their competitiveness and accessibility.
  • A deeper understanding of the relation of the case study areas with the European urban network.
  • More detailed knowledge of these cities as metropolitan areas.

Lead Partner

University of Bucharest, Romania

Detailed information on the contracted project team can be found under Transnational Project Groups.

Budget : € 360 000.00

Project’s lifetime: February 2012 – July 2013

Delivery of Reports

Inception Report: 28 June 2012
Interim Report: 31 January 2013

Draft Final Report: 15 September 2013
Final Report: 28 February 2014


Reports will be published once they are approved by the ESPON Monitoring Committee

More information

Please contact the Project Expert at the ESPON Coordination Unit:
Michaela GENSHEIMER, e-mail: [email protected]  

Main areas of analysis

  • Assessing the progress of the emergence of a new peripheral integrated zone of concentrated economic growth in South-Eastern Europe, which core is the triangle Bucharest - Sofia – Athens.
  • Analysing the role of the three cities in the European economy and their position in their countries, in South-East Europe and Europe as a whole.
  • Comparing the three metropolitan areas with other functional urban areas across Europe from the point of view of competitiveness.
  • Identifying and comparing the main factors and drivers for competitiveness of Athens, Bucharest and Sofia.
  • Analysing key policies and measures that can enhance the accessibility and/or the economic development of the case study areas.
  • Evaluating the contribution of these proposed policies, measures and projects to the competitiveness of the case studies and to an enhanced accessibility.

Main results envisaged

  • Analysis of the current situation in the three cities and their position in a South-Eastern European and European-wide context.
  • Evidence on the accessibility and connectivity of the city regions within Europe.
  • Insight in the drivers of competitiveness and an indication of future perspectives.
  • An overview of good practices of territorial governance and urban development measures, including benefits from cooperation of large cities.
  • Maps, indicators or other types of evidence showing the current relations between the cities.
  • A selection of major infrastructure projects that can contribute to the improved economic development and better connections with the European urban network.
  • Optional policy measures to enrich relations and jointly gain added value, particularly related to infrastructure and accessibility.



Final Report - Main Report

  • Acrobat Document | 2.72MB

Final Report - Annex I-III

  • Acrobat Document | 405KB

Final Report - Annex IV

  • Acrobat Document | 2.23MB

Final Report - Annex V-VII

  • Acrobat Document | 162KB

Final Report - Scientific Report

  • Acrobat Document | 16.35MB

Draft Final Report - Executive Summary and Main Report

  • Acrobat Document | 2.55MB

Draft Final Report - Annex

  • Acrobat Document | 3.10MB

Draft Final Report - Scientific Report

  • Acrobat Document | 18.47MB

Interim Report

  • MS-Word Document | 2.55MB

Inception Report

  • Acrobat Document | 673KB

Project specifications

  • Acrobat Document | 112KB