51st Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "New Challenges for European Regions and Urban Areas in a Globalised World", 30 August - 3 September 2011, Barcelona, Spain
Every European Union enlargement has deepened economical divergence between member states and their regions. However, the economic aspect of this issue is only a part of a broad scope of reasons of its internal diversity, including also social, cultural or cognitive dimensions. The history of so called "Lisbon process" and failing in achieving Lisbon aims is one of most clear examples of failures of realization one common strategy for all EU member states. Different rates of economic growth or different level of innovativeness or human capital development has made every attempt to measure and execute this processes with one "best-fit" method virtually impossible. Difficulties in measuring EU convergence, which have economic, social, territorial and other aspects are connected not only in problems emerging from the formal issues but also, or primarily, in differences between incremental processes inside EU. EU regions are repeatedly finding "different routes to the same destination". It does not mean, however there are better or worse routes, since every one emerges from different spring. In these context, regional science can derive from intellectual heritage of institutionalism, which assumes, inter alia, that historical path of development implies the way economic actors act to achieve their objectives. In a broader context, institutional environment (often shaped in the conditions of spatial proximity), not only constitutes the framework but also can be a source of new ideas and thus - it can contribute to regional competitiveness. Bearing this in mind, one must state that what can really decide about the value of the European Union, it is a variability of institutional contexts of regional development. This thesis can successfully refer to research programs aiming at measuring EU member states' and regions' development conditions and achievements. In other words, research program on regional development should be adapted to the specificities of the member countries and regions. The aim of this paper is to verify (referring to the institutional economics framework), to what extent the demand for capturing diversity by research methods in regional science can be reconciled with methodological regime and the need to ensure comparability of results.