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53rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional Integration: Europe, the Mediterranean and the World Economy", 27-31 August 2013, Palermo, Italy
The measure of the regional disparities in the European Union was widely approached on the literature. Recent years have seen a spate of studies taking into account the spatial aspect of data in the analysis of convergence from an empirical viewpoint, or integrating spatial interdependencies from a theoretical viewpoint. In this scientific context, this proposition aims to understand the spatial discontinuities at the origin of an uneven process of integration and convergence in the EU with the two last enlargements. In a methodological point of view, we hypothesize that sigma-convergence should be calculated not only at the global level (beta and sigma convergence) but also at the local level. Thus, local measurements obtained will provide additional information on the nature of the convergence and on the forms of regional growth. Local convergence is an indicator measuring the reduction (or increase) in economic disparities within a group of adjacent regions. In other words, there is local convergence when GDP per capita of regions included in the delimited area tend to the average level of GDP per capita of the zone concerned. The results (and their cartography) shows that there are local phenomena of both marked convergence, or conversely divergence, underlying a process of uneven integration. The multipolarization of the convergence, and therefore the unequal integration process of the regions, calls for differentiated policy responses. These responses should take into account different factors behind the convergence of regions, including the Structural Funds (although in the literature there is an ambiguity regarding the impact of the Structural Funds), the effects of inheritance and the effects of context. Faced with the inability of the cohesion policy to reduce interregional disparities within each country, our study on local convergence provides points to reflect regarding how to rethink future EU regional policy after 2013 in order to make it more effective. It emphasizes the value of taking into account geographical location and the structure of the neighborhood of each of the European regions in order to develop the cohesion policy. The highlighting of a multipolar convergence and the joint presence of areas of convergence and divergence within the European area underlines the differentiated effectiveness of the Structural Funds. Thus, some regions considered as marginalized peripheries (due to their geographic location, the fact that many discontinuities run through them and their being characterized by a situation of local divergence) deserve special treatment in terms of European aid if the aim is to make the integration process less unequal.
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