The Nordic fashion paradox: We consume too much despite strong climate awareness
The Nordic countries often pride themselves on their climate actions, yet the reality paints a contrasting picture: Nordic consumers live like we have 4.2 Earths at our disposal. While adopting solar panels, vegan diets, and choosing train travel are commendable, did you know your wardrobe can be a major environmental villain? “Designed to become forever favourites” is an example of a slogan on Nordic clothing web shops, encouraging consumers to view their purchases as long-term additions to their wardrobes. However, these “cornerstones” are paradoxically expected to be updated quarterly, highlighting a disconnect between marketed sustainability and actual consumer practices. From a global perspective, the Nordic countries stand out when looking at how we consume textiles. In the last 20 years, there has been a notable increase in textile consumption, surpassing the global average. The average person in the Nordic region buys and wears an astonishing amount of clothing each year: between 26 and 48 garments per person. The average Swede buys 40 % more clothes now than in 2000 and throws away around 11 kilograms of textiles every year, with less than 1% being recycled. The lifespan of our clothes is getting shorter, and low-priced garments are discarded after being worn only a few times. Unsold and returned clothes are sometimes burnt or shipped to landfills in lower-income countries outside the EU. Textile production is a major contributor to global pollution, accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions. This surpasses the combined emissions from international flights and maritime shipping. It is clear that there is an urgent need for change, both within the industry and in our consumer behaviour. Gen Z’s Fashion Paradox: Striking a Balance Between Style and Sustainability However, there’s a glimmer of change among Generation Z, with a fondness for second-hand fashion and heightened environmental awareness. The…
Better knowledge for better rural policies – GRANULAR defines its next steps
Nordregio is a part of GRANULAR, a project that generates new datasets, tools and methods to understand the characteristics, dynamics and drivers of rural areas. The GRANULAR “Living Labs” bring together local actors from France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom to co-design, test and validate GRANULAR work. The aim is to support digital, economic, and ecological transitions in rural areas, understand and inform about rural diversity and empower them to engage in just, carbon-neutral, and inclusive transitions. In short: better knowledge for better rural policies. During the workshop held in Ede-Wageningen, Netherlands on June 19th and 20th, researchers and local actors discussed key factors, data gaps, and potential solutions. Strategies for climate neutrality and a Just Transition To achieve a just transition, strategies should combine adaptation and mitigation measures, addressing challenges such as social acceptability and ensuring a fair transition process. Rural areas can both contribute to and benefit from climate neutrality. There are substantial potentials in the residential, infrastructure, transport and renewable energy sectors, together with a circular bioeconomy. Rural Resilience In terms of rural resilience, participants identified social learning processes, institutional capacity, and economic diversity as crucial components. Policymakers need to consider the interconnectedness of the local economy, environment, and community, while also establishing clear and measurable ways to concretize rural resilience. Addressing Sustainable Food Systems The workshop also discussed sustainable food systems, emphasizing the importance of food security, self-reliance, and accessibility to high-quality food. Participants recognized regional variations in food production and self-supply, as well as the trade-offs involved in decision-making. Moving Forward with GRANULAR The workshop’s outcomes provide valuable insights for policymakers and researchers involved in the GRANULAR project. It highlights the need for comprehensive data, indicators, and tools to inform decision-making in these areas. The findings also contribute to the development…
Introducing PREMIUM_EU: A new project to prevent brain drain in Europe
Can research and AI-generated policies counter migration trends that tend to harm vulnerable regions? A new project kicks-off an ambitious attempt to find out. People are no longer bound to their birthplaces and are instead choosing to move to other parts of the world in search of better opportunities. In Europe, this has led to a phenomenon known as brain drain, where highly skilled workers leave their home regions in search of better jobs and quality of life. This has left behind areas of Europe that are struggling to maintain their population and attract new talent. PREMIUM_EU is a project that seeks to enlighten and find alternative ways to turn this imbalance around. Why study migration’s effect on remote regions? Migration is a contentious issue in many parts of Europe, and policies that are seen as too favorable to migrants often face opposition from local communities. Shifts in labour sectors, housing shortages, integration tensions. These are some of many concerns receiving countries have about migrant flows. On the other hand, many remote regions face the opposite reality. People are moving and no migrants are arriving to replace them. When highly skilled workers migrate out of a region this can have negative impacts on the economy and social fabric of the region. Loss of talent and expertise combined with an aging population leaves communities in crisis. PREMIUM_EU is built on the premise that spatial mobility, or the ability of people to move freely between different regions, can offer new opportunities to both sending and receiving regions. Europe’s population would shrink dramatically without migration. This project seeks to identify the positive effects of migration that are often overlooked. What is PREMIUM_EU? The lengthy acronym outlines the goal concisely: “Policy REcommendations to Maximise the beneficial Impact of Unexplored Mobilities in and beyond the…
Nordregio presented during EU seminar on the green transition
The Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union hosted a seminar on the 23rd of March, focusing on skills for the green transition for a competitive Europe. Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio Timothy Heleniak was invited to present at the session. The event gathered 150 participants involved in various aspects of education, adult learning, life-long learning, and skills for the green transition from all over Europe. Mats Persson, the Swedish Minister of Education, opened the seminar and highlighted the changing and growing needs in the labour market to achieve Europe’s green transition. “The green transition can only succeed if the European Union has the qualified labour that is needed. Between 2015 and 2021, the labour shortage in sectors considered key for the green transition doubled. This year, The European Year of Skills aims to strengthen competencies and skills needed for the green transition.” Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, focused on the opportunities arising from the green transition. “The green transition could create up to 1 million additional jobs in the EU by 2030. But for that, the right policies need to be in place.” There is a skill gap within the EU, with around 800 000 trained workers needed for the battery section. There is also a demand for experts in renewable energy. “We need to act upon these skills shortages. Our ambitious target is that 60 per cent of adults should participate in training by 2030.” Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio Timothy Heleniak gave a presentation in a session titled ‘Supplying scarcely populated areas with competencies needed for sustainable growth and development’, based on his fieldwork last year in Norrbotten, Sweden, and the green transition there.
Co-creating rural futures in Europe
The SHERPA annual conference was organised in Montpellier, France, at the end of January and focused on co-creating rural futures. It is the last year of the project, and one challenge for the researchers is to capture and utilise the huge amount of knowledge and good suggestions produced at the local level. SHERPA (Sustainable Hub to Engage into Rural Policies with Actors) is a four-year project (2019-2023) with 17 partners funded by the Horizon 2020 programme. The unique thing about the SHERPA project is how it works with the local stakeholders, generates policy-relevant research together at the local level, and delivers information to the EU level. Nordregio is a partner in the SHERPA project and steers the work of several of these Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MAPs). The MAPs have identified local threats and challenges to living and working in ways that will enable transitions towards climate neutrality and opportunities that could be created and pursued. At the moment, Nordregio is working with MAPs in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Estonia, which are all in the process of preparing their position papers on how to empower rural areas in multi-level governance processes. Each MAP chooses an area of relevance for their region that highlights main issues and suggestions for solutions. Senior Research Fellow Leneisja Jungsberg and Research Fellow Hilma Salonen are part of the Nordregio SHERPA team. During the conference, Jungsberg and Salonen learnt that the MAPs had similar experiences of the most pressing rural issues now, despite huge geographic, political and social differences. “The SHERPA project is facing a challenge that all research projects and institutions can relate to. How to capture and utilise the huge amount of knowledge and good suggestions that we have produced at the local level? New, more systemic approaches would be needed to reach this aim and…
Understanding migration drivers for policy development
Why do people migrate to Europe? What could we learn from analysing migration drivers to predict future migration patterns? How do the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and economic challenges affect the migration patterns to Europe? Last week, Nordregio hosted an online policy workshop on behalf of the Horizon 2020 project “Future Migration Scenarios for Europe”. Researchers from the FUME project presented the latest results from recently conducted studies on migration drivers and discussed the major implications on future migration policy development. Considering migration – future migrant’s perspective Karolina Sobczak-Szelc, a researcher at the Cracow University of Economics, presented a study that aims to understand the decision-making process related to internal and international migration. The interviews with potential migrants were conducted in Tunisia, Senegal, Iraq and Ukraine – countries representing various regions from which migrants usually come to Europe – Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe. Important to mention that the study was finalised before Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. The study results show that the motivation to migrate differs between generations. “The aspiration to migrate abroad is higher among youth who recently moved from home to a larger city. Meanwhile, the parent generation who have settled in the city a long time ago, often wish that their children move abroad to seek better opportunities”, – Karolina Sobczak-Szelc comments. Researchers have also found a mismatch between aspirations and actual migration. They observed that legal migration is increasingly perceived as an unattainable dream rather than a feasible, planned project. This finding was especially relevant in Tunisia, Senegal and Iraq. While analysing Ukrainians‘ views on international migration in the pre-war times, researchers found little or almost no aspirations to migrate abroad. Instead, interviewees talked about their sentimental relations to the country and their wish and moral duty to contribute…
Making Europe – and especially rural areas – climate neutral
What kind of transformational changes are needed, effective and just to reach climate neutrality by 2050? EU-funded SHERPA project has just published a new position paper “Climate change & Environmental Sustainability” that focuses on finding answers to the: How do policies facilitate the transition? And what research gaps still exist? Sustainable Hub to Engage into Rural Policies with Actors (SHERPA) is a four-year project (2019-2023) with 17 partners funded by the Horizon 2020 programme. The special thing about the SHERPA project is how it works with the local stakeholders and generates policy-relevant research together at the local level and delivers information to the EU level. Nordregio is a partner in the SHERPA project and steers the work of several of these Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MAPs). The MAPs have identified local threats and challenges to living and working in ways that will enable transitions towards climate neutrality, and opportunities which could be created and pursued. Based on these discussions, the new Position Paper highlights pathways for a just green transition, including adaptation to climate change. Read the latest Position Paper “Climate change & Environmental Sustainability” Nordregio has been part of several SHERPA publications: Slätmo, E., Löfving, L. (2022) MAP Position Paper (Sweden) – Digitalisation in rural areas. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7243911 MAP_PP-SW_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) AND MAP_PP-SW_Swedish-version_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) Stjernberg, M., Salonen, H. (eds.) (2022) MAP Position Paper (Finland) – Digitalisation in rural areas. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7235125 MAP_PP-FI_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) Mändmets, A., Kärk, K. (2022) MAP Position Paper (Estonia) – Social dimension of rural areas DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7249600 MAP_PP-Estonia_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) Ormstrup Vestergård, L., Refsgaard, K. (2022) MAP Position Paper (Denmark) – Land use and climate change. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7251683 MAP_PP-DK_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) AND MAP_PP-DK_Danish.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu)
Nordregio contributed to the OECD Rural Development Conference
27-29 September, Nordregio contributed to the OECD Rural Development Conference in Cavan, Ireland with several presentations. Research Fellow Ágúst Bogason presented fresh results and upcoming activities from Nordregio’s Remote Work and multilocality project. The key messages from the conference were similar whether you are from the Nordics, Canada, Ireland or the UK: Remote work is a new reality that will not fade away along with lifted restrictions caused by the pandemic, but it is also a fact that remote work is only beneficial for certain sectors and not all regions and rural areas can benefit from this. Although the opportunities are generally seen as outweighing the challenges, increased remote work has also some side effects that pose challenges for smaller communities, mainly related to increased housing costs and increased pressure on infrastructure. Nordregio’s Research Director, Karen Refsgaard moderated the session Strategies to Empower, Attract and Keep Youth in Rural Areas. The key messages from the youth session were that in order to make good, sound decisions and investments, the youth need to be included in the decision-making, both in the private and public sectors. For this to be possible youth need to be empowered and in order to create entrepreneurship and jobs, education provision needs to match with local businesses/industries in rural areas. Discussions on building pride and capacity among local youth the urban and rural norms must be dispelled through exchanges, visits and storyboards. The event was hosted by the OECD in cooperation with the New Irish Ministry for Rural Affairs and provided Nordregio with the opportunity to present its work to a diverse group of people: ministers, senior officials, policy makers, researchers and other stakeholders from high level international institutions. More information about the event can be found at OECD Rural Conference website and the sessions and discussions…
Nordregio contributes to Swedish green transition plans that unlock almost 3 billion SEK in EU funding
Last week the European Commission approved plans for three Swedish regions to restructure key industries and support a just green transition. The plans were co-drafted by Nordregio, and their approval unlocks SEK 2.9 billion in funding from the EU Just Transition Mechanism. “We have worked intensively on these plans and the Commission’s approval is welcome news,” explained Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs, Anna-Caren Sätherberg, in a press statement. “Sweden should be a world leader in the climate transition, and we will use new technology to create jobs throughout the country. The Just Transition Mechanism is an important piece of the puzzle in achieving this.” Nordregio supports with detailed analysis and research The process for this approval goes back to 2020 when Nordregio was hired by the EU Commission at the request of Tillväxtverket, the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth. Together with consulting firm Trinomics, Nordregio was tasked with supporting Norrbotten, Västerbotten and Gotland in the preparation of the so-called Territorial Just Transition Plans. For Nordregio’s researchers that involved detailed analysis of socio-economic impacts through stakeholder interviews, quantitative analyses, and in-depth research to identify the major social impacts of climate transitions in the regions. “Sweden has now designed a remarkable planning instrument to ensure that no one in these regions is left behind in the transition to a low carbon society” said Carlos Tapia, Nordregio Senior Research Fellow and leader of the project. He also noted that the drafting of the Territorial Just Transition Plans in Sweden was a learning process for all the stakeholders involved and was documented in an article published by Nordregio researchers. Recognition of Nordregio’s contribution When announcing the approval, the European Commission praised the project and said that the Swedish Territorial Just Transition Plans could be considered a benchmark for the rest of the EU.…
New article: The economic and social impact of Covid-19
John Moodie and Nora Sánchez Gassen, Senior Research Fellows at Nordregio, published a new article on the economic and social impact of Covid-19. The article published in the ESPON magazine “TerritoriAll” provides an overview of policy responses to the pandemic. As part of the ESPON COVID-19 project, 14 case study regions in Europe were selected to provide an in-depth analysis of the regional- and local-level policy response to the pandemic. The main aim of the case study analysis was to assess whether the crisis presented a window of opportunity for regional and local institutions and actors to promote proactive spatial planning and territorial policies in relation to the just (social), green and smart transitions. Proactive policies were defined as ‘measures that try to make best use of the particular socioeconomic circumstances to further a specific regional policy and planning goal’. According to the researchers, Covid-19 has been a catalyst for the development of innovative social policies across EU regions. “The crisis has accelerated the digitalization of key public services, including new social policies targeted at societies’ most vulnerable groups, such as the delivery of healthcare for the elderly, access to online mental health support, and digital training and education for young people. The continuation and evolution of these new policy measures will be essential to help overcome the socio-economic challenges presented by the cost of living and energy crises currently engulfing Europe,” says Dr. Moodie. Read the article here (page 28).
Territorial impacts of Covid-19 and policy answers in European regions and cities
Nordregio Senior Researchers, Nora Sanchez Gassen and John Moodie, will present the key overall policy findings and recommendations from the ESPON Covid-19 project in a digital workshop “Territorial impacts of Covid-19 and policy answers in European regions and cities”. The workshop brings together the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), associations of local and regional governments, and other networks together, in an interactive process designed to: ✓ Discuss and share information on regional policy responses to the crisis; ✓ Learn about innovative good practice policies that emerged during the pandemic; ✓ Assess project recommendations (policy, governance, territorial and financial) that can help regions recover from the crisis and build resilience in the future. The ESPON Covid-19 project aims to analyze the geographical patterns and territorial impacts of the pandemic across the EU and examine the regional and local level policy response to the crisis. It also investigates whether the crisis presented a window of opportunity for local actors to promote specific regional policy and planning goals/strategies in relation to the just transition, green transition and smart transition. Join the workshop on Wednesday 11th May at 14:00. Find more information about it and register here.
SHERPA project working towards sustainable multi-actor platforms
Sustainable Hub to Engage into Rural Policies with Actors (SHERPA) arranged a workshop to kick-start the second phase of SHERPA MAPs by introducing new Facilitators and Monitors to the SHERPA tools. The session aimed at ensuring that both experienced and new Facilitators and Monitors have the same information and feel prepared to facilitate and monitor multi-actor platforms (MAPs) – rural interfaces that provide a forum for co-learning and co-creation of knowledge with European, national and regional actors. “Our societies are facing extremely complex problems that are connected to global and interlinked processes, such as climate change, poverty and inequalities. These problems cannot be solved by scientists or politicians alone. It demands different fields of expertise – including citizens and experience-based knowledge – to interact and collaborate for new ideas and innovations “, says Elin Slätmo, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio. According to the researcher, if the multi-actor group is open to combining different types of knowledge and experiences, research shows that applying this method to rural areas can help deal with issues of lack of trust between local actors and central governments. Furthermore, it can help create common visions for sustainable regional development with a commitment to implementing and strengthening rural areas’ resilience and economic competitiveness. “There are, however, no recipes for success – adaptation and constant learning and development is crucial for processes, outputs and outcomes to be sustainable “, adds Slätmo. SHERPA is a four-year project with 17 partners, funded by European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and coordinated by Ecorys in Brussels. The project aims to formulate recommendations to redefine European development policies and research agenda for rural areas. There will be established 40 MAPs for actors from science, society and policy to interact. Nordregio’s role is to develop the theoretical framework for the science-society-policy interface in…
Nordregio – part of the Rural Revitalisation Thematic Group
Senior Research Fellow Elin Slätmo will participate in the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) thematic group on Rural Revitalisation as a representative from Nordregio. This thematic group is one of the means through which the European Commission implements the Vision for rural areas by 2040. The Vision identifies the challenges and concerns that rural areas face and highlights some of the most promising opportunities available to these territories. The initiative aims to revitalise rural areas so that by 2040 the areas in question are stronger, more connected, resilient, and prosperous. Nordregio contributed to the development of the Vision via the 20 multi-actor platforms (MAPs) as part of the H2020-project SHERPA. “As a member of the newly established ENRD thematic group for Rural Revitalisation, I will bring insights from Nordic rural research to Europe. I foresee synergies with the work Nordregio is doing for regional policy and planning in the Nordic countries,” says Elin Slätmo. The Thematic Group on Rural Revitalisation aims to identify and understand the key enabling conditions to drive rural revitalisation across Europe, explore the needs, and develop ideas and recommendations to help shape the future. Read more about the ENRD thematic group here.
Citizen engagement in policy formulation – New article from Nordregio researchers
Policy impact assessments are not enough to increase citizen awareness and support for EU Regional Policy – argues a new article written by Nordregio researchers. The article “From impact assessments towards proactive citizen engagement in EU cohesion policy” examines the benefits and types of legitimacy citizen engagement can confer upon regional policymaking processes. “Only proactive citizen engagement in policy formulation can increase citizen awareness and support for EU regional policies. Proactive citizen engagement is not only essential for enhancing the quality and legitimacy of regional policies. It can also potentially contribute towards building and strengthening citizens’ EU identities,” says Dr John Moodie, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio. The article provides EU policymakers with practical recommendations on how to increase citizen involvement within existing EU regional policymaking infrastructures. The recommendations are designed to enhance citizen engagement with the EU project during a period in which the threat posed to the EU by national populism and Euroscepticism continues to loom large. Read the article here.
Nordregio is now an official research entity of Eurostat
The Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat) has recognised Nordregio as a research institute and has officially included it in its list of research entities. This represents an important assessment for the Nordregio researchers studying the development of Nordic and European regions. Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union, responsible for publishing high-quality Europe-wide statistics and indicators that enable comparisons between countries and regions. The regulation stipulates that recognition of research entities is based on criteria referring to the entity’s purpose, established scientific record and reputation of the entity, internal organisational arrangements for research, safeguards in place to ensure the security and integrity of the data. “Nordregio strives to include novel sources of data in its ground-breaking applied research. By being recognised by Eurostat, access to the latest European statistical data will be made available for our research projects. As an example, new ways of studying policy implications of the Green transition will now be possible both on a Nordic and European level,” says Dr Rolf Elmér, Director at Nordregio. Nordregio is a leading Nordic research institute within the broad research fields of regional development, policy and planning. It specialises in applied research that analyses and evaluates the latest development trends in policy areas central to Nordic regional economic growth, competitiveness and sustainable development. The institute contributes towards meeting existing and future challenges facing the Nordic countries, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland, by facilitating cooperation, knowledge sharing and learning between national, regional and local stakeholders in the search for sustainable Nordic policy solutions. Read more about Nordregio and its strategy here.
- 2021 October
Why territory matters for implementing active subsidiarity in EU regional policy
There has never been a more opportune moment for the European Commission to strengthen the role of sub-national stakeholders and citizens in EU regional policy. National governments across the EU seem prepared to devolve power to lower levels of governance to help overcome systemic challenges. Nordregio researchers analysed this topic and published an article “Why territory matters for implementing active subsidiarity in EU regional policy”. This article examines the main tenets of active subsidiarity and how they relate to competing notions of territory and key regional policymaking instruments for the 2021–2027 programme period. Several EU member states have been involved in the formulation of the latest reinterpretation of the subsidiarity principle, emphasizing a stronger role for the sub-national level in EU regional policy making. “EU policymakers must embrace the concept of territory if they are to effectively implement ‘active subsidiarity’ in the field of EU regional policy. Territory matters in EU regional policy as defined regional boundaries provide an important framework for engaging sub-national level actors and bringing the EU closer to citizens. A stronger recognition of territory is required if EU policymakers are to raise citizen awareness, understanding and involvement in EU regional policy, which might help contribute towards increasing citizen support for the EU project”, says Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio Dr. John Moodie. Research Fellow Mari Wøien Meijer adds that “Territorial analysis is fundamental for understanding key challenges and opportunities in EU regions and including local experiences and knowledge in EU regional policymaking processes. By neglecting territorial aspects, we run the risk of creating EU regional policies that are far removed from the people these policies are made for”. According to the researchers, bringing EU regional policy closer to its citizens can only be achieved by empowering citizens’ active involvement in the development and implementation of policy. In this regard, the constructs of…
New article provides fresh insight into the issue of rural shrinking in Europe
Many rural regions across Europe are threatened by declining population; an increasingly common phenomenon now referred to as ‘rural shrinkage’. Building on the concept of ‘shrinking’, a new article ‘European shrinking rural areas: Key messages for a refreshed long-term vision’ has been published. The paper highlights the distribution of shrinking rural areas across Europe and explores the evolution of EU interventions to alleviate the effects of shrinking. Also, it enhances the general understanding of the social, economic, environmental, and territorial drivers of shrinkage, and the adaptation and mitigation policies as potential solutions to the problem. How can coordination and effectiveness of rural shrinkage policy interventions be improved? Read some of the key messages below. The article builds on key findings from the ESPON ESCAPE project where Nordregio has been a project partner. “Locally-tailored and targeted policies are required to help rural areas to overcome the challenges posed by shrinkage. These policies must reflect broader societal objectives than just economic growth, such as social inclusion, spatial justice, citizen wellbeing, and foster support for the implementation of a Just Green Transition. This can help improve the quality of living for citizens living in isolated and peripheral European rural regions”, says Nordregio Senior Researcher Dr. John Moodie. Key messages for a refreshed long-term vision for rural areas: A very substantial share of rural regions will be depopulated, others are projected to move into negative territory during the next couple of decades. It is impossible to exaggerate the need to strengthen the ties between evidence and policy approaches, avoiding “one size fits all” interventions, expressing sensitivity towards regional and local environments and pathways, and at the same time building upon signs that the future is likely to present new opportunities. The authors reiterate calls which have been heard through several decades, regarding the need for systemic, integrated and coherent approaches, at all levels, and for greater continuity when tackling inherently long-term demographic issues. In the realm…
Nordregio contributes to a new book on the future of EU Cohesion Policy
European Union (EU) Cohesion Policy remains vital for enhancing regional economic growth and reducing socio-economic disparities between European regions, particularly those regions facing industrial decline or in isolated rural areas. To shed light on ongoing and future challenges, a new book, ‘EU Cohesion Policy and Spatial Governance’ has been published, including a chapter by Nordregio. The book examines the economic, social, and political impacts of EU Cohesion Policy within different policy and planning fields. It identifies the multifaceted and dynamic nature of the policy and shows how it is interlinked with other policies, targeting unresolved questions of strategic importance in territorial governance, urban and regional inequalities, and social aspects and wellbeing. In a contributing chapter, Nordregio Senior Research Fellow, Dr. John Moodie, explores the role of EU marine spatial planning (MSP) policies and practices in creating greater coherence within European sea basins. “The chapter argues that while EU MSP initiatives have helped build social capital and consolidate networks, particularly between national planners, more permanent transboundary MSP structures and cross-sector collaboration are needed if there is to be increased alignment and coherence in MSP in the future”, says Dr. J. Moodie. The Nordregio contribution builds on recent projects including, Baltic SCOPE, Pan Baltic Scope, and Bonus Basmati, which examined the nature of governance and stakeholder engagement in transboundary MSP processes.
Can digitalization help overcome spatial injustice in sparsely populated regions?
Many sparsely-populated regions in Europe believe that they are left behind because of a reduced presence of public and private services in the area compared to more densely populated urban areas. The use of new technologies can be a means to provide similar services in rural as in urban areas and to reduce costs. However, when services are becoming digitalized, spatial and social digital divides might increase in regions with ageing populations. Nordregio researchers Linnea Löfving, Timothy Heleniak, and Gustaf Norlén, together with the German research institute ILS researched the topic and published an article “Can digitalization be a tool to overcome spatial injustice in sparsely populated regions? The cases of Digital Västerbotten (Sweden) and Smart Country Side (Germany)”. The research compares two similar cases in Höxter and Lippe in Germany and Västerbotten, where digitalization measures have been used to provide public services to the population in order to reduce inequalities or spatial injustice. “The article concludes the need for an inclusive process and the value of a place-based approach when implementing digitalisation measures. It also points to the fact that the two projects complement each other in showing the path towards a more integrated and inclusive approach for rural digitalization policies. While both successfully helped overcome digital divides in diﬀerent ways, aspects of both projects would need to be integrated to achieve greater impact. This is mainstreaming of digital solutions into administrative routines (the strength of Digital Västerbotten) and the involvement of civic actors in the development of digital services according to local needs (the strength of the Smart Country Side project),” says Linnea Löfving, Research Fellow at Nordregio. The article was published in the journal European Planning Studies and is a result of the Horizon 2020 project RELOCAL. Read the article here.
Is territorial governance needed in smart specialisation and maritime planning?
What is the role of territorial governance in supporting smart specialisation? Is maritime spatial planning moving towards policymaking that is inspired by territorial governance approaches? Nordregio’s researchers have published two articles on these topics within the fields of EU regional and EU marine policy. – The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role of local actors and knowledge in helping build regional resilience and deliver effective policies for citizens. Territorial governance and smart specialization can help bring policymaking closer to citizens and rebuild trust in politics. This is particularly important in peripheral and isolated regions where citizens feel like they have been left behind by the forces of globalization and the knowledge-based economy, says Senior Research Fellow John Moodie. Territorial Governance and Smart Specialisation: Empowering the Sub-National Level in EU Regional Policy The concept of territorial governance has received little attention within political science and EU Studies despite being advocated as a central element of European Regional Policy. This article examines the key dimensions of territorial governance, arguing that it is both distinct and complementary to multi-level governance, as it focuses on the mobilisation of regional actor groups and the integration of endogenous knowledge in policymaking. – For example at Nordregio, the local actor groups contribute to our work with their knowledge. They work to improve local life and thus are key players in territorial governance. We work with Local Action Groups members in our Thematic groups, Swedish fishermen in maritime spatial planning workshops and with an activist in a Copenhagen neighbourhood working on URBACT to name a few, explains Senior Research Fellow, Michael Kull. The article further explores whether there is merit in understanding smart specialisation as a territorial governance-based model by using examples of S3 process implementation in four Nordic regions. The article finds that smart specialisation can be considered a territorial governance approach, as it promotes bottom-up EU policymaking driven by regional and local knowledge. Moreover, by empowering the subnational level, a territorial governance lens may help to bring EU Regional policymaking closer to citizens,…