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The ESPON 2013 Operational Programme
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Typology of regions in territorial cooperation

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  • The extent and character of territorial cooperation varies between European regions. This is influenced by their location and their socio-economic situation
  • The overall diversity reveals major differences between EU12, but also for Southern Europe. Core regions stretching from the UK to Italy share a common pattern of territorial cooperation
  • Territorial cooperation is most extensively developed in city regions due to the number of cooperation arrangements between the municipalities involved in such initiatives

Observations for policy

The extent and character of territorial cooperation varies between European regions. This is also influenced by their socio-economic situation. The overall diversity reveals major differences between EU12, but also for southern Europe. Core regions in Europe stretching from the UK to Italy share a common pattern of territorial cooperation, and city capitals behave as major hubs.

Policy context

EU Cohesion Policy encourages regions and cities from different EU Member States to work together and learn from each other through joint programmes, projects, and networks. Consequently, territorial cooperation has been regarded as one of the most important instruments developed by EU regional policies.

Map interpretation

The map shows a typology of regions based on territorial cooperation determinants. The typology is based on the analysis of socio-economic and territorial cooperation patterns. The results reveal some overarching territorial patterns.

Regions oriented on territorial cooperation twinning cities (red) can be found in Central and Eastern European regions. This type of cooperation prevails mainly in countries with low GDP. On one hand, because it is relatively easy and cheap and on the other hand because it brings benefits by connecting regions from different parts of Europe and their neighbouring countries.

Regions with high cooperation beyond EU27+4 (green) can be found in the southern peripheries of Europe. These are characterised by having the largest average distance between twinning cities with EU27+4. Besides, many of them concentrate high shares of linkages reaching further beyond a rather low number of transnational cooperation projects per inhabitant and relatively low levels of regional income. This type of regions prevails particularly in countries with good overseas connections and which are relatively attractive in Europe such as Malta, Cyprus, Portugal Greece, and Spain.

For those regions with relatively modest range and intensity of territorial cooperation, the transnational strand of cooperation is well developed. And despite the low number of municipalities taking part in such initiatives, the demographic and economic potential is very significant. This situation prevails mainly in regions that are performing below the national average and hence economically dependent on external flows and support. These include regions in Eastern Germany, Southern Italy, but also the majority of the regions in France and some regions in the UK.

Hubs of territorial cooperation occur mostly in city regions (yellow). This might be due to the respective administrative divisions being encapsulated within the boundaries of large urban agglomerations.

Regions having a medium level and intensity of territorial cooperation (blue) can be found in the core of Europe.

Concepts and methods

Data used for this typology included cooperation indicators for twinning cities, INTERREG IIIB/C and IVB/C. The socio-economic determinants take into account five thematic blocks. These are: (i) transport accessibility, (ii) level of socio-economic development in terms of demographics, economic potential, economic structure and labour market; (iii) role of local governments and/or financial resources; (iv) language competences of the region’s inhabitants; and (v) tourism potential. The analysis of the correlation between the indicators of cooperation (measured by various types of territorial cooperation per capita, GDP, and local government) and the above mentioned variables of potential determinants of territorial cooperation revealed significant mutual interrelationships.


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