- The objectives of economic and social cohesion to reduce regional imbalances became less visible after the financial crisis hit Europe
- It can be observed a strong North-South division underlining the differences between EU and non-EU Member States. With regard to this, the GDP discontinuity in the Mediterranean sea is quite evident
- Within the EU such difference in wealth is observed between East and West. Here, Slovenia and Estonia represent an exception because both belong to the wealthier group;
- GDP discontinuities also pinpoint to particular situations in some EU Member States such as Malta, Cyprus, Romania, and Luxemburg
Observations for policy
Territorial imbalances can be observed at many different geographical levels but in general all relate to economic wealth and performance. In the EU neighbourhood context, a distinct division can be observed between EU27+4 and the neighbourhood countries, and the same applies within the group of countries that form EU27+4.
Prior to the crisis, social and economic cohesion became highly leveraged by the EU but this situation changed considerably in the last four years.
Within European policies there is a strong focus on growth and job creation and this is even more important in periods of economic recession. Equally important is the fact that Europe is concerned about disparities within its regions and cities.
The map depicts the difference in wealth (GDP per capita in PPS at national level) between North and South underlining (1) the difference between EU and non-EU members and (2) that proximity to Europe plays an important role.
The strongest dividing line goes between EU and non-EU Member States in the Mediterranean. However, another major discontinuity located in the Sahara between Northern Africa and sub-Sahara countries. This double line of discontinuities demonstrates the significance of territorial relationships.
This territorial pattern structures the flow of international migration (from South to North), but also investments and aid (from North to South) with the intermediate areas of Northern Africa strategically positioned as an interfacing territory. It also highlights the challenges for small island states, particularly those located between Africa and Europe (i.e. Malta, Cyprus).
Within Europe, two major economic divisions or discontinuities can be observed currently. Looking at national level, there is a difference between East and West. In broad terms the discontinuity line runs from the Finland and Russia border to the maritime border between Italy and Albania. For those countries that joined the EU during the latest accession period, the level of wealth is lower than what is observed for the older EU Member States. Despite that, the level of wealth is higher than what is observed in neighbourhood countries.
With regard to the East-West division, it appears the Slovenia and Estonia now ranked together with more wealthy neighbours. Furthermore, there are discontinuities between Romania and its neighbours, especially those that belong to the EU which tend to have higher GDP per capita. The same applies in Luxembourg. In Cyprus, the discontinuities are mostly observed towards neighbourhood countries outside the EU.
Concepts and methods
The map shows the differences in GDP per capita in PPS at national level. On that basis, the main cross-border discontinuities have been identified by red lines that vary their thickness according to the gap in GDP between countries.