Performance typology, 2010


Observations for policy

The performance of rural (or rather non-urban areas) varies considerably across Europe. In order to achieve the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, it is necessary to consider the performance, potentials and obstacles in different types of rural areas. Indeed, the ESPON EDORA project suggest that ‘rural cohesion policy’ should operate at two geographic levels; (a) the macro-level, reflecting persistent systematic variation, as revealed in this map, and (b) the micro-level, addressing spatial variations in territorial assets which constrain rural localities’ responses to exogenous drivers of change.

Policy context

The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy in the framework of the Agenda 2000 boosted the significance of rural development in this sector policy. Rural development, in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy is conceived to support job creation and economic growth in rural areas in a sustainable and inclusive manner. Also the guidelines for future EU Cohesion Policy and Territorial Agenda 2020 support strengthening growth in rural areas in order to contribute to territorial cohesion and the achievement of the European growth objectives.

Map interpretation

Rural regions are not equal across the EU. Some are doing economically better than others, but ‘rurality’ as such is not necessarily a problem for development. Policies and thinking concerning rural regions have too often been shaped by stereotypes, which seem to overstate the significance of agriculture in a rural region’s economy, or understate the accessibility to major urban centres that many rural regions enjoy.

Therefore, different types of rural regions need to be distinguished. The EDORA performance typology enhances the possibility to distinguish between non-urban regions in terms of their economic performance. This represents a distinct step forward from relying on outdated assumptions about the nature of rurality, and shows how evidence and analysis could support reshaping development policy.

The map shows a clear geographical pattern of the performance of rural areas. Depleting regions are mainly located in the eastern EU Member States, the New German Lander and Turkey. These are regions in which the primary sector still plays a major role. Below average scores are also found in southern Italy, Greece, western Spain, Portugal, central and North East France, UK and the northern parts of the Nordic Member States. Even though these regions tend to have a more diversified economic structure, they are sometimes largely dependent upon declining manufacturing industries.

As can be seen, a large share of European regions is actually performing positively. Above average performance is widespread among the French and German regions, Austria, North Italy, and adjacent eastern Member States, such as the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

The highest rates of ‘accumulation’ are found along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, and north of Madrid, in Ireland, southern England and northern Netherlands. These regions are often characterized by a strong tourism sector, access to natural areas and small scale farming.

Concepts and methods

In this map, rural regions are considered equal to non-urban regions. They combine the intermediate and predominantly rural regions identified in the DG Regio typology of urban-rural areas (update and fine-tuning the OECD typology on that topic). Perfomance was calculated using an unweighted average of normalised ‘Z’ scores for five indicators: net migration rate, GDP per capita, annual percentage changes in GDP and employment, and unemployment rate. The outcome reveals four types of European NUTS 3 rural regions: (1) accumulating, (2)above average, (3) below average, (4) depleting.