17 Nov 2014

This is a guest post by Dr. Marijana Sumpor. She is the RSRS ECP Abstract Manager & Editor and RSA Ambassador for Croatia. Marijana is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Department for Regional Economics, Sustainable Development and Governance.

There are certain parts of the world, where the “regional“ aspect has been so heavily burdened by historic and political circumstances that this still hinders the evolution of healthy regional economies. For example, the macro region of South East Europe (SEE) and the 15 states belonging to it: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Northern Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey.

Balkan Regionalism -The new independent states emerging from the split of Yugoslavia used to be regions; any mention of regionalisation thus caused political fears of further separatist movements within these countries. Furthermore, regional development-related topics were little researched during the 1990s in the Western Balkan context, primarily due to the war between nations of the former republics. Mentioning ‘the Balkans’ might thus cause a certain reluctance to undertake regional research; ‘South-East Europe’ is frequently used as a politically acceptable synonym.  

The most common problem encountered by researchers, in particular by economists, is the possible lack of regional and local data.  However, through interdisciplinary research and various social research methods, such difficulties can be overcome. There are many dimensions and particular aspects today that are specific to the South-East European context, and which could be very interesting for contemporary regional studies and regional science research.  

Borders and territories have been for centuries the main point for political disputes in SEE, while cultural aspects might be the reason for history to be more present today than we might want or need it. Strategic regional planning in such circumstances is often eye-opening and fun, but in the end can be a useless exercise, as plans and laws are rarely respected and followed. Such mentality, as often stressed, makes life hard for all those people inhabiting these regions and territories. With European integration some new hope arises, since cross-border and transnational cooperation programmes might be a good way forward to focus more on common strategic projects with a high certainty to be funded and implemented. Of particular interest are experiences and impacts of the EU Regional Policy Territorial Cooperation programmes, including cross-border cooperation (CBC) and transnational cooperation programmes. Relevant also is research related to the new programmes in the SEE region such as the Danube Strategy, Adriatic-Ionian Strategy, etc.

The aforementioned SEE states are on the path of European integration; some already are members, some are candidates and some are potential candidates. All have adopted EU regional policy and programming approaches. There are commonalities, similarities and differences faced by the countries in adapting their systems to a more modern European regional development policy. New member countries introduce regional divisions that are mostly relevant in the context of EU structural funds, while often disregarding more authentic regional divisions; the consequences of this could be further researched.

Of particular interest for publication in the RSRS early career section would be the presentation of current research on the aforementioned issues: for example, regionalism, regional development policy, regional planning, territorial development, and cross-border cooperation in the South-East European states.