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Thomas Sauer, Susanne Elsen, Stefan Kuhn, Stephanie Barnebeck, Cristina Garzillo, Yannick Kalff and Judith Schicklinski, Cities: Places of new European prosperity. Compendium of case studies on the socio-ecological transition of urban commons. March 2015

Thomas Sauer, Stephanie Barnebeck, Yannick Kalff and Judith Schicklinski, The Role of Cities in the Socio-Ecological Transition of Europe (ROCSET), WWWforEurope Working Paper No. 93, March 2015

Annex to WWWforEurope Working Paper No. 93: Cristina Garzillo and Peter Ulrich, Compilation of case study reports. A compendium of case study reports from 40 cities in 14 European countries, WWWforEurope Working Paper No. 94, March 2015

Peter Huber, The institutional pre-conditions for regional labour market policy making in the EU: Case Studies and Policy Conclusions, WWWforEurope Working Paper No. 70, October 2014

Dirk Dohse and Robert Gold, Determining the Impact of Cultural Diversity on Regional Economies in Europe, WWWforEurope Working Paper No. 58, March 2014

Dirk Dohse and Robert Gold, Cultural Diversity and Economic Policy, WWWforEurope Working Paper No. 64, July 2014

Beatrice Camaioni, Roberto Esposti, Francesco Pagliacci and Franco Sotte, How much rural is the CAP? WWWforEurope Working Paper No. 51, January 2014

Beatrice Camaioni, Roberto Esposti, Antonello Lobianco, Francesco Pagliacci and Franco Sotte, Looking for PeripheRurality, WWWforEurope Working Paper No. 35, July 2013

The role of regions in the European socio-ecological transition

Europe’s regions are diverse and heterogeneous. To understand Europe and to find future-oriented solutions to its problems also requires understanding these regional differences and their implications. The assumption is that strategies toward more sustainability will only bring feasible and effective results if regional actors are involved from the bottom up and interactions between different political levels are taken into account.

A wide range of WWWforEurope work addresses regional questions and can be clustered in four topics, concerning cities, labour market policies, integration policies and funding respectively.

What is the role of cities in a socio-ecological transition?

Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostrom showed in her work that a „tragedy of the commons“ is not inevitable – there are organisational forms between market and government: on a local level, groups can work together and decide on their own set of rules without overstressing resources and resorting to beggar-my-neighbour tactics. This finding could be a valuable guiding line for defining those policy issues which are better organised bottom-up and not top-down. WWWforEurope researchers therefore conducted a survey in 40 European cities for different case studies of urban life and published a compendium of case studies on the socio-ecological transition of urban commons.

How do national labour market policies affect the regional labour markets?

In no other developed region of the world are the regional disparities of unemployment rates as high as in Europe. But is this due to inflexible national labour market policies or due to large economic and social differences? WWWforEurope research shows that national labour market institutions only partially explain differences in regional labour market disparities: There are lower differences between regional unemployment rates in countries with higher centralisation of wage bargaining, more generous minimum wages and higher effective tax rates of moving from unemployment to employment. But otherwise, region specific factors are much more important determinants of outcomes. For policy makers, this implies that effective labour market policies have to be designed in a coherent multi-level governance network with some degree of regional autonomy.

Should integration policies differ between regions and if so, how?

One of the politically most pressing problems in Europe today is the role of integration policies. There is clear evidence that cultural diversity has its benefits: Regions with more diversity are more innovative (e.g. there are more patent applications in such regions) and show better economic performance. This correlation is especially high in regions that have belonged to the EU for a longer time, suggesting that the full benefits of cultural diversity unfold along an integration path. But the relationship is not linear: there is a degree of diversity which generates more costs than benefits (higher costs of communication, increased potential of social conflict).

In their work WWWforEurope researchers found that all over Europe local actors are well aware of this relationship and highly willing to increase the benefits while decreasing the costs. A more successful integration of migrants is necessary to make innovation and growth more sustainable. To achieve this regional actors and regional administrations should be incorporated into the design of integration policy and should be given the freedom and the funds to adjust policies to regional needs.

What are adequate funding and distribution rules to take account of regional differences?

Although large parts of Europe still have to be characterised as rural, these areas are increasingly becoming more heterogeneous: Central rural regions near agglomeration face quite different issues than peripheral regions. It is both geographic and economic factors which influence these distinctions. Usually more accessible and more central regions perform much better economically. Although more peripheral regions receive a higher amount of total expenditures of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), when looking at the distribution of EU funds one finds that the support per unit (land, labour, gross value) is higher in central regions.

WWWforEurope work has developed a tool which can be useful in distinguishing more between rural regions according to actual needs, the PeripheRurality Indicator. It shows that single national approaches to rural and peripheral areas should be substituted by broader EU approaches. To achieve the goal of minimizing regional disparities it would be most effective to transfer all CAP funds to the rural development policy instead of subsidizing agricultural activities and to enhance the redistribution towards poorer European countries. The richer countries would benefit nevertheless thanks to rising exports to poorer regions.