With the formation and deepening of the process of international economic integration in Western Europe, the countries participating in this association became increasingly aware of the need for joint solutions to regional problems, since the existence of serious differences in the development of regions was a noticeable obstacle to the further strengthening of ties between national economies. In the end, it was in Europe that a new form of regional policy was born – at the interstate, or supranational level.
The basis for such a policy was declared in the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (Rome, 1957), which prescribed the harmonious development of countries by reducing the differences and backwardness of less favorable territories between many of their regions.
The practical basis for the active implementation of regional policy in the EU was created following the establishment of a number of specialized structural funds and, above all, the European Regional Development Fund in 1975. At the same time, a quota was set for each country as a percentage of all allocations from this fund for infrastructure development or support for firms in the regions, which were assisted at the discretion of national governments. Since the quota system was a constant subject of disputes and disagreements between eu member states, in 1979 a reform of the activities of the European Regional Development Fund was carried out, providing for a gradual, phased rejection of the principle of “quotas”. At the same time, resources were determined for the long term at the EU level and, according to the criteria established by it, were directed to the regions, including for “non-physical” investments to support small and medium-sized businesses.
Since 1985, the European Regional Development Fund has abandoned quotas altogether. Instead, for each country, an upper and lower limit of the assistance it can potentially receive from the fund is set for three years. This limit largely depends on the severity of the regional problems of each particular country. In addition, part of the fund’s resources can be used to finance the EU’s own programs, the so-called Community initiatives.
In 1986-1989, after the signing of the Common European Act on Strengthening the Economic and Social Cohesion of the EU Member States, another large-scale correction of supranational regional policy was carried out. As a result of this reform, the following 5 priorities for the work of the EU Structural Funds were identified:
1) assistance in the development and correction of the structure of backward regions;
(2) conversion or transformation of regions severely affected by industrial downturns;
3) combating long-term unemployment in the regions;
4) promoting the inclusion of young people in professional activities;
5) reform of the general agrarian policy (promoting the development of agrarian regions and correcting the structure of agriculture).
Later, 6 priority was added – the development and correction of the structure of regions with exceptionally low population density.
At the same time, the European Regional Development Fund had the right to direct up to 80% of its allocations to assistance to the regions under priority 1. The increasing role of regional policy required a significant increase in the resources of all EU structural funds (Table 2), since in 1994-1999 the problem regions covered the territory where more than half (more precisely, 50.7%) of the EU population lived (according to priorities 1-6).
Table 2 Resource requirements by component
Expenditures of the European Regional Development Fund in 1975–2000
Total amount of payments, mln. ecu
Share in EU expenses, %
Describing the prospects of the EU regional policy in the new program period (2000-2006), it should be noted that it is planned to spend 135.9 billion euros on activities related to promoting the development and correcting the structure of lagging regions, which is almost 20% more than in the previous program period of 1994-1999. aimed at creating new and preserving existing jobs, infrastructure (transport, energy, telecommunications), supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in problem regions.
In general, the experience of regulating the regional development of the EU is very positive and is of great practical interest, including for solving problems that will inevitably arise with integration in the post-Soviet space.