3. EU Cohesion Monitor: a 10-years review

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*  broken mechanism of membership 

One important change is western EU states’ substantial loss of structural cohesion. Factors that drove cohesion in the east – such as large inflows of EU funding, progressive integration into the single market, and membership of mechanisms of deep integration such as Schengen area and the eurozone – underwent little change in the west.


There was little evident increase in Croatia’s structural cohesion between 2007 (six years before it joined the European Union) and 2017. Experiencing significant growth in the Funding and Security indicators, but declines in the Resilience and Economic Ties indicators, Croatia stands out from other relatively new member states by remaining well below the EU average in structural cohesion.

Croatia moved from 22nd place to 23rd place in structural cohesion between 2007 and 2017; in comparison, Romania, jumped from 21st place to 11th place during this period. However, Croatia moved from 20th place to 18th place in individual cohesion between 2007 and 2017, while Romania moved from 25th place to 21st place during this period. The change in Croatia’s individual cohesion indicators mostly stems from more positive public views of both the EU in general and the organisation’s achievements. 


Cyprus, the Greek part of which is a member of the European Union, occupies a unique place in the EU Cohesion Monitor matrix. The country has the lowest level of structural cohesion of any member of the EU, but had the 4th and 7th highest levels of individual cohesion in 2007 and 2017 respectively.

Cyprus’s structural cohesion suffers from its geographical separation from mainland Europe and fairly small inflow of EU funds, along with its low levels of Resilience and Security. In individual cohesion, Cypriots have substantial experience with the rest of Europe and show high levels of Experience and Engagement. In contrast, they have relatively negative attitudes towards European integration in general.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic has the largest split between high levels of structural cohesion and low levels of individual cohesion of any EU state aside from Hungary. The Czech Republic experienced a significant increase in structural cohesion in both absolute and relative terms, moving from 8th place in 2007 (around the same level as France and Germany) to 5th place in 2017 (by which time Germany and France had dropped to 13th place and 18th place respectively).

With the exception of Security and Policy Integration, all of the Czech Republic’s indicators of structural cohesion were by 2017 higher than the EU average. Between 2007 and 2017, the largest change in these indicators occurred in the level of financial flows from the EU to Prague. However, all the Czech Republic’s indicators of individual cohesion are below the EU average, with the Czech public becoming more critical of the European Union generally yet reducing their support for eurosceptic parties between 2007 and 2017.


While the other two Scandinavian members of the EU experienced little change in structural cohesion but a significant increase in individual cohesion between 2007 and 2017, Denmark’s structural cohesion declined and its individual cohesion increased only marginally during this period. The decline in structural cohesion mostly stemmed from Denmark’s weakening economic ties with the EU and its tendency to opt out from deeper EU integration.

The rise in the country’s individual cohesion primarily came from the Experience and Attitudes indicators, while the Engagement indicator (which measures voter behaviour) reflected rising scepticism about the European Union. In the EU Cohesion Monitor matrix, the country remained in 24th place in structural cohesion between 2007 and 2017, dropping from 12th place to 15th place in individual cohesion during this period.


In 2017, Estonia matched or exceeded the EU average in every indicator of cohesion except for Security and Experience. During the preceding decade, the country moved from the upper left quadrant to the upper right quadrant in the EU Cohesion Monitor matrix, with its individual cohesion remaining stronger than its structural cohesion. Estonia’s structural cohesion and individual cohesion have grown at roughly the same rate – a phenomenon common to all three Baltic states, and in marked contrast to members of the Visegrád group (whose structural cohesion grew much faster than their individual cohesion).

With regards to changes in cohesion compared to other member states, Estonia rose from 14th place to 8th place in structural cohesion between 2007 and 2017, and from 10th place to 8th place in individual cohesion during this period. The country has the potential to increase its levels of cohesion in its areas of relatively low cohesion: Security and citizens’ Experience with the rest of the EU.


At first sight, Finland appears to have a fairly stable cohesion profile: in 2017, its individual cohesion was higher, and its structural cohesion lower, than the EU average. In the preceding decade, the country’s individual cohesion increased while its structural cohesion did not change. There has been little change in Finland’s relative position in the EU Cohesion Monitor matrix: it has remained in 16th place in structural cohesion, and has risen from 15th place to 12th place in individual cohesion.

Below the surface, the changes are more profound. Between 2007 and 2017, Finns began to vote for eurosceptic parties more often but their positive attitudes towards the European Union generally and approval of the EU’s achievements also grew strongly. Although Finland experienced a sharp decrease in the Resilience indicator, increases in the Funding and Security indicators offset the effect of this on overall structural cohesion.


Although it is key to the European integration process, France is below the EU average in most indicators of cohesion, with the noteworthy exceptions of Policy Integration, Security, and Resilience. Over the past decade, France’s level of cohesion has declined as quickly as Italy’s, albeit from a higher starting point. Funding was France’s only structural indicator to increase between 2007 and 2017, with its Experience and Approval indicators of individual cohesion also rising during this period.

France moved from the upper left quadrant to the lower left quadrant (reflecting weak structural and individual cohesion) in the EU Cohesion Monitor matrix. Between 2007 and 2017, France dropped from 8th place to 18th place in structural cohesion, and from 15th place to 22nd place in individual cohesion.


Displayed as radar charts, Germany’s and France’s cohesion profiles form similar shapes – although most of Germany’s indicators are higher. With the exception of Funding, Economic Ties, and Neighbourhood, Germany’s indicators are significantly higher than the EU average. Among these indicators, only Economic Ties and Engagement fell between 2007 and 2017 – the former due to the growing economic importance of non-EU countries and the latter due to the rise of explicitly anti-EU party Alternative für Deutschland. Overall, Germany’s level of individual cohesion has grown while its level of structural cohesion has remained roughly the same (making it comparable to Finland, albeit with higher indicators of cohesion). In the EU Cohesion Monitor matrix, Germany was in the 5th place for individual cohesion in 2017, up from 6th place in 2007, in 13th place for structural cohesion in 2017, down from 8th place in 2007.

* The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at:    ecfr.eu

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  1. The idea is that cohesion policy should also promote more balanced, more sustainable ‘territorial development’ – a broader concept than regional policy, which is specifically linked to the ERDF and operates specifically at regional level.

  2. Economic and social cohesion – as defined in the 1986 Single European Act – is about ‘reducing disparities between the various regions and the backwardness of the least-favoured regions’. The EU’s most recent treaty, the Lisbon Treaty, adds another facet to cohesion, referring to ‘economic, social and territorial cohesion’.

  3. Through its 11 thematic objectives, cohesion policy helps deliver the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy, the EU’s growth strategy to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The cohesion policy funds will be the main investment tool for measures supporting employment, innovation, education, inclusion, and the shift towards a low-carbon economy.

  4. In order to maximise the impact of the available funding, the focus on results has been strengthened in the 2014-20 programming period, and certain conditions must be in place before funds can be channelled. These so-called ex ante conditionalities ensure that the right preconditions are in place for cohesion policy spending to have a real effect in the region.

  5. Alongside the Commission they are measuring the effect that programmes are having. Every three years, the Commission publishes a Cohesion Report giving an account of how regions are developing and what effect cohesion policy is having. It also produces annual interim reports.

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