Catching up regions

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The catching up regions are those EU regions whose level of development was significantly lower than the EU average. The EU distinguishes between two types of catching up regions:

  • Low-growth regions – experienced a persistent lack of growth. They are less-developed or transition regions (regions with a GDP per head up to 90% of the EU average) that did not converge to the EU average between 2000 and 2013.
  • Low-income regions – remain far below the EU average GDP per capita. They cover all regions with a GDP per head below 50% of the EU average in 2013.

Home to 1 in 6 EU residents (83 million inhabitants), these regions have been at the top of the cohesion policy agenda. In 2015 the Commission launched the Catching Up initiative (also known as the Lagging Regions initiative) – a pilot initiative to examine the factors that hold back growth and investment in catching up regions and to provide recommendations and assistance on how to unlock their growth potential.

As such the less developed regions are helped to better identify and respond to their concrete needs and maximise the impact of the investment on the ground. Piloted in 4 regions of Romania and Poland, the success of the initiative will see this model of cooperation of EU, national and regional actors being transferred to other to other European regions facing similar challenges.

Moreover, a report published in 2017 took a closer look at the competitiveness potential of the catching up regions. By studying 47 regions in 8 Member States the report identified the investment needs of these regions, namely human capital, innovation, quality of institutions, better accessibility, as well as the tools available within the framework of EU Cohesion Policy that could support them. The report showed that regionally differentiated investments and policy responses are required should these regions be able to move to the next level of development.

The Catching Up initiative, together with the Task Force for Better Implementation is part of the broader action launched by Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu to help Member States and regions improve the way they invest and manage Cohesion Policy funds.

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