Regional yearbook introduction


Data extracted in March 2020.

Planned article update: September 2021.

Highlights

Regional statistics offer subnational comparisons of data: information for the smallest EU Member States (such as Malta) can be compared with regions of larger Member States.

EU cohesion policy for the period 2021-2027 will focus on five principal objectives: a smarter Europe; a greener, carbon-free Europe; a more connected Europe; a more social Europe; a Europe that is closer to its citizens.

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union (EU), collects, compiles and publishes statistics for the EU and euro area, as well as national, regional and other subnational data, primarily for the Member States of the EU, but also for the United Kingdom, EFTA and candidate countries.

The Eurostat regional yearbook aims to provide a taste of the wide selection of European statistics that are collected for regions and other subnational classifications across a broad range of subjects.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020 has changed Europe and the world profoundly and it may have lasting effects on a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues in the years to come. As Europe emerges from lockdown, there remain considerable socioeconomic and climatic challenges. Although the impact of the pandemic is not yet visible in the 2020 edition of the Eurostat regional yearbook — since all statistical results refer to earlier reference years — it has already lead to an increased demand for more subnational data to support statistical analysis at regional and local level.

Full article

European statistics

Subnational statistics

EU Member States are often compared with each other, but in reality it can be difficult to compare a small country like Malta, which had 494 000 inhabitants on 1 January 2019, or Luxembourg, which had 614 000 inhabitants, with larger Member States, such as Germany, the most populous EU Member State, where there were 83 million inhabitants. Furthermore, there are considerable differences between Member States as regards their territorial make-up: for example, Ireland, Sweden and Finland are very rural, whereas the Benelux Member States and Malta are characterised by much higher levels of urbanisation. Equally, within individual Member States there can be great diversity: for example, the densely-populated, urbanised areas of Nordrhein-Westfalen in the west of Germany may be contrasted with the sparsely-populated, largely rural areas of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the north-east of Germany.

Therefore, analysing data at a regional or subnational level is often more meaningful and such an analysis may also highlight disparities within countries, such as an east-west divide in Germany or a north-south divide in Italy. Furthermore, such analyses may reveal differences in patterns of economic development. For example, Germany and Poland have polycentric patterns of (economic) development with several relatively large cities spread across their territory, whereas France and Romania are examples of a more monocentric pattern of development, with their activity more concentrated in and around their respective capitals.

Over the past few years, Eurostat has expanded the range of statistics that it provides beyond regional information to cover other territorial typologies, addressing the growing needs of policymakers within the context of cohesion and territorial developments. These changes are based on harmonising and integrating various typologies under two broad headings: those linked to regional statistics and those linked to statistics for local administrative units (LAU or municipalities). With this in mind, a process of legislative consolidation was accomplished by Regulation ((EU) 2017/2391) as regards the territorial typologies (Tercet). Some of the most commonly used regional typologies include urban-rural regions, metropolitan regions, border regions, coastal, island and outermost regions and mountain regions. Typologies based on statistics at a local level include data by degree of urbanisation or data for cities and functional urban areas (FUAs).

Statistics on regions — the NUTS classification

At the heart of regional statistics is the NUTS classification — a classification of territorial units for statistics. This regional classification for EU Member States is based on a hierarchy of regions and subdivides each Member State into regions that are classified according to three different levels, covering NUTS levels 1, 2 and 3 from larger to smaller areas. Some EU Member States have a relatively small population and may therefore not be subdivided at some (or even all) of the different levels of the NUTS classification. For example, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg and Malta are each composed of a single NUTS level 2 region according to the 2016 version of the NUTS classification. For non-member countries covered in this publication — candidate countries and EFTA countries — the concept of ‘statistical regions’ is used instead of NUTS. This applies principles analogous to those used in the establishment of the NUTS classification, but is based on gentlemen’s agreements between the countries concerned and Eurostat (rather than having any legislative basis). Note that Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro and North Macedonia are each composed of a single level 2 statistical region. Table 1 provides an overview of the number of NUTS and statistical regions for each of the EU Member States and non-member countries that are covered in the Eurostat regional yearbook.

Table 1: Number of NUTS 2016 regions and statistical regions by country
Source: Eurostat

Most of the regional statistics shown in the Eurostat regional yearbook are for NUTS level 2 regions. However, subject to data availability, some maps and figures are shown for either NUTS level 1 regions (more aggregated geographical information) or NUTS level 3 regions (the most detailed level of regional information). These more detailed statistics are only available for a limited selection of indicators that include demography, economic accounts, business demography and transport statistics.

There may also be specific cases (normally related to the limits of data availability) where particular regions are presented using a different NUTS level compared with the remainder of the regions in the same map or figure; these cases are documented in footnotes and are included to improve data coverage. Where little or no regional data exist for a particular EU Member State, use has been made of national data; these exceptions are again documented in footnotes.

The NUTS regulation and classification

The NUTS classification is defined in Regulation (EC) No 1059/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council, which has to be amended by a European Commission regulation each time the classification is updated (when a new version of the NUTS is needed). The NUTS regulation specifies that there should be a minimum period of three years stability during which time the classification should not be changed; exceptions are made for the inclusion of additional regions when the accession of a new EU Member State occurs. Since 2003, the NUTS classification has been amended several times, partly due to regular amendments, partly due to the accession of new Member States or changes to the territorial boundaries of existing Member States (for example, the inclusion of data for the French region of Mayotte).

The fourth regular amendment of the NUTS classification (Commission Regulation (EU) No 2016/2066) was adopted in December 2016 and applies to any data transmitted to Eurostat from 1 January 2018 onwards; it is referred to as NUTS 2016. This version of NUTS is the basis for classifying regional statistics as used in the 2020 edition of the Eurostat regional yearbook. It should be noted that for time series, the data presented in this publication may have been collected using a previous version of NUTS, although these statistics have been recoded to NUTS 2016. As a consequence, data are sometimes not available for a small number of regions where a simple recoding or aggregation of data from previous versions of NUTS was not possible (due to changes in boundaries).

As noted above, the NUTS classification was also amended by Regulation (EU) 2017/2391 as regards the territorial typologies (Tercet), establishing a common statistical classification of territorial units, to enable the collection, compilation and dissemination of European statistics at different territorial levels across the EU.

The main principles of the NUTS classification

Principle 1: the NUTS regulation defines minimum and maximum population thresholds for the size of individual NUTS regions (see Table 2) to ensure a basic degree of comparability. Deviations from these thresholds are only possible when particular geographical, socioeconomic, historical, cultural or environmental circumstances exist.

Principle 2: NUTS favours administrative divisions. If available, administrative structures are used for the different NUTS levels. In those EU Member States where there is no administrative layer corresponding to a particular level of NUTS, regions are created by aggregating smaller administrative regions.

Table 2: Population size constraints for NUTS 2016 regions
(number of inhabitants)
Source: Eurostat

In a similar vein to the NUTS classification, regions have also been defined and agreed with the EFTA and candidate countries on a bilateral basis; these are called statistical regions and follow exactly the same rules as the NUTS regions in the EU, although they have no legal basis. Although the United Kingdom left the EU at the start of February 2020 it continues, at the time of writing, to publish regional statistics according to the NUTS classification.

Statistics by degree of urbanisation

The degree of urbanisation is a classification originally introduced in 1991. Initially it distinguished between densely, intermediate and thinly populated areas, using information on numbers of inhabitants, population density and the contiguity of local administrative units (LAUs) or municipalities.

In 2014, a new degree of urbanisation classification was introduced. This is based on three types of area, which are defined using a criterion of geographical contiguity based on a population grid of 1 km² in combination with a minimum population threshold (see Table 3 for a summary of the spatial concepts employed). The revised classification identifies cities (densely populated areas), towns and suburbs (intermediate density areas) and rural areas (thinly populated areas); Map 1 shows the distribution for each of these across the EU, the United Kingdom and the EFTA countries. In this edition of the Eurostat regional yearbook, statistics by degree of urbanisation are used in the articles on health, living conditions, the digital society, and tourism.

Map 1: Degree of urbanisation for local administrative units
(LAU)
Source: Eurostat, JRC and the European Commission's Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy

The revision of the degree of urbanisation classification also provided the opportunity to streamline and harmonise a number of similar but not identical spatial concepts, for example, the use of urban centres to identify European cities with at least 50 000 inhabitants, or the aggregation of data for cities and for towns and suburbs which are covered by the common heading of urban areas.

Table 3: Spatial concepts used in the degree of urbanisation
Source: Eurostat, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, OECD
Map 2: Population density based on the Geostat population grid, 2011
(number of inhabitants per km²)
Source: JRC, Eurostat, Geostat population grid 2011

In its 51st session of March 2020 in New York, the United Nations Statistical Commission endorsed a very similar version of the degree of urbanisation for recommendation to its members. This version includes a second level of the degree of urbanisation, dividing both towns and semi-dense areas and rural areas into three additional subclasses.

As such, the United Nations version is interoperable with the EU version of the degree of urbanisation, while providing a more detailed breakdown if/when countries decide they are in a position to extend the classification to a second level (see Table 4).

Table 4: United Nations’ classification for the degree of urbanisation
Source: United Nations Statistical Commission

Statistics on cities

European cities face a variety of challenges, from poverty, crime and social exclusion, to urban sprawl, pollution and counteracting climate change. By contrast, cities also have considerable potential: for example, attracting investment, people and services, or encouraging research, creativity and innovation. Cities can therefore be seen as both the source of and solution to some of the most pressing economic, social and environmental challenges in the EU, which makes them central to the European Commission’s six key priorities for 2019-2024.

Cities have become more prominent in policy debates both within Europe and globally. The Urban Agenda for the EU was approved in 2016 with three pillars: better regulation, better funding, and better knowledge and data. Cohesion policy has a strong urban dimension with dedicated funding for urban development, urban innovative actions and policy exchanges between cities. The European Commission proposal for the next multiannual financial framework for the period 2021-2027 (COM(2018) 321 final) has requirements for ‘thematic concentration and urban earmarking’. One of five priority policy objectives is ‘a Europe closer to citizens by fostering the sustainable and integrated development of urban, rural and coastal areas and local initiatives’.

In 2011 and 2012, work carried out by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO), Eurostat and the OECD resulted in a new harmonised definition of cities and their surrounding areas being introduced.

  • A city consists of one or more LAUs where the majority of the population lives in an urban centre of at least 50 000 inhabitants.
  • A greater city is an approximation of the urban centre when this stretches beyond the administrative city boundaries.
  • A functional urban area consists of the city and its surrounding commuting zone.

The EU has a specific city data collection exercise undertaken by the national statistical authorities, DG REGIO and Eurostat. It provides statistics on a range of socioeconomic aspects relating to urban life in close to 800 cities that are spread across the EU; in addition, data has also been collected for cities in the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. Note there may be a considerable difference between the latest reference periods for which data are available when comparing statistics for different cities.

Eurostat’s city statistics provide a wide range of information to assess the quality of urban life and living standards, supplementing regional statistics. The data collection exercise includes a wide range of variables/indicators, with statistics for: demography, housing, health, crime, the labour market, income disparities, educational qualifications, the environment, the climate, travel patterns and cultural infrastructure. Alongside this annual data collection exercise, DG REGIO requests, every three years, a perception survey concerning the quality of life in European cities. In this edition of the Eurostat regional yearbook, statistics on European cities are presented at the end of the article on population.

Figure 1: City and related typologies — an example for Milano, 1 January 2018
Source: Eurostat

European policy background

European policymaking is inherently multidimensional: on the one hand, it has to encompass a broad framework providing objectives for the EU as a whole, while on the other it needs to acknowledge the often specific needs of national and subnational territories. Recent challenges such as the global financial and economic crisis, the impact of globalisation, security concerns from terror attacks, or the spread of coronavirus provide just a few examples of the two-sided need to deliver both global and local solutions in a coherent manner.

One of the EU’s main challenges is to ensure that policy developments are scrutinised to ensure that they take account of the considerable geographical diversity within the EU. The territorial dimension of EU policy is increasingly recognised, as growth and job creation depend on making the best use of all assets, while ensuring that common resources are used in a coordinated and sustainable way. This section provides an overview of some of the main EU policy developments that have a territorial impact.

Cohesion policy

What is cohesion policy?

EU cohesion policy is designed to promote harmonious development within the EU by strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion. In doing so it promotes job creation, business competitiveness, economic growth and sustainable development, thereby improving the overall quality of life experienced by those living in the EU.

The bulk of cohesion policy funding is concentrated on less developed regions of the EU, with the goal of helping to reduce economic, social and territorial disparities. Cohesion policy is established on the basis of seven-year funding periods; at the time of writing one such period (2014-2020) is coming to an end. Some EUR 352 billion of cohesion policy funding was allocated during the period 2014-2020 — equivalent to almost one third of the total EU budget.

Cohesion policy is delivered through a number of specific funds: the European regional development fund (ERDF) and the cohesion fund (CF). Together with the European social fund (ESF), the European agricultural fund for rural development (EAFRD) and the European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF), they make up the European structural and investment funds (ESIF).

The ERDF concentrates its actions on innovation and research, digital technologies, support for small and medium-sized enterprises and a low-carbon economy. The cohesion fund supports EU Member States whose gross national income (GNI) per inhabitant is less than 90 % of the EU average. During the period 2014-2020, it allocated a total of EUR 63.4 billion to a range of investment projects primarily in relation to trans-European networks (TENs) and the environment. The ESF aims to improve employment and education opportunities in the EU, as well as the situation of the most vulnerable people. More than EUR 80 billion was earmarked for human capital investment across the EU Member States during the period 2014-2020.

Cohesion policy: how is the budget decided?

The total budget for cohesion policy and the rules associated with its allocation are jointly decided by the Council and the European Parliament. The legislative package for cohesion policy for 2014-2020 was adopted on 17 December 2013. This included a common provisions regulation (CPR) which laid down general provisions and the simplification of European structural and investment funds. The CPR was amended in October 2015 to take account of the unique situation of Greece resulting from the global financial and economic crisis and its subsequent sovereign debt crisis.

The bulk of the budget for the EU’s cohesion policy is provided to regions whose development lags behind the EU average. Indeed, more than half of the total budget for cohesion policy was given over to less developed regions that were predominantly located in the south or the east of the EU, the Baltic Member States and several outermost regions.

The NUTS classification — an objective basis for the allocation of cohesion policy funding

Statistics from regional accounts are used in the allocation of ESIF, with the NUTS classification providing the basis for regional boundaries and geographic eligibility.

During the period 2014-2020, eligibility for the ERDF and the ESF was calculated on the basis of regional GDP per inhabitant (in purchasing power standards (PPS)) averaged for the period 2007-2009. NUTS level 2 regions were ranked and split into three groups:

  • less developed regions, where GDP per inhabitant was less than 75 % of the EU average;
  • transition regions, where GDP per inhabitant was 75 %-90 % of the EU average; and
  • more developed regions, where GDP per inhabitant was more than 90 % of the EU average.

Eligibility for the cohesion fund was initially calculated on the basis of GNI per inhabitant (in PPS) averaged over the period 2008-2010. It was subsequently revised, based on information for GNI per inhabitant averaged over the period 2012-2014. At the time of writing, the 13 Member States that joined the EU in 2004 or more recently, as well as Greece and Portugal, are all eligible for cohesion fund support.

Cohesion policy: implementation

European structural and investment funds are attributed through a process which involves EU, national, regional and local authorities, as well as social partners and organisations from civil society. Each EU Member State produces a draft partnership agreement and draft operational programme, which provides information for their regional strategy and a list of proposals for programmes. Having negotiated the contents of these with the European Commission, national/regional managing authorities in each of the Member States then select, monitor and evaluate projects.

The rules for cohesion policy funding during the period 2014-2020 were simplified and harmonised so that the same rules are applied to all of the different funds. Procedures were adapted so they were based upon a results-orientated approach with more transparent controls, less bureaucracy, the introduction of specific preconditions before funds can be released, and the introduction of measurable targets for better accountability.

Cohesion policy: integrated into broader policy goals

Regional policy and funding help deliver many of the EU’s overall policy objectives. During the period 2014-2020, cohesion policy programming was, for the first time, embedded within overall economic policy coordination, in particular the European semester. The latter provides a regular cycle of economic policy coordination designed to coordinate the individual efforts of EU Member States. These links between cohesion policy and broader economic reforms have been strengthened such that the European Commission may suspend regional funding to any Member State which does not comply with the EU’s economic rules.

Cohesion policy: future plans?

At the time of writing, European institutions are in the process of discussing the delivery and implementation of cohesion policy post-2020. A range of proposals for regulations covering the period 2021-2027 are already in place and these are designed to focus resources on six principal objectives: a European green deal; an economy that works for people; a Europe fit for the digital age; promoting a European way of life; a stronger Europe in the world; and a new push for European democracy.

Other policy areas that impact on subnational areas

While the EU’s regional policy can play an important role in delivering broader policy goals in a range of socioeconomic fields such as education, the labour market, energy, research and development or the environment, other EU policy areas can, in a similar way, have an impact on regions across the EU.

Urban development policy in the EU

The various dimensions of urban life — economic, social, cultural and environmental — are closely inter-related. Successful urban developments are often based on coordinated/integrated approaches that seek to balance these dimensions through a range of policy measures such as urban renewal, increasing education opportunities, preventing crime, encouraging social inclusion or environmental protection.

During the 2014-2020 funding period, European policymakers recognised the important role that could be played by the urban dimension of regional policy, in particular measures designed to assist the fight against poverty and social exclusion. By doing so, the EU gave special emphasis to urban development, directing at least half of the resources foreseen under the ERDF to be invested in urban areas.

At the end of May 2016, a meeting of ministers responsible for urban matters was held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. It reached an agreement on an Urban Agenda for the EU, as established by the Pact of Amsterdam. This agreement foresees the development of 12 priority areas for partnerships between European institutions, EU Member States, European cities and other stakeholders. The themes include: the inclusion of migrants and refugees; air quality; urban poverty; housing; the circular economy; jobs and skills in the local economy; climate adaptation; energy transition; sustainable land use; urban mobility; digital transition; public procurement.

In March 2019, the European Commission adopted an explanatory memo on post-2020 developments in relation to the CPR, the ERDF and CF. The initiative is designed to strengthen integrated and participatory approaches to sustainable urban development. It aims to do so by facilitating and supporting cooperation and capacity building among urban actors, innovative actions, knowledge, policy development and communication.

Rural development policy in the EU

The EU’s rural development policy is designed to help rural areas meet a wide range of economic, social and environmental challenges. The EAFRD is intended to help develop farming and rural areas by providing a competitive and innovative stimulus at the same time as seeking to protect biodiversity and the natural environment. There are six priority areas, namely, to promote: knowledge transfer and innovation in agriculture and forestry; the viability and competitiveness of all types of agriculture and support sustainable forest management; the organisation of the food production chain, animal welfare and risk management in farming; the restoration, preservation and enhancement of agricultural and forest ecosystems; the efficient use of natural resources and support the transition to a low-carbon economy; social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas.

For the period 2014-2020, the EAFRD was allocated EUR 99.6 billion. If national contributions are included, the funding available for this second pillar of the common agricultural policy (CAP) amounted to EUR 161 billion. As with other structural and investment funds, from 2014 onwards, rural development policy has been based on the development of multiannual partnership and operational programmes which are designed at a national/regional level by individual EU Member States (see above for more details).

In June 2018, the European Commission presented a set of legislative proposals for the future of the CAP beyond 2020. These proposals aim to make the CAP more responsive to future challenges, such as climate change and generational renewal, while continuing to support European farmers for a sustainable and competitive agricultural sector.

European Committee of the Regions

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) — as the EU’s assembly for regional and local representatives — provides a voice for regions and cities across the EU. It was created in 1994 and is composed of 329 members who are regional presidents, mayors or elected representatives from the 27 Member States of the EU; successive European treaties have broadened its role.

On June 26 2019, the CoR adopted a set of proposals for the next legislative mandate of the EU: strengthening the democratic foundation of the EU; improving its governance; improving the competitiveness of the EU; recalling the importance of cohesion policy as the EU’s main investment and solidarity policy; calling for a long-term strategy for increased sustainability at all levels of government; developing a comprehensive EU migration policy with the same standards, driven towards integration and with clear communication of costs and benefits; putting EU values into practice in its external policies.
Cohesion alliance RYB20.png

The #CohesionAlliance is a coalition of people who believe that the role of EU cohesion policy should be strengthened after 2020. The alliance was created through cooperation between leading European associations of cities and regions and the European Committee of the Regions.

By April 2020, more than 300 local and regional authorities, federations of local and regional authorities and civil society organisations and over 10 600 individual signatories had joined the #CohesionAlliance. The local and regional authorities and their national federations from across the EU that have officially signed up to the alliance represent around 97 % of the EU’s population.

European week of regions and cities-RYB20.png

The European Week of Regions and Cities is an annual four-day event which allows regions and cities to showcase their capacity to encourage growth and job creation, implement EU cohesion policy, and provide evidence of the importance of the local and regional level for good governance. Organised by the Committee of the Regions and DG REGIO, it has become a networking platform for regional and local development, which is viewed as a key event for policy practitioners. The 18th European Week of Regions and Cities will be held in October 2020 and will concentrate on three principal themes:

  • Green Europe;
  • cohesion and cooperation;
  • empowering citizens.

European pillar of social rights

The European pillar of social rights was jointly signed by the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission in November 2017. It aims to take account of changing realities in the world of work, to promote the renewal of economic convergence across the EU, and to deliver new and more effective rights for citizens. The pillar is built around three main headings:

  • Equal opportunities and access to the labour market — education, training and lifelong learning; gender equality; equal opportunities; active support for employment.
  • Fair working conditions — secure and adaptable employment; wages; information about employment conditions and protection in case of dismissals; social dialogue and involvement of workers; work-life balance; healthy, safe and well-adapted work environment and data protection.
  • Social protection and inclusion — childcare and support to children; adequate protection for workers; unemployment benefits; minimum income; old age income and pensions; healthcare; inclusion of people with disabilities; long-term care; housing and assistance for the homeless; access to essential services.

These three headings are subsequently broken down into a set of 20 key principles. To monitor the progress being made in strengthening the social dimension of Europe, the European Commission has established a social scoreboard. The information collected is also used for economic policy coordination as part of the European semester. In her Political guidelines for the period 2019-2024, the new European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, highlighted the need to reconcile ‘the social and the market in today’s modern economy’ and undertook to fully implement the European pillar of social rights.

Despite the pillar of social rights not making any specific reference to regional policy, policymakers have shown a growing interest in analysing information at a more detailed, subnational level. Many of the indicators in the social scoreboard may be provided by Eurostat for a range of territorial typologies — principally, by NUTS region or by degree of urbanisation.

Sustainable development goals

Sustainable development has long been part of the political agenda within the EU. However, this subject area was given fresh impetus with the adoption of the 2030 sustainable development agenda in September 2015 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. At the core of the agenda, there is a set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), which provides a global policy framework for stimulating action until the year 2030 in areas of critical importance related to people, the planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.

On 22 November 2016, the European Commission adopted the Communication, Next steps for a sustainable European future (COM(2016) 739 final). It details the significance of the SDGs, identified EU policies that contribute to the implementation of SDGs, and announced plans for regular monitoring within an EU context. The EU has made a firm commitment towards delivering on the SDGs and on the Paris Agreement on climate change. With a broad range of challenges ahead, the EU highlighted further actions required to help secure a sustainable future in a reflection paper released by the European Commission in January 2019, Towards a sustainable Europe by 2030. The paper highlighted that some of the most important global challenges to be faced in the coming years include issues around social equality, solidarity and environmental protection. In her Political guidelines for the period 2019-2024, the European Commission president underlined this commitment noting that ‘economic policy should go hand in hand with social rights, Europe’s climate neutrality objective and a competitive industry’. With this in mind, she suggested there was a need to ‘refocus the European semester into an instrument that integrates the United Nations’ sustainable development goals’.

A short reading guide

Coverage

Each article in the Eurostat regional yearbook presents statistical information in the form of maps, figures and infographics, accompanied by a descriptive analysis highlighting the main findings. Regional indicators are presented for the following 13 subjects: population, health, education, the labour market, living conditions, the economy, business, research and innovation, the digital society, tourism, transport, the environment and agriculture.

The Eurostat regional yearbook contains regional statistics for the Member States of the EU. This is the first edition of the publication since the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. Brexit took place at the start of February 2020: however, data continue to be shown for the United Kingdom as a non-member country, alongside information for EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and candidate countries (Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Turkey).

The geographical descriptions used to group EU Member States, for example, ‘northern’, ‘eastern’, ‘southern’ and ‘western’ are not intended as political categorisations. Rather, these references are made in relation to the geographical location of one or more EU Member States, as listed within the geography domain of Eurovoc, the European Commission’s multilingual thesaurus. The northern Member States are often distinguished between the Baltic Member States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and the Nordic Member States (Denmark, Finland and Sweden).

The designations employed and the presentation of material in maps and figures do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the EU concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Timeliness

There is a wide range of surveys and data collection exercises whose data feed into the Eurostat regional yearbook. As a result, there may be differences concerning the latest available reference year between the articles as each aims to show the latest information. In general, 2019 data are available for demography (as used in the article on population), the labour force survey (as used in the articles on education and the labour market) and the information society survey (as used in the article on the digital society). Otherwise, the most common reference period is 2018, which is generally the latest year for which information is available in most of the other articles, for example, living conditions, the economy or tourism. Note that Eurostat’s website may have fresher data due to the continuous nature of data collection and processing (resulting in updates and new reference periods being added throughout the year). Online data codes below each of the maps and figures help users to locate the freshest data.

Eurostat’s data are published with accompanying metadata that provide background information on each source, as well as specific information (flags) for individual data cells. The flags provide information relating to the status of the data, for example, detailing whether the data are estimated, provisional or forecasted. These flags have been converted into footnotes which appear under each of the maps and figures. Breaks in series are also indicated, as appropriate, in the footnotes provided.

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This article forms part of Eurostat’s annual flagship publication, the Eurostat regional yearbook.