Convergence of EU regions redux

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Before the economic crisis which started in 2008, the EU was nicknamed a "convergence machine" as disparities among EU regions were significantly decreasing. The crisis had a deep impact on economic and social cohesion in the EU and the surge in disparities is now frequently cited as one of the main causes for the current lack of popular support for the project of constructing the European Union..

The issue of regional disparities is therefore as relevant as ever and this paper intends to provide an updated analysis of their recent trends. It relies on a battery of instruments and methods to take the pulse of the convergence process among EU regions, both at EU and Member State level, taking a long-term perspective when possible and comparing the EU with other places in the world.

The paper comes to three key conclusions:

  • First, the crisis stopped convergence within the EU-28 where the level of disparities is more or less stable since 2008.
  • Second, disparities are increasing within many Member States.
  • Third, the impact of the crisis has been long-lasting as convergence has not restarted despite a sustained economic recovery.

This is worrying as the EU as whole has recovered from the crisis, but the convergence process has not.

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Working Paper