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3 Territorial cohesion: towards a more balanced development

3.4. Border regions

Border regions1 cover almost 40% of the EU land area and account for 25% of the population. They are even more important in the candidate countries, accounting for 66% of the land area and 58% of population. Enlargement will, therefore, lead to a significant growth in their prevalence in the Union.

In economic terms, the regions with borders internal to the EU cannot in general be regarded as having more difficulties than other regions, in part due to the extent of economic integration in the Union and the success of the INTERREG initiatives. In particular, their level of GDP per head (15% above the average of the enlarged EU of 27 countries) is similar to that of non-border regions (17% above the enlarged EU average. See Map A.10 and Table A.12, in annex)

Regions with external borders, however, are in a more difficult situation, with the notable exception of those which border the candidate countries. While those with borders with third countries have a level of GDP of 5% below the (enlarged) EU average, those bordering the candidate countries have a level which is 15% above the new average of 27 countries.Nevertheless, some of these regions might well face temporary difficulties after enlargement.

There are much more significant differences between the regions of the present EU bordering the candidate countries and the neighbouring ones in the candidate countries themselves. In the latter, GDP per head is only 53% of the (enlarged) EU average, ie much less than half the level in neighbouring regions in the present EU. Nevertheless, they are still better off than regions in the candidate countries with eastern borders, GDP per head in which averages only 37% of that of the enlarged EU.

1. NUTS 3 regions in the 27 countries eligible for INTERREG III-A or the PHARE-CBC program.

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