Successes and Failures of the Cohesion Policy: the Case of Campania (Part I) EESC
Cohesion Policy

Editor's note: In this two part article our author Alessio Romito critically assesses the success and failures of the cohesion policy developed and implemented by the European Union. In his analysis, Alessio considers key academic arguments about policy effectiveness and policy failure, and uses the example of the Italian region Campania to illustrate the impact of EU's cohesion policy and to discuss some of the factors that influence policy performance. In Part I of this article the author discusses theoretical models of policy evaluation, while Part II will assess the effectiveness of the cohesion policy in Campania.

The purpose of EU's cohesion policy  is to promote economic and social cohesion across Europe by reducing disparities between regions and countries. There is a wide consensus in the literature that the gap between “less developed regions” and “more developed regions” is still considerable. However, there is no clear evidence on what are the related causes, whether and to which extent they can be linked to policy failure.

Such limit is mainly caused by the academic influence of a “retrospective cost-benefit analysis” (CBA) aiming to reduce all the potential benefits of cohesion policy to monetary or quantitative equivalents. Unfortunately, the majority of the cohesion policy objectives are defined on a qualitative basis and they are potentially affected by a number of immeasurable variables. As it was argued by Hogwood and Gunn (1984), the main issue with CBA is how to measure the problem of intangibles in economic and financial terms (p.233). On the contrary, few scholars have relied on “before-and-after-studies” that offer the possibility to isolate the relevant outcomes in a particular area or on a target group after programme implementation; they do not exclude qualitative features from the analysis and the influence of extraneous and simultaneous factors (Hogwood & Gunn, 1984, p.229). Furthermore, despite the potential presence of spurious findings, their value increases if multiple time series for a number of areas/target groups can be compared: “if an effect occurs in more than one area it cannot be attributed to special factors” (Hogwood & Gunn, 1984, p.230).

As highlighted in a report by the European Policies Research Centre (EPRC), 15 regions in Objective 1/Convergence and Objective 2 from 1989 to date have showed comparative similarities in industrial decline, high unemployment (p.9) and low growth development (p.12). However, because of its main statistical perspective the report does not highlight what exactly are the factors that link low policy performance to policy design.

This paper intends to build a before and after case study on the Italian region Campania after the implementation of the cohesion policy compared to the ex-ante period, in order to draw conclusions on how and whether cohesion policy has had an effective impact and which qualitative factors hinder policy performance. Campania is the largest region of the Mezzogiorno, one of the poorest regions in Italy and according to the EPRC one of the principal recipients of cohesion policy.

How to assess policy failure

The absence of fixed criteria for success and failure is a challenging problem for anyone who wants to do a comparative study of major policy failures. Success or failure of public policies does not stand as readily recognizable phenomena but  it is a matter of perspective and time (Bovens & Hart, 1996, pp.4-6). However, much of the literature that has been written on the subject has taken policy evaluation as neutral, technical, objective, systematic and empirical (Versluis et al., 2011, p.211). Of course, this presupposes unrealistic situation where targets and goals are always explicitly stated and the possibility to translate all the objectives in measurable goals.

In this context, the best that the evaluator can do is to make its research methodology valid, that is, “it must be sufficiently consistent to allow for conclusions to be logically drawn, conclusions that can demonstrate a clear link to the original project goals” (Versluis et al., 2011, p.221).

Ekins and Medhurst (2006, p.487) elaborated a scheme for evaluating structural funds that comprises three policy indicators: outputs, results and impacts. They claim that a comparison between the actual and planned outputs, results and impacts indicates the effectiveness of the programme. In particular, impact is specified as the overall effect in terms of reduction, increase or improvement directly linked to the programme.

We limit the analysis to the linkage between actual impacts and planned impacts. Therefore, our concept of effectiveness aims to determine whether cohesion policy has produced the impact that was supposed to produce. Being aware of the aforementioned limitations, on this concept we base our assessment of policy failure and policy performance.

Because of its underdevelopment compared to EU averages, Campania has been eligible for the European Regional Development Fund  since 1989. Part II of this article will assess the impact of the cohesion policy in this region from 1989 to date, and identify some of the factors that influence policy performance.  

Photo Credits: EESC


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