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Schriftenreihe des Europa Institutes Budapest, Band 27:81–94.


The Balkan Space within the European Regional Policy


The need to eliminate regional differences together with reinforcing the Community’s internal cohesion have been present among the basic principles of the European Community since its formation and are still present today to an even greater extent. Regional policy and its related system of tools and institutions is a prioritised dimension of Community policy. A whole series of analyses examined the shaping of this policy, parallel with taking the effects and consequences of the spatial expansion of the Community into consideration, and the arguments and the results of evaluations have been published in policy documents.


The European Spatial Structure

Analyses of the European spatial structure as a whole appeared at the beginning of the 1990s. Their aim was to demonstrate the characteristics of spatial development within the Community; to highlight, to bring to light regional differences and at the same time to define those directions of development upon which emphasis must be placed in the course of planning periods.

The French Spatial Development Centre, DATAR, was the first to examine the Geographical Features of the European Community, and described those regions where the economic activities were essentially concentrated.1 It has become increasingly clear that Europe’s traditional centre may be found within the Paris-London-Amsterdam triangle to which the Ruhr area may be added and it may be called the ’blue banana’. Naturally, there are differences in development in this zone, too, which may be regarded as uniform. After World War II, besides the big urban economic agglomerations of the northern zone the Munich-Stuttgart-Milan triangle evolved which – like a new centre of gravity – comprised the modern branches of industry, primarily car manufacturing and the electronics industries. The ’north of the south’, or the ’European sunbelt-area’ belongs to this zone as a new focal point of development which contains precisely the previously underdeveloped regions of the South European countries next to the Mediterranean Sea, expanding westward from the richer region of North Italy. It is penetrating ever deeper into the southern regions of France, reaching Barcelona and oriented towards Valencia. The ’sunbelt-area’ is based on the service sector, but the high tech branches of industry and the areas of small- and medium-sized enterprises based on quality work can also be found here, namely the belt of developing towns and cities of the ’third Italy’.

Within the European regional structure further centres and development areas are linked to the ’blue banana’. Thus, Paris and its Ile-de-France region, and Lyon expanding in a western direction, while the eastern expansion of Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna created economic agglomerations, a several hundred kilometres wide halo, which basically consists of new growth zones induced by means of development centres.

We may consider the ’blue banana’ and its induced development zone, and the ’European sunbelt’, with Venice, Marseilles and Bordeaux in the south and Copenhagen and Glasgow in the north as parts of a ring regarded as the European high tech area. It is in these large urban economic agglomerations having cheap and trained labour force, R&D background and putting-out systems where the green-field investments of big Japanese, American and West European companies were established.

Neither Central nor Southeast Europe appears in the first significant model of European spatial structure. As such, European regional organisation and planning was only considered within the European Community, although some connecting points may be discovered. They may be interpreted in terms of individual cities, such as Prague and Vienna, thus the planners hint at a Europe that had and still exists outside the Community, too. These concepts have no bearing on the Balkan region and no mention is made of it.

Spatial thinking has also expanded with the broadening of the European Union (with the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1994), with the acceleration of changes in Eastern Europe and with preparation for the planning period (1994–1999); its context has gone beyond the borders of the then Member States and has given more spectacular signals of a future system of co-operation. Trans-national co-operations already appeared in the Union within the 1994–1999 planning period, the foundations of which were marked by a ’Community initiative’, the Interreg programme in the previous planning period of 1990–1993. It became clear that the borders posed an obstacle to the Community’s economic co-operation, and that along the individual country borders significant differences were to be observed in the state of economic development, in infrastructure, in institutional relations, but in a number of cases they could be connected and supplemented by one another, and that could give impetus to the development of connected yet separate regions. The cross-border co-operations, like the Interreg II A programme, were connected to the PHARE programme decided upon by the 1993 Copenhagen summit aimed at fostering the integration of the Central-East European countries, as it was decided to be financed by the member countries. Within the framework of the Interreg II the sub-programme “C” was launched in 1996, which was directed towards elaborating partly planning and partly development solutions for co-operation at trans-national level to help solve the common problems of co-operation of those countries and regions as a whole. The Interreg II C programme signified a breakthrough since it was not only thinking in terms of the Union, but involved candidate countries, too, in the shaping of major European spaces, more over, it even reckoned with countries and regions, and particularly their participation that were not considered for the next phase of enlargement. Within the framework of this programme the border involving the European Union and the neighbouring countries and regions that may be regarded as the space of the development programmes in the next planning period was defined (Figure 1).

With regard to the Balkan region, the announcement of the Interreg II C programme meant the first real breakthrough since the new countries that had come into existence now received an opportunity to join the common European spatial organisation and could start to get acquainted with its set of institutions.


The CADSES Space and Programme

In 1997, upon the initiative of Austria and Germany, the planning of a kind of greater spatial co-operation system commenced. The programme embraced the Central European, Adriatic, Danube and South-Eastern European states, hence the name referred to hereinafter as CADSES (Central Adriatic Danubian South-Eastern European Space). To start with there were four Union Member States (Austria, Germany, Italy and Greece) in the greater region comprising 18 countries and their almost 200 million people and 15 ethnic groups. Yet, nowadays, during the second phase of the programme (2000–2006) it has already expanded with the accession of further five Member States (the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia) and now all the Balkan countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia and Romania) as well as Ukraine also belong to the programme.

It is shown by Table 1 that almost every country has joined the programme with its entire area, whereas Germany and Italy are only present with their southern and eastern territories, i.e. bordering on the Adriatic Sea, or areas forming some kind of lasting connection with the region, in addition to Ukraine where only the districts along the border are represented in the co-operation.

The ’first initiative’ pertaining to the space, as it was already indicated, was launched in 1997 and concluded in 1999. Essentially it was aimed at performing a thorough greater spatial exploration searching for the potential dimensions of co-operations, in addition to determining the political principles for the future developmental connections.

It was during this exploratory phase when the document entitled Vision Planet as the Strategies of Spatial Planning for the CADSES area2 appeared. The analysis evaluates in detail the conditions of the space and systematises the most important problem areas, i.e. increasing regional inequality, transformation in the urban-rural relations, peripheral regions, diversification within the economic structure, accessibility to information and knowledge. Special mention was made of the characteristics of urban development, such as its network nature, the transformation of inner city areas, and urban housing situation. It deals with the characteristics of rural areas, the transport and communication situation, with environmental factors, and with the natural and cultural heritage. Finally, it outlines the institutional framework for spatial development, the potential tools and measures to promote spatial integration.

The analysis prepared with the involvement and experts of the 12 countries was suitable to constitute the basis of the elaboration of the Interreg III B programme relating the Community initiative for the Central Adriatic Danubian South-Eastern European Space (CADSES) 2000–2006, which was approved at the end of 2001.

The development programme accepted by the European Commission sets out from the following fundamental principles of integration within the CADSES region:

– To reduce the different conceptions of spatial policy to a common denominator

– To create the basic principles necessary for shaping the regulations and principles of spatial planning accepted by everyone

– The creation of the most dynamic conditions possible in the interest of ensuring sustainable growth

– The protection of natural heritage and prevention of hazardous effects including flood control and protection against natural disasters

– Surveying the cultural and historical heritage, together with moulding a common system of regulation and its implementation as a strategic element in the field of economic development.

Accordingly the programme defined the following priorities of development and co-operation:

1. The promotion of different spatial development concepts and actions in the spirit of strengthening socio-economic cohesion:

– Supporting strategies and activities that may be realised jointly

– Shaping the development of urban regions, and the development of urban networks and co-operations

– Shaping the development of rural regions

– Analysis of the spatial effects of immigration.

2. Supporting an efficient and sustainable transport network, along with access to the achievements of the information society:

– Development of an efficient transport network in the spirit of sustainable growth

– Improvement of access to knowledge and the achievements of the information society.

3. Supporting landscape conservation, in addition to the protection and proper management of the natural and cultural heritage:

– Protection and development of the cultural heritage

– Protection and development of the natural heritage

– Protection and development of the natural landscape.

4. Environmental protection, resources management and risk management:

– Environmental protection and supporting a proper management of resources

– Supporting risk management and disaster prevention

– Supporting integrated water management and flood control.

A specific feature of the CADSES II programme is that every country is delegated – irrespective of whether they are of a Member State – to participate with full member rights. Efforts should be made to the greatest possible integration of programmes financed by the European Union and implemented in the region such as TACIS, PHARE, ISPA, SAPARD, TINA and CARDS, but exclusively in accordance with the given conditions.

Special mention should be made of the CARDS (Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation) programme, which is giving assistance to reconstruction, development and stabilisation, based on the Stability Pact pertaining to the countries of South-Eastern Europe.

The Stability Pact is an initiative of the European Community, the aim of which is strengthening the stability and economic development of regions, in addition to outlining the attainable EU membership in the further future. Three working groups were made responsible for the realisation of the Pact signed on 10 June 1999 in Cologne. The tasks of working group two (transformation of the economic structure, economic development and co-operation) are linked closest to the aims of the CADSES Interreg III B programme. The most important themes for this working group comprised regional infrastructure, private-sector development, inter-regional trade, vocational education and training, human resource development and environmental protection.

The World Bank drew up a regional development strategy for the geographical areas affected by the Stability Pact in relation to the above issues. The conference on the subject of regional assistance held in Brussels in March 2000 achieved significant results with regard to the realisation of the infrastructural development projects, in so far as it accepted a development package comprising 208 separate projects with a total value of 384 million Euros. In addition mention should be made of the support to be granted by the EU in the future in various forms and programmes to the Southeast European countries participating in CADSES, primary amongst which are the CARDS subsidies.

On 5 December 2000 the Council of the European Union passed its decree 2066/2000/EC, relating to the provision of support for Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Yugoslavia and Macedonia, by which CARDS was brought into being, as a new professional and financial instrument for the countries of the Stability Pact and of the associated countries.

CARDS support may be utilised for the following purposes:

– Supporting reconstruction, returning home of refugees and the dislocated, in addition to regional stabilisation

– Development of the institutional and legal framework strengthening the democratic setup, the rule of law as well as human and minority rights

– The creation and strengthening of the civil society, ensuring the independence of the media

– Strengthening the legal framework and measures for the struggle against organised crime

– Social measures, with particular regard to reducing poverty; ensuring the equality of opportunity for men and women; education, training and teaching, in addition to the rehabilitation of the environment

– Developing closer relations among the beneficiary countries, between the beneficiary countries and the European Union, as well as between the beneficiary countries and the EU candidate countries in harmony with the trans-national and regional co-operation programmes with the participation of non-candidate countries along borders

– Strengthening regional, trans-national, cross-border and inter-regional co-operations among beneficiary countries, between the beneficiary countries and the European Union, as well as between beneficiary countries and other countries in the region.

CARDS support, which belongs to the competency of the External Relations Directorate-General of the European Commission, became available once every single country prepared a strategic framework plan for the period between 2000 and 2006, in addition to a several years’ indicative programme and annual action programmes. The European Commission and different organisations of the beneficiary country jointly created projects on the basis of the programme documents.

When decisions are made regarding the programmes and financial support for the Southeast European countries and regions participating in CADSES, the Stability Pact of the Southeast European countries has to be kept in view by all means, as well as CARDS support and other financial instruments and programmes that are to be created and launched for the development of the Southeast European space in the future.

Figure 2 presents the results of the CADSES II programme accomplished this far, where it is indicated at settlement level what kind of activity has been experienced up to 1 August 2005 within the initiative of the programmes3.

The capital cities and regional centres played the most significant role in the initiation and reception of the programmes. Among them the Balkan region did not demonstrate outstanding values; there, too, the capital cities (Sofia, Bucharest, Zagreb, Belgrade, Tirana and Skopje) distinguished themselves with considerable activity.

Figure 3 shows the participation and activity of the Balkan countries, with participation systematised according to the individual priorities. They welcomed the first priority, namely regional development co-operation, including actions relating to the development of urban networks and rural development, with great activity, especially in Romania and Bulgaria pending accession, as well as in Croatia having gained associate membership. It is interesting that in a number of countries initiatives to protect the landscape and preserve the natural and cultural heritage have taken precedence over projects directed towards developing the transport network and the development of the information society. Similarly, it was rather in countries waiting for accession where projects for environmental protection were prominent. Participation in the CADSES II programme slowly getting in motion was conspicuous in those Balkan countries where the set of institutions for spatial development had already been developed due to the accession, where its central governing apparatus was already in place, and the decentralised organisations had emerged at some level in regional or territorial dimension. Thus presumably they possessed regional-level development concepts and could adjust the initiatives of the CADSES programme, and, naturally, regional management was operational, capable of functioning as a framework receiving support.

It is appropriate to review the direction that the project level co-operations have taken, i.e. how the Balkan region participates in the projects initiated by individual countries (Tables 2 and 3). Up to the end of the examined period (1 August 2005) Italy demonstrated the greatest activity in the 73 registered projects (80.8%), followed by Austria (64.3%), Germany (57.5%), Greece (54.7%); among the newly acceded ones Hungary’s activity stood at 42.4%, followed by Romania (34.2%) and Slovenia (34.2%), next the Czech Republic (32.8%), the associate member Croatia (30.1%) and Bulgaria awaiting accession (26.1%). Project activity among the remaining Balkan countries was extremely low with only Albania (12.3%) and Serbia and Montenegro (10.9%) worth mentioning, the others only being present in a few projects.4


Table 2
European Union Member States Co-operation
with Countries of Southeast Europe


No. of projects

Proportion of total projects (%)






















Czech Republic






Source: Görmar op.cit. 2005.


Table 3
Co-operation Activity of Countries
in the CADSES Region


No. of projects (piece)

Proportion of total projects (%)



















Serbia and Montenegro


















Source: Görmar: op. cit. 2005.


The CADSES programme Managing Authority and Paying Authority is located in Rome (Ministry of Infrastructures); the Joint Secretariat with the task of implementing the operational programmes is in Dresden. The work of the Joint Technical Secretariat is assisted in the interest of the successful realisation of the programme by CADSES Contact Points (CCPs) located in the partner countries. The Hungarian CCP operates within the framework of the Interreg Directorate of the VÁTI Kht. organisation. The programme’s Steering and Monitoring Committees consist of members delegated by the partner countries. The duties of the programme President are performed within a rotation system by each individual partner country on a six-month basis.

Up to 2004 the Structural Funds lost close to € 12 million on the basis of the n+2 regulation, as a consequence of the slow and inefficient implementation of the CADSES programme operated with the participation of four ’old’ EU Member States. The European Commission and the majority of the Member States first and foremost attributed the losses to the bad operation of the management organisations at programme level (the Italian Managing Authority, as well as Joint Secretariat in Germany). The real root cause of the problem, however, may be traced back primarily to the programming phase. As a result of the ’political’ and institutional compromise a complex and not clearly defined management system was formed and the programme was launched with considerable delay.

In contrast to the plans, the Italian Central Monitoring System of the Structural Fund did not succeed either in meeting the special standpoints of the CADSES programme; therefore the programme has no really operating monitoring and information system. The physical and institutional division of the Managing Authority and the Joint Technical Secretariat causes serious coordination problems. Likewise, the Member States’ national authentication system does not work smoothly either, in many cases partly due to the contradictory national regulations and practices and partly due to the inadequate programme-level coordination.

Preparations have begun for the 2007–2013 programming period. Experience to date demonstrates that the current CADSES space is too big, with relatively one-way relations, as indicated above, between member countries. Thus the idea was born according to which the CADSES space would break up into two in the following structure:

1. Central European programme space: the eastern provinces of Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, the northern provinces of Italy, and one county of the Ukraine.

2. South-Eastern European programme space: Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, the northern and eastern provinces of Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia-Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Moldova, Albania, and Macedonia.

Possibilities for Hungary’s Participation

Hungary’s role could in the future significantly increase in the European regional policy related to the Balkan region. It is clear that the country has strong cultural and historical links with the Balkan countries that may offer a favourable basis to undertaking a greater role. At the same time regional development co-operations are already in operation along the borders, partly within the framework of the extended PHARE programme, and partly in bilateral relations. The Ukraine Neighbourhood Programme; the Hungary-Romania, Hungary-Serbia and Montenegro Cross-border Co-operation Programme, and the Slovenia-Hungary-Croatia Neighbourhood Programme are all in operation although without significant resources. The programmes offer a potential framework for spatial development co-operations; they are directed towards the development of transport connections, environmental protection, as well as regional planning, which means the harmonisation of development concepts and the consideration of future opportunities.

The cross-border co-operation programmes fit well into the network of Euro-regions, which already covers the full length of the Hungarian border. The Euro-regions are such multi-regional co-operation systems that attempt to coordinate the development of cross-border regions along a broad scale within institutional frameworks, decisively in the dimension of the state territorial organisations. These Euro-regions operate with variable intensity, since the countries are different, and there is a diversity of the significance, competency and methods of financing of the individual medium-level territorial units, but the activity, contacting and maintaining capabilities of the political actors are also different. It may be verified just on the basis of 15 years of Austrian-Hungarian cross-border co-operations that an extremely large quantity of experience, developmental idea and their implementation can be passed on in these co-operations. A veritable repository of regional development experiences may be shared, and as a consequence of the system of institutions and instruments operating for close to ten years Hungary can offer these to its neighbouring countries and through them to the whole Balkan space.

The National Spatial Development Conception (2005) has included into its future directions of development co-operation on the level of the Carpathian Basin, an element of which is the development of cross-border connections and the other dimension is real participation in multiregional and trans-national co-operations.

Hungary is present in both of the split CADSES spaces, thus the Central European system of relations may be strengthened, but, according to the plans, we would be present in the South-Eastern Europe programme, too. It was even suggested, that one of the centres of the practical organisation of the programme of the latter greater region shall be located in our country.

Therefore the conditions are given that in the next planning period Hungary may acquire one of the leading positions – Austria is tendering for the other – of the CADSES space expected to be split. It would mean that the role of Hungarian experts would be enhanced in the organisation, implementation and control of the programmes to be evolved, and the country may be the location for collecting and processing all information that would systematise future development and co-operation activities pertaining in the region. Furthermore, opportunities for the Hungarian development institutions, including regional and local self-governments, civil organisations, as well as economic enterprises, and not in the last research and analytical institutions will also increase for getting acquainted with the Balkan region and also to asserting Hungarian presence, as well as influence in certain respects.




Prospective et Territoires. DATAR, Paris, 1991.


Strategy of Integrated Spatial Development of the Central European, Danube and Adriatic Regions (A közép-európai, a Duna menti és az adriai térség integrált területfejlesztési stratégiája) Policy Option Paper. Tér és Társadalom. 1999. 1–2. 195–251.


F. Dosch, W. Görmar, V. Hachmann, A. Müller, N. Schafer: Transnationale Zusammenarbeit zur Raumentwicklung - Fünf Programme auf dem Weg. Ein vergleichender Überblick. Informationen zur Raumentwicklung, 2005. 11–12. 657–674 (Transnational Co-operation in Spatial Development – Five Programmes on the Way. A Comparative Overview. Information on Spatial Development); Wer kooperiert mit wem in transnationalen Projekten? Informationen zur Raumentwicklung, 2005. 11–12. 675–681 (Who is co-operating with whom in trans-national projects? Information on Spatial Development).


Görmar: op.cit.