Creating a Sustainable Europe: The Role of the European Union Structural Funds
Abstract: The aim of this research project is to examine the effectiveness
of the structural funds in assisting the transition of the European Union (EU) toward
sustainable development. Specifically, the study examines how cohesion policy has
responded to the sustainable development imperative and to the requirement of
environmental integration. EU cohesion policy seeks to ensure that the bene... read morefits from the
integration process are distributed equitably across different groups and regions, through
its main financial instruments, the structural funds. The questions that the research
project addresses are: 1) how have the structural funds addressed sustainable development
and especially its environmental pillar? and 2) why have the structural funds been applied
in the way that they have, and to what extent has their application supported the
realization of sustainable development? The research explores whether the EU's governance
system can effectively respond to changes in policy priorities. Having established that
the regulatory framework of cohesion policy has incrementally integrated environmental
considerations, this project undertakes a comparative case study of the application of the
structural funds in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Hungary. Specifically, the research
traces the evolution of environmental integration in programmes co-funded by the EU in
these four member states over several programming periods. The examination benefits from a
synthesis of theoretical perspectives on the evolution of the EU. The case studies
demonstrate that while attention to the environment has increased slightly over the years,
integration of the environment into programme objectives and funding priorities of the
countries examined has been gradual, modest, and at times counterproductive to
environmental sustainability. Spending allocation, especially direct environmental
investments, has remained largely unchanged. The study concludes that missing links in the
multi-level governance of the EU can explain the ineffectiveness of the EU in supporting
the transition to sustainable development. This research project provides evidence that
the EU must expand its efforts to incorporate environmental concerns into cohesion policy
if it is to achieve its stated sustainability objectives. By understanding the lessons
learned, the findings could contribute to a more rapid and also more responsible
transition to a sustainable future for Europe.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisor: William Moomaw.
Committee: Ian Johnstone, and Keith Clement.
Keywords: International relations, European studies, and Environmental studies.read less