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New research project examines regional inequalities in Europe

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Professor Paul Cairney
Professor Paul Cairney, Professor of Politics and Public Policy.

Researchers at the University of Stirling are part of a leading new research project that aims to examine the dynamics behind regional inequalities in Europe and will examine new policy approaches for tackling inequality and promoting a fairer distribution of resources.

The IMAJINE project – Integrative Mechanisms for Addressing Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe – has been funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme with a grant of just under 5 million Euro.

The study is led by Aberystwyth University in Wales, together with 15 partners from across Europe, including Paul Cairney, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, at the University of Stirling.

The project takes a uniquely inter-disciplinary approach to studying regional inequalities, combining the expertise of economists, geographers, planners, political scientists and sociologists working both on European-level analysis and detailed case studies in 11 countries. Elements of the study include analysis of socio-economic statistics on inequalities; an online survey to explore public perceptions of regional inequalities and cohesion policies; investigations into the connections between regional inequalities and migration, and regional inequalities and movements for political autonomy; research on how governments use the distribution of public services and resources to address inequalities; and ‘participatory scenario building’ exercises with stakeholders to explore potential policy options for tackling inequality.

Professor Paul Cairney, said: “My role, in partnership with Professor Michael Keating from the University of Aberdeen, will be to identify how EU Member States and regions can learn from each other and transfer elements of good practice as they seek to use taxation, funding, and public services to reduce territorial inequalities. We will focus in particular on the ‘prevention’ agenda in which governments try to intervene as early as possible in people’s lives to improve their life chances.”

IMAJINE Co-ordinator Professor Michael Woods, said: “Territorial cohesion is a key principle for the European Union, yet since 2008 inequalities between different regions in Europe have increased and there is a growing consensus that we need to re-examine policies for social cohesion and regional development. By taking a broad, multi-disciplinary approach, we hope in IMAJINE to encourage fresh thinking and new ideas.

“We want to explore, for example, whether public perceptions of inequalities match up with the statistical analysis, whether there are connections between regional inequalities and migration flows, and whether more political autonomy for regions could present an alternative way to address perceived injustices. Asking these questions will allow us to work with stakeholders from governments, NGOs and communities to develop policies that imagine a more spatially just future for Europe.”

The IMAJINE project starts in January 2017 and will run for five years.

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