Benefiting from European funds does not necessarily mean to support the European project and European identity. Although some regions benefit from such funds and their citizens are aware of them, this does not translate into a support for the European project. Therefore, the European politics with a higher impact on the daily life of citizens would have not counterpointed on the growth of populist movements contrary to the European construction. This is one of the main conclusions in
, a research that ends now, after three years of work, and which has analysed the perception of citizens regarding the European Union and its Cohesion Policy.
The UB, through the Regional Quantitative Analysis Group (AQR), is one of the eight European entities to take part in PERCEIVE. Its objective is to improve communication on the European projects and policies.
The research study was carried out through qualitative and quantitative methods such as surveys, interviews and studies on specific cases. Among the results we find 45% of citizens knows about the European Cohesion Policy. Regarding countries that entered the European Union later, such as Poland and Slovakia, their population knows more about the European policies and funds. For instance, if 53% of EU citizens know about the regional policy of the European Union, this percentage scales up to 70% in Slovakia. In the Polish area of Warminsko-Mazurskie, a 84% of the population knows about EU funding several local projects in their area, while its corresponding figures in Essex (United Kingdom) is about 18%. The highest figure is in Poland (63%) and Estonia and Spain (60%), while the lowest ones are in the United Kingdom (21%), Romania (19%) and the Netherlands (18%). Regarding structural funds, in countries such as Poland and Latvia, these are known by a 75% and 68% of the population respectively, while in the Netherlands the figure is 64% and 26% in the United Kingdom.
Regarding the profile of the citizens, those with a higher perception of the EU benefits are those who have a higher education and who live in big cities. However, the study also shows that the fact that an area benefits from European funds, does not mean its citizens feel strictly European. For instance, the Italian region of Calabria received many European funds and the people know. However, only about 10% of the population would have an idea of such funds and 34% considers being part of the European Union as negative. In short, a place which has received many funds is aware of such transfer from the EU, but it does not mean it goes along with an Europeanist identity feeling. Researchers conclude the benefit from structural funds is not perceived. According to PERCEIVE experts, this can occur due two reasons: structural funds not generating benefits due an improper use, and communication lacking an improvement regarding the benefits of the Cohesion Policy.
Providing simplicity, continuity and flexibility to these policies is stated among the PERCEIVE recommendations. The project also presents a series of advice on how to communicate such policy to the population: from the importance of setting communicative objectives properly and considering the different local realities and the role of storytelling, up to the use of social networks.
PERCEIVE included a survey, created by the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), which asks about the European identity and other concepts related to the project, and which asks about salaries, jobs and political opinion of the interviewees. The survey was conducted on 17,147 people from fifteen EU member countries and it puts emphasis on nine European regions –Extremadura being one of them- which were selected as important study cases. UB researchers used this data to analyse the variation in the European citizens’ perception according to the space factor.
Formed by the lecturers Enrique López-Bazo, Vicente Royuela, Rosina Moreno and Jordi Suriñach, the UB team also worked on the methodological part of the project (creating an indicator of the European identity feeling). Also, they assessed the Cohesion Policy in Extremadura during the 2007-2013 period (the study can be read in this article), and interviewed some managers of regional policies in that area. In short, the UB participation focused on the territorial analysis and the economy-related elements.
PERCEIVE is coordinated by the University of Bologna, and apart from the UB, other participants are the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), the Romanian Academy – Institute of Agricultural Economics (Romania), the Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics – National Research Institute (Poland), the University of Portsmouth (United Kingdom), the Viena University of Economics and Business(Austria) and BAM! Strategie Culturali (Italy).