In order to promote “cohesion, competitiveness and cooperation” across Europe, the EU has established a common regional policy to support underdeveloped territories. This EU regional policy required to set up a very complex mechanism to implement such a huge effort to coordinate many interventions across highly differentiated territories. However, those territories are provided with very different institutional settings, and then the mechanism to coordinate all of them becomes particularly complex. The aim of this paper is to discuss the EU multi-level governance for structural funds (SFs), revising the origin, rationale and evolution of this policy in order to identify the limits of the institutional mechanism for the implementation of this policy. These limits will show their effects on the unstable distribution of SFs across the EU regions on a long-term perspective. Results show that the intervention of the EU is neither constant nor stable across regions, independently from their development paths. This instability should provide further arguments on the discussion about the SF policy and governance in order to take into considerations also institutional limits of the EU.
Published in European Planning Studies.