Marc Debus, Martin Gross
Positions on and issue emphasis of European integration and EU Cohesion policy: Analysing (sub-)national party manifestos

One key element of the European Union’s (EU) attempt to foster citizens’ identification with the EU has been (and still is) its Cohesion policy (CP). This policy targets regions and cities across the EU with the overall goal of reducing economic and social disparities across regions and countries and improving citizens’ quality of life. Since CP accounts for almost one-third of the total EU budget in 2014-20 it might attract the attention of political parties—both at the national and regional level—to promote and communicate this policy among citizens, in particular by referring to potentially financial benefits of EU structural funds in their election manifestos. In this contribution, we first map national parties’ policy positions on European integration and CP in the COHESIFY project countries: Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom (UK). Secondly, we estimate, for the first time, sub-national parties’ positions on these two policy dimensions in nine European regions—Andalusia, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Castile and León, Flevoland, Limburg, Lombardy, Scotland, Thuringia, and Wales—using the fully-automated computerised ‘Wordscores’ approach. Thirdly, we manually extract all EU-related information in national and sub-national parties’ election manifestos via an original coding scheme, thus distinguishing between general mentions of the EU and more specific statements on several EU funds. Finally, we draw comparative conclusions about political positions and issue emphasis on the EU and Cohesion policy in the manifestos across cases, territorial levels and EU funding allocated to countries and regions. The empirical results show that in all countries and regions under study parties differ more in their views on European integration than on CP. Yet, national parties’ emphasis of European issues in their manifestos is clearly correlated with the EU funding per capita a country receives.