Martin Gross
Does anyone care? Explaining the variation in sub-national parties’ emphasis of European issues and EU Cohesion policy

1st Regional Research and Networking Conference, Heidelberg, January 27th, 2017

Citizens’ confidence in the problem-solving capacities of the European Union (EU) has been shaken during the severe economic and sovereign debt crisis in Europe. This casts doubt on the future of the European integration process. One key element of EU’s 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 improving citizens’ quality of life. Since cohesion policy accounts for almost one-third of the total EU budget in 2014-20 it should 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. Yet, if and to which amount sub-national parties talk about European integration and CP issues in their election manifestos is still terra incognita. This paper addresses this gap by measuring and explaining how sub-national parties assign salience to European integration issues and several EU structural funds in four EU Member States from 2007 to 2016. The empirical analyses will deal with both party- and regional-level characteristics that potentially determine to which extent sub-national parties emphasise European issues and CP.