The potential role of Regional Development Agencies in achieving the priorities of Europe 2020 in the context of the Financial Crisis

Budd, Leslie (2012). The potential role of Regional Development Agencies in achieving the priorities of Europe 2020 in the context of the Financial Crisis. In: Bellini, Nicola; Danson, Mike and Halkier, Henrik eds. Regional Development Agencies: The Next Generation? Regions and Cities. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 70–86.



As the European economies have staggered from crash to crisis and the governance of its single currency has seemed to unravel, another ambitious programme is announced, namely Europe 2020. The President of the European Commission (EC), José Manuel Barrosa stated:

The crisis is a wake-up call, the moment where we recognise that "business as usual" would consign us to a gradual decline, to the second rank of the new global order. This is Europe's moment of truth. It is the time to be bold and ambitious.

(European Commission, 2010a; 2)

What is so different from previous programmes like the Lisbon Agenda? In attempting to re-structure, re-balance and re-generate (the three "Rs") the EU economies, the policy that dare not speak it name is again crucial but not explicitly expressed as the distributed means of addressing the aftermath of the crisis: that is, industrial policy. The seven flagship initiatives in Europe 2020 includes industrial policy for a globalisation era, but the form of policy outcome appear to be limited to promoting entrepreneurship policy. But, a closer look reveals that five of the seven are, de facto, industrial policy under different rubrics.

In the context of the fiscal crisis and the politics of austerity that followed the financial crisis, what is the institutional and territorial basis of achieving the goals of Europe 2020? Given these constraints is there any role for Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in the European Union (EU) to develop and implement industrial policy at a regional and local scale as part of a new landscape of economic governance?

This paper begins with an analysis of the financial and ensuing fiscal crisis in respect of their impact on the EU. It then refers to previous perspectives of EU industrial policy and moves on to critically interrogate Europe 2020 in regard to its potential to contribute to the three "Rs" for the EU economy, through explicitly activist industrial policy at a regional level. The paper moves on to analyse the potential role of RDAs in the institutional basis of implementing Europe 2020 at decentralised levels. It concludes by arguing that industrial policy should be central to the economic governance of the EU, at all territorial levels, in order to contribute to a system of economic governance that is more robust in managing external shocks.

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