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European Week of Regions and Cities

#EURegionsWeekUniversity – The changing landscape of regional inequalities in the EU: economic, social and political dimensions

Regional inequality has been a longstanding issue in the process of EU integration. However, by the turn of the new century, inequalities had increased substantially. Recent events such as the economic crisis of 2008 and the pandemic of 2020 have substantially influenced regional inequalities. The aim of this session is to present the changing landscape of regional inequalities in the EU and to discuss the economic, social and political challenges for the EU, national governments and citizens. This session aims to offer a platform for presenting original work on different aspects of regional inequalities in the EU and an opportunity to discuss challenges for regional policy. Regional income inequalities, health inequalities, the geography of discontent and trends in poverty and wellbeing across regions are among the topics that will be presented and analysed in this session. The dialogue will consider multidimensional and interdisciplinary approaches illustrated with experiences from different countries across Europe as well as wider international comparisons.

After a short introduction by the moderator, Yannis Psycharis (Panteion University), he will give the floor to four speakers for 15 minutes, each followed by a 30-minute open discussion.

  • "Contemporary trends in income inequalities in the European Union: analysis and policy challenges" – Professor Yannis Psycharis
  • "Left-behind people or left-behind places? Inequality and the rise of populism in the US and Europe" – Professor Andrés Rodriguez-Pose
  • "The geography of COVID-19 and the structure of local economies" – Professor Alessandra Faggian
  • "Area-level deprivation and monthly COVID-19 cases: the impact of government policy" – Professor Karyn Morrissey
  • "The impact of social and spatial inequalities on happiness and wellbeing" – Professor Dimitris Ballas

Wed 13, October 2021
14:30 - 16:00 CET
Yannis Psycharis, Professor, Panteion University, Regional Development Institute.
Dimitris Ballas, Professor, University of Groningen.
Alessandra Faggian, Professor, Gran Sasso Science Institute, L'Aquila.
Karyn Morrissey, Professor, Technical University of Denmark.
Andrés Rodriguez-Pose, Professor, London School of Economics.
Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP), European Regional Science Association (ERSA), Regional Studies Association European Foundation (RSA Europe)
English (EN)
Replay – English

Session summary

Introducing the session with a historic overview of regional inequalities in Europe, Yannis Psycharis said that the number of EU regions with a GDP per capita in purchasing power standards that is above the EU average has been shrinking. Andrès Rodríguez-Pose continued with an analysis of how far inter-personal and spatial inequalities are associated with anti-system and populist voting across Europe, highlighting the relative importance of territorial inequalities. Alessandra Faggian gave a presentation of the geography of COVID-19 in Italy and how it relates to the spatiality of industry mix at local level, highlighting the role of manufacturing activities. Karyn Morrissey then presented an analysis of the spread of COVID-19 in relation to area level deprivation in England. The final presentation by Dimitris Ballas highlighted the detrimental impact of social and spatial inequalities upon happiness and well-being.

Take away message

The recent expressions of discontent across our continent can be largely attributed to rising regional inequalities. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the socio-spatial unevenness that is deeply entrenched within and between European cities and regions. Tackling social and spatial inequalities is the only effective way to enhance well-being and create the social and territorial cohesion required to promote the deeper integration of European regions.


“Tackling inequality will promote the dynamics for deeper European integration” Yannis Psycharis

“What seems to be driving the rise of discontent is to a much greater extent territorial inequalities. It is not happening in poor places, it is mainly happening in places that have been losing out over a relatively long period of time” Andrès Rodriguez-Pose

“There is a positive relationship between the local economic structure and the incidence of covid-19, driven by the presence of spatially concentrated manufacturing activities, rather than services” Alessandra Faggian

“To prevent a cycle of lockdowns being necessary in poorer areas, recovery strategies and control measures need to be tailored to differing populations and resources should be allocated proportionate to need.” Karyn Morrissey

“High levels of inequality and poverty at regional level can be considered as adverse ‘social weather’ with detrimental impacts on happiness” Dimitris Ballas

“The rise of discontent is putting under significant pressure the capacity of our societies to deal with societal-wide changes and grand-challenges like, for example, climate change.” Andrès Rodriguez-Pose

“Eurosceptisism can be tackled by bringing EU policies closer to EU citizens and socio-economic needs” Yannis Psycharis