Panel 1: Addressing Regional inequalities in Central Europe
Chair: Mr. Kiryl Zach, Centre of Development Studies
Prof. Petr Drulák, West Bohemian University & PSIA, Czech Republic
Dr. István Kollai, Corvinus University in Budapest, Hungary
Prof. Agnieszka Olechnicka, University of Warsaw, Poland
Dr. Anton Marcincin, Regional Development Now Initiative, Slovakia
The issue of regional inequalities in Central Europe has at least two crucial dimensions: inequalities within countries of the region and an issue of the region’s development within the European economy. On the first scale, we see a number of important discussions. There is an outstanding issue of the unsatisfying pace of mending the inequalities between more developed regions – most wealth concentrated in the West, close to Germany and Austria, even though the promise of more interregional equity is popular across ideological divides. There is also an issue of the rural-urban development and economic opportunity divide, which has only grown since 1989, or the question of how some of the most dynamic economic sectors, such as technology and software start-ups, among others, can bring growth beyond the largest cities.
Those questions are compounded by the increased pessimism about the region’s catch-up possibilities for the Western European GDP per capita levels. Or concerns about the emerging Europe of ‘two speeds’, in which the Eurozone (that includes only Slovakia out of countries of the region) pursues faster consolidation and institution-building than the broader EU group. In terms of the speed of catch-up, despite significant achievements, there are many critics that point out that generations of EU Regional and Cohesion Policies did not deliver equal living standards. Instead, in the Eastern EU countries there is increased concern that they are merely the economic (and political) periphery of the Union. What are the causes of this? And how can this be realistically addressed? These and other questions will be discussed during the first panel.