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Briefing Notes (series)

Supporting effective regional integration? What the 11th EDF programming tells us

Briefing Note 89

This page is also available in: French

May 2016

Herrero Cangas, A., Gregersen, C. 2016. Supporting effective regional integration? What the 11th EDF programming tells us. (Briefing Note 89). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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Key messages


  • Regional integration is one of the cornerstones of EU’s development and international cooperation policy. The EU is possibly the most prominent donor in this area. However, EU’s past approaches to supporting regional integration have encountered several constraints and management problems resulting in disappointing performance.
  • Learning from the past was one of the key drivers behind EU’s new approach to supporting regional cooperation in the 11th European Development Fund.  Although some of the innovations introduced can be seen as a potential “paradigm shift”, they may not necessarily result in more and better regional integration, particularly if EU programming is not underpinned by more sophisticated political understanding of the different regions, countries and sectors in which the EU intervenes.
  • EU support for regional cooperation and integration is likely to remain an important building block in EU’s future foreign, development and security policies. If the EU wants to effectively support regional integration, it will need to adapt its ambitions to what is feasible, taking into account the structural factors and political dynamics driving and hindering regional integration. This should extend beyond the simple twin explanations of “lack of political will” and capacity constraints. The EU will also need to nurture a qualitative human resources management policy that goes beyond effective programme management for rapid disbursement.

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This Briefing Note presents the key findings of a larger study, published in the form of a Discussion Paper authored by Alisa Herrero and Cecilia Gregersen, which covers the issues in significantly more detail.

In addition to structural support by ECDPM’s institutional partners Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland, this research and publication also benefits from funding from the Department for International Development (DFID), United Kingdom.

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European external affairsEU Development Policy and PracticeRegional IntegrationBriefing Notes (series)European Development Fund (EDF)