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Jörg Balsiger

This chapter provides an overview and analysis of the role of Cohesion policy (CP) in seven of the wealthiest member states of the European Union (EU): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Although CP funding is negligible and decreasing relative to national gross domestic product, the chapter shows that CP has nonetheless influenced regional and national trajectories during the past 25 years. The trajectories also confirm what cross-national and country studies have long suggested, namely that uniform CP procedures have never been achieved and that CP implementation has varied considerably throughout the EU. Despite significant differences between the seven countries, they are all highly industrialised, have used more Objective 2 than Objective 1 funding, are for the most part coordinated market economies, and have been net contributors to the Community budget with a strong interest in efficient and effective CP spending. Three common problems these countries face in CP implementation relate to partnership, absorption and administrative procedures. Overall, because CP funding is very small in relative terms, it generally does not achieve the critical mass of funding necessary to really change administrative procedures. On the positive side, this means that CP programmes and projects are implemented relatively smoothly. On the negative side, it means that innovative approaches, especially in evaluation, are often slow to make inroads.