The European Union enlargement to Southeast Europe, cohesion policy and regional competitiveness
Keywords:European Union, Regional competitiveness, Interregional disparities
AbstractThe recent re-defining of the European Union's borders that took place following the last enlargement and the expected accession of two Balkan countries, has led to the accentuation of regional disparities within the EU, making the need for convergence and cohesion even more pressing.The Southeast European space, that is, the Balkans is at the center of recent developments. Two European policies are of great weight in this process: the (renewed) Lisbon strategy and the cohesion policy. Their aims are, respectively, to provide guidance forall European policies towards the Union becoming "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world", and to pursue economic, social and territorial cohesion all over the EU. The article examines the situation in the Balkan countries in the light of a comparison with Greece and with the whole of the EU, and presents the various forms of EU financial assistance provided in the context of the pre-accession assistance promoting the cohesion policy objectives in the Balkan countries. The region of Central Macedonia is taken as a representative example for the discussion of the most recent trends in regional policy orientation which aim at strengthening regional competitiveness. Thus the region's dilemmas about the promotion of strategies based on the concept of the "knowledge economy" and which await the Balkan regions are brought to light.