My recent experience in the field in Bulgaria raises the following sorts of questions -
• What was actually achieved in the period since 2007 by the 50 billion a year spent on what most of us know as EC Structural Funds (although technically it comes from 6-7 differently-named programmes)?
• Where is the country by country analysis?
• Can one programme do justice to the needs of 27 countries – even granted its management is in the hands of each country?
• Particularly a programme of which amost half is in new member states (still in transit from centralised political cultures) and which yet makes no mention of the specifics of these countries?
• Has it not been a mistake to run the programme as a regional development one when the needs are more institutional and developmental?
• In what precise ways is the new proposed policy from 2014 different from that which has ruled for the 2007-2013 period?
• And what weaknesses of the previous policy explains the changes?
• What exactly is the "place-based approach” which is trumpeted in the new policy ??
• Where are debates which deal clearly and honestly with these questions?
I am encouraged by one semi-official report (of 250 pages) which appeared in 2009 – the Barca Report - which seems very well written, draws on a wide range of discussions and openly admits (a) the conceptual and political confusion; (b) the difficulties in measuring impact; and (c), in the very first page, the lack of public debate -
What is lacking is a political debate about whether that particular way of spending public funds adds value compared to sectoral or national approaches. And when and where it is effective. The same failure is visible in the academic debate, where very often a line separates the “cohesion policy experts” and the rest of academia.I've a long way to go in reading this report - so please be patient. And, in the meantime, I stick with my main accusation - that there don't seem to be any journalists writing about this issue!
Today Romanian media have been celebrating the birthday of their most famous dramatist - Caragiale - who was born 160 years ago. The Romanians are very fond of him and his mocking of the political process.Mitica was a character who cropped up in his plays and whom the Transylvanians particularly associated with the slippery southerners. Wikipedia have a very detailed entry on his life and works.
The painting is a Levitan