SMART GROWTH PROGRESS IN EUROPEAN UNION: A COHESION APPROACH
Keywords:smart growth, investment, R&D, employment, education, cohesion
Economic development and socioeconomic cohesion have always been an object of scientific research. In particular, this issue had become a focus of attention after EU enlargement in 2004 and Great Recession in 2007–2009. The above changes have given way to a certain slowdown in economic growth in most EU countries along with triggering a range of divergence processes between EU countries and regions. As a response to situation, the EU offered a Europe 2020 strategy, in which smart growth was mentioned as one of critical instruments to deal with increasing menaces. The objective of the study is to evaluate the progress of the main smart growth indicators (investment in research and development (R&D), employment rate and share of population obtaining tertiary education) in the EU over the period 2001–2017 within the framework of the economic cohesion concept. The paper seeks to explore the EU from different perspectives. First, the EU new member states (EU-10) and the old ones (EU-14) were compared. Second, the EU countries were divided by economic development level (calculated by GDP per capita in PPP): highly developed (H-7), medium developed (M-7) and less developed (L-7) countries. Finally, aggregate cohesion indices of all three smart growth indicators were calculated for the entire EU (EU-28). The research findings have revealed some interesting trends. First, each smart growth indicator’s progress depends on countries’ economic development level. Aggregate values for more developed countries (EU-14, H-7 and G-3) are always higher than the EU average (EU-28) and aggregate values for less developed economies are basically lower. Second, cohesion progress of smart growth indicators was influenced by economic recession in 2007–2009. It is argued that cohesion is evident in times of economic growth, but its progress ceases or divergence might occur in case of economic hazards. However, despite the expanding cohesion between the new and the old member states, a gap between certain groups of countries is even growing. This is clearly evident when the EU member states are divided into groups subject to the level of their economic development.