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EU cohesion policy’s special support instruments: impacts and added value of JESSICA and JASPERS in Central and Eastern European EU Member States.

Project supported as part of the Regional Studies Association’s Early Career Grant Scheme (awarded in March 2012)

Period: 2012-2013

The purpose of this research project is to investigate the operation, spillover effects and the added value of the EU cohesion policy’s special support instruments, JESSICA (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas) and JASPERS (Joint Assistance to Support Projects in European Regions).

JESSICA involves collaboration between the regional authorities and financial institutions to use the Structural Funds on a revolving basis (e.g. in the form of loans or guarantees) for supporting urban development projects. Due to the revolving nature of the financial support offered as part of this initiative, returns from investments can be reinvested in new urban development projects, allowing for the recycling of public funds and favourings the sustainability of interventions.

JASPERS aims at providing technical assistance for the preparation and implementation of major EU funded infrastructural projects in the new Member States of the EU, which is expected to enhance their quality and ensure that EU funds are invested efficiently.

By investigating the implementation, impact, and spill-over effects of the JESSICA and JASPERS initiatives in two of the new Member States (Poland and Czech Republic), the study will fill a major research gap and provide new empirical evidence. In fact, there is practically no scholarly literature on the financial engineering instruments supporting economic development in the EU. The study will draw on and contribute to three strands of the literature: studies on EU cohesion policy, multi-level governance and urban development.

Rationale

Why investigating the operation of JESSICA and JASPERS in the new Member States matters?

First, the success or failure of these special support instruments has crucial implications for EU cohesion policy, which – in the context of economic crisis and continuing criticism for lack of tangible results – needs to be more effective and deliver better results. Implementation of innovative financial engineering instruments, such as JESSICA, can be considered as a test bed for new solutions in improving its effectiveness and efficiency.

Second, the JESSICA initiative matters because of the growing emphasis on the key role played by urban areas for regional development and the need for the EU cohesion policy to specifically address the developmental challenges and opportunities of the cities and metropolitan areas.

Third, by investigating the implementation of JESSICA and JASPERS in the new Member States, the study will illuminate their impacts on the capacity of the sub-national actors, both public and private, to collaborate on delivering integrated urban development policy in the new Member States. This is an issue of prime importance, since the lack of administrative capacity in the new Member States (and some EU15 countries) is considered a major obstacle for delivering a more effective place-based cohesion policy and making multi-level governance work. In fact, studies on the implementation of EU cohesion policy in the new Member States point to numerous deficiencies in the application of the multi-level governance framework (partnership principle), the strategic multi-annual approach to developmental projects stemming from the institutional legacies, reluctance to cooperate, the lack of traditions of public-private collaboration in policy implementation, specificities of the local political culture as well as the limited resources of the sub-national actors.

Research questions

What are the implications of JESSICA and JASPERS for the effectiveness of EU interventions for regional and urban development? To what extent can these initiatives contribute to the generation of more strategic and sustainable projects; as compared with the grant-based funding schemes? In other words, do these initiatives fulfill their promise of doing more with less?

What are the added value and spill-over effects of the implementation of JESSICA and JASPERS? To what extent and how do these special support instruments contribute to improvement of administrative capacity at the sub-national level in the new Member States? To what extent does JESSICA stimulate horizontal regional governance and collaboration between the public and private actors of regional development policy?

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