The final conference of the EPRC-led COHESIFY project on EU Cohesion policy and European identification took place at the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 26 April 2018. This was the first open event at which project results were made public.
The conference ‘Voices from the Regions: Rethinking the Communication of Cohesion Policy’ presented the research findings covering three main themes: citizens’ perceptions of EU Cohesion policy, how it is portrayed in media narratives, and what could be done to improve the communication of the policy.
The conference attracted a wide range of attendees, and their participation turned the event into a forum of active debate and discussion on issues that have significant implications for the framing of the next Multiannual Financial Framework and next cycle of Cohesion policy programming.
COHESIFY researchers presented the results of 50 focus groups with more than 250 citizens in 17 regions about citizens’ perceptions of Cohesion policy, its impact and attitudes to the EU, along with the results of an original, large-scale survey of 8,500 citizens in the same 17 regions addressing similar questions. Furthermore, the findings of the first cross-national analysis of Cohesion policy news media frames and social media, based on cutting-edge ‘big data’ techniques from computer science, were disclosed. The analysis embraced a random stratified sample of 280-300 news articles relating to Cohesion policy in each of the 12 Member States, while on social media – over 3,700 posts and 19,500 tweets from Facebook and Twitter respectively as well as comments and reactions (63,000 for Facebook and 52,000 for Twitter). Finally, the key policy implications of case studies on Cohesion policy implementation and communication – based on desk research, interviews and surveys of policy-makers and stakeholders in the 17 regions – were presented.
Presentations were followed by reactions and reflections by panellists, representing European, national and regional institutions, as well as discussions with the wider audience.
A summary of key results and recommendations, along with the presentations from the final conference, regional factsheets, a press release and infographics, can be found here.
The conference will be followed by a series of specialist academic and policymaker seminars and conference contributions over the coming year, and all research findings will be published at the project website www.cohesify.eu.