ESPON is the European Planning and Spatial Network, and ESPON 2013 its incoming research programme. Its function is to study how EU policy impacts upon regions rather than, say, communities, businesses, social brackets, or countries. In other words, you could say it’s the research wing of Subsidiarity.
That word is a term more honoured in the breach since Maastricht, where the UK Government and the German federal states led the charge to include it as a break on centralised integration. Will the latest research package do anything to reverse the trend?
Probably not, though there is a fair amount of taxpayers’ money being thrown at it – €14.9 million, or around £13.3 million. €850,000 is going towards researching on the "attractiveness o European regions and cities for residents and visitors"; €900,000 on "European perspective on specific types of territories"; €800,000 on the somewhat bipolar "European seas in territorial development"; and €150,000 on "transnational support method for European cooperation", which presumably means research into the highly controversial form of county-level EU administration that crosses borders and bypasses national governments.
Some research gems might emerge from all the bids. But one suspects the end result will be the same: more professors beholden to EU grants, no increase in recourse to the principles of subsidiarity when laws are being passed, and more of a trend to break down the nation state by lumping regions together into new administrative formations, all at extra cost to the taxpayer.