Joachim Fritz-Vannahme
29. March 2019

EU’s Geography of Discontent – How to respond

Tell me where you live and I will tell you how you think. That is obviously true in the European Union, big and small. A few theses for illustration must do it here, since a blog hast to be short. In any case, you can find further details in the attached links to the studies.

Tell me…: This is shown by the study “The Geography of EU Discontent“, for which the EU Directorate-General for Regional Policy was able to win several researchers all over the EU in 2018.


Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash


Their findings: ” Votes for parties opposed and strongly opposed to European integration are spread across many parts of the EU. Southern Denmark, Northern Italy, Southern Austria, Eastern Germany, Eastern Hungary or Southern Portugal are hot spots for anti-EU voting. Rural areas and small towns are more Eurosceptic than bigger cities. The anti-European vote is far lower in Lille, Metz, Nancy and Strasbourg than in the surrounding countryside. The same applies in East Germany where the antiEuropean vote is far less prominent in Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig than in the surrounding areas, or in Northern Italy, pitching the two largest cities in the area – Milan and Turin – against a large number of medium-sized cities, such as Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Mantua, Pavia and Vercelli, and smaller cities and rural areas.

According to the study, rural areas and small towns are more Eurosceptical than larger cities. The authors repeatedly refer to the role of deindustrialisation as a driver of EU scepticism – the economic situation alone is not enough to explain it, nor is anger at “elites” or “establishment”.

Homeland and frustration thus settle close together.

And the billions of euros in budget funds for the EU’s regional development are apparently spent badly or at least unwise – which has to be taken into account in the forthcoming negotiations on the medium-term EU financial framework 2021-2027.

The scientists of the Institute for Economic Research at the German University in Halle/Saale have now drawn a rather radical conclusion from such funding weaknesses. They want to bring the stagnating economic power of East Germany up to Western standards by only supporting large cities.

“Politicians and the public must accept that it is precisely the cities in East Germany that can advance the economic convergence of East Germany. Their potential must be raised by increasing their attractiveness. This is the only way to attract qualified immigrants, develop high-quality service activities and offer public science institutions an adequate environment.” (Page 24)

We suspect the political consequences of this economic policy in the light of the EU study, see above, where it says: ” The anti-European vote is far lower in Lille, Metz, Nancy and Strasbourg than in the surrounding countryside.”. Cities are also the favourite destination of young people on internal migration as well as of immigrants from non-EU countries (see EPRS study), so they are already experiencing an internal dynamic that is lacking in their hinterland.

On the other hand, a recent study by the Bertelsmann Stiftung shows that the consequences of a hard Brexit, for example, would affect the western regions of Germany the most and the eastern regions the least (exception: Berlin).

The study found similar results for Great Britain itself – a hard Brexit would hit the prosperous south of England and the rich metropolis of London hardest. Whereby the south voted for an EU withdrawal, but London voted against it…

Geography is our destiny,Napoleon is supposed to have said. He experienced and suffered this insight in any case, at the latest on the banks of the Beresina, where he lost half an army on his failed Russian campaign in November 1812.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine daily saw “places of revenge” as emerging in its evaluation of the EU study across half the continent. Without industrial diligence only political frustration – is that the fate of the EU today?

Write a comment