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RELOCAL’s conceptualisation of the research and policy tasks at hand are centred around three perspectives that link the local to the wider European context:

RELOCAL will undertake a critical review of the literature and develop a theoretical framework for the project examining the links and tensions between territorial cohesion, sustainable development and spatial justice in Europe at times of crisis and the role of regionalism and localism in this context. In particular, it will develop a theoretical framework for the project through a critical review of the concepts and models of territorial cohesion, spatial justice, solidarity and sustainable development; an examination of the links and tensions between these concepts and models in Europe; and an examination of the links and tensions between these concepts and the concepts and models of regionalism and localism in Europe.

On a second stage, to measure and describe possible regional inequalities across Europe and over time, and in this way provide a better understanding of the linkages between regional conditions and socio-economic outcomes and the spatial (in)justice, the project will explore socio-economic disparities at the regional level making use of existing data sources to provide an overview of patterns and changes in spatial inequalities at the level of EU regions. It defines a methodology to measure and analyse territorial cohesion and measure and map territorial developments at different regional scales; measure, analyse and map spatial inequalities over time at the level of EU regions, with an emphasis on the recent period since 2008 economic crisis; analyse patterns of social and economic of regional disparities across Europe and within countries across a number of indicators.

The findings will thus allow cross-country comparison of different concepts of local/regional development and territorial governance across Europe to address challenges related to spatial justice, territorial cohesion and solidarity.

The project will analysis of the present and potential role of municipalities and other local-level actors in the development and implementation of cohesion policies. It will illustrate through a cross-national comparison the main challenges involved in promoting a greater place-based and locally oriented to emphasis within European Cohesion Policy, and it will contribute to an extensive review and assessment of the research background in preparation of case studies.

Comparative case studies allow to investigate spatial justice and fairness at local-regional level. Based on concepts, hypothesis and macro- and micro- analyses in previous stages, the selected cases focus on understanding and explaining, through a bottom-up perspective, how social needs and equality demands are articulated and pursued on the local-regional level and how factors on local, regional, national and European level condition goal achievement. At the same time, the locations of the case studies.

The results from the case studies in view of the quality of the territorial governance of cohesion policies will be re-reconsidered. This shall help providing an analysis of territorial governance models and regionalism arrangements. With this information a set of alternative “territorial governance models” for coordinating and implementing policies targeted at spatial justice will be elaborated. These sets of alternative territorial governance models will be presented to groups of practitioners from each welfare regime in different policy debates.

To integrate results achieved in previous stages by linking the theory, empirical quantitative and qualitative research to policy debates, it will be formulated scenarios for spatial justice of specific types of European regions and typologies being subjects of case studies, involving experts such as local and regional stakeholders, people responsible for local and regional strategies and planning and journalists interested in these issues.

It will be generated a range of different but plausible scenarios, developing scenarios “stories” and identifying impact of alternative scenarios on regions as the final key stage of scenario building.

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