At a time in which European governments and senior officials are striving to find an agreement on the grand objectives for the new Lisbon strategy, scant attention has been dedicated so far to main economic policy of the European Union: the Regional Policy. The present work critically investigates the rationales and the intervention tools which shape the EU’s flagship policy, with a view to shedding light on the transformations which have lately affected the politics of local development in Europe. \ud The analysis will focus on the thematic and pragmatic relationship which links together Regional Policy and new regionalist theorisations. It will highlight how, by embracing an endogenous and punctuated definition of development, the Regional Policy has fashioned an institutional framework in which regions are enrolled as self-contained action units, and are expected to compete against each other to secure their economic prosperity.\ud Drawing on relational perspectives, I will contend that this approach is doubly problematic. From a substantive point of view, it leads to a prioritisation of local links, which fails to recognise the multifaceted spatialities characterising modern economic relations. In procedural terms, the institutional mechanisms involved in the Regional Policy encourage a “regional centralism” which, in the name of EU funds, compresses dissent and “technicalises” political choices.\ud These arguments will be empirically scrutinized through a study of the innovation policy implemented in Tuscany under the Structural Funds. Methodologically, the inquiry has a bi-focal nature: on the one hand, I will rely on official evaluation reports to assess the effectiveness of new regionalist policy schemes; on the other hand, I will reconstruct regional governance dynamics, by tracing how a certain policy concept (innovation networks) has been adopted by the EU, translated at the local level, and finally consolidated in a set of institutional relations, expectations and power asymmetries.\ud The heuristic hypothesis is that only by combining the two research levels it will be possible to grasp the direction and the significance of the political project pursued by the European Commission through the Regional Policy
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