Baltic Sea Region Territorial Monitoring System

Territorial Cohesion - Diminishing territorial divides

In the last years of the past century territorial cohesion – be that between or inside countries – in the sense of actual trans-border disparities in economic and social development attained increasing interest in the BSR. The (correctly) perceived main division in the BSR in the late 1990s was the east-west one, stretching from the White Sea to the Pomeranian bay. In addition to this only a few scattered material welfare pockets were discernible, primarily around capital regions such as Tallinn or Warsaw, as well as to a lesser extent around other ten or so major urban nodes.

When examining cross-border discrepancies in GDP/capita in 2010, the largest difference to the situation 15-20 years ago is a virtual explosion of disparities among adjacent regions inside countries in particularly the eastern BSR. Well aware that GDP as such is only able to measure material welfare to a limited extent, we nonetheless assume an analytic position where GDP/capita when adjusted for differences in purchasing power is able to reflect at least crude disparities in material welfare. Hence a vast assortment of new “wealth islands” has emerged, typically surrounding major metropolitan areas. What is more, also internal discrepancies are nowadays much sharper than was the case before, the most striking case in the eastern BSR being increased regional disparities in BSR Russia. Increasing polarisation in the Nordic countries is evident and also manifested in growing intraregional disparities. In contrast to the past, all capital regions in the Nordic countries do nowadays show substantially larger barriers vis-à-vis their surrounding areas than was the case previously. A similar pattern also exists in BSR Germany. Two decades ago, the main territorial disparities in the BSR were primarily a case between the very wealthy and the very poor, whereas the situation today appears to be much more multifaceted. Disparities are now frequent both across as well as within all layers of development, i.e. we also see a large polarisation between wealthy and ultra-wealthy, poor and ultra-poor, not forgetting the middle strata as well.

Looking again at disparities between different types of regions, differences between “predominantly urban regions” and “intermediate regions” on the one hand, and “capital city regions” and “other regions” on the other, are rather high.

(C) ESPON BSR-TeMo, RRG, 2013