Baltic Sea Region Territorial Monitoring System

Territorial Cohesion - Principal divides

Throughout the period the eastern BSR has in relative terms gradually been loosing both population and jobs in comparison to the Western BSR. In contrast, rapid economic growth in most parts of the eastern BSR has at the same time implied a rapidly changing balance in economic volume in favour of the East. Consequently, in 2011, the summated GDP in the eastern BSR was larger than the corresponding sum for the western BSR.

The BSR North has been steadily loosing ground to the South throughout the period as the development in population, jobs and economic output has favoured the more densely populated areas of the region. This gradual development trend has been particularly strong concerning economic volume, albeit some years (i.e. 2006, 2008 and 2010) have also witnessed a slight temporal reduction in the disparities.

In absolute terms, sparsely populated regions in the BSR experienced a continuous employment growth up till 2007, albeit at a more modest rate compared to all other regions in the BSR. The subsequent fall was also steeper for the BSR North than for the other regions taken as a group. Hence, together with border regions, sparse regions are in general the most disadvantaged types of territories and are generally lagging behind in most aspects of socioeconomic development, particularly when examined in a national context. Migration patterns in the BSR display a clear north-south divide. Net migration rates for the sparsely populated regions have on average been negative for most of the period, and the weak demographic structures in the sparsely populated areas stand in stark contrast to those elsewhere in the region. Physical accessibility in particular manifests the relative weak standing of the BSR North. Multimodal accessibility in sparse regions is close to half that of the BSR in general. What is more, recent changes (2001-2006) indicate also on this point that the situation for the sparsely populated areas is getting worse despite investments in transport infrastructure.

Rural regions in the BSR are gradually falling back in terms of jobs, population and economic value-added. The urban-rural gap is as such most evident when it comes to economic output, where the disparity is close to the double that of e.g. population. Furthermore, this gap also grows the fastest, indicated by the steepness of the green curve.

External border regions in the BSR are gradually being marginalised in comparison to non-border regions of the area. This marginalisation concerns both people and jobs. However, in terms of economic output, the trend is the opposite, where border regions have fared better than the other ones. This is largely due to the rapid economic development of many eastern BSR (border) regions that include dynamic economic hubs such as Vilnius and nearly all of BSR Russia.

In the BSR, coastal regions are in relative terms increasingly attracting more population than inland regions, indicated by the upward sloping blue curve in the graph below. One part of the explanation for this is the strong out- and emigration from many eastern BSR inland regions, but also e.g. the increasing pressure on coastal metropolitan regions in western BSR. In terms of economic output and employment, the trends have been somewhat different. After a period of relative coastal dominance up till 2008, inland regions in the BSR have in this respect fared far better. However, from 2010 and onwards, for example new job creation has again markedly favoured the coastal areas.

The figure below can be used as an example illustrating the summarised development trends in the BSR. It depicts the development of total population in the BSR subdivided according to various spatial typologies relevant to the region. Inland, sparse and border regions, as well as different forms of rural and non-metropolitan regions have all fared negatively throughout the period 2005-2013. This stands in stark contrast to urban regions – particularly capital ones – and second-tier metropolitan areas, non-border and non-sparse regions, as well as the coastal areas of the BSR, where development has been very positive. All in all then, the urban hierarchy appears in all its forms to be the most decisive factor across the BSR in the determination of the magnitude of the territorial disparities of the region.

Most indications point towards a strengthening also of the urban-rural divide in terms of migration. The chart depicts the net migration rate for four types of BSR territories divided along the urban hierarchy. Both smaller metro regions but also “other regions” (i.e. non urban, i.e. rural) display far lower levels of migration than the more urbanised areas of the BSR. The financial crisis appears also to have affected rural migration harder than any other types of regions. Only ten urban regions swallow 47% of all migration surplus in the BSR.

(C) ESPON BSR-TeMo, RRG, 2013