The indicator population potential within 50 km is defined as the number of population located within 50 km airline distance from any place. It characterizes the spatial structure of European territories in terms of the market potential and population density. Indicator results are standardized at the European average, indicating regions below and region above the average.
The provision of public and private services is one of the key factors for regional spatial development. The number, size and quality of such services, and the willingness of public and private actors for their maintenance, often depends on the available population that potentially can use these facilities. The potential represents not only the population number at the place of service, but also covers the service area around - which is measured by this indicator. The higher the population potential, the bigger is the market and thus the higher the potential is for economic activities.
The European map clearly highlights the main dichotomy between the European core area (’blue banana’) and the peripheral areas. In areas outside the European core only selected urban regions show above-average population potentials, while the other regions perform significantly below European average. A change in these patterns is rather unlikely to occur in the short run, even though some of the peripheral regions, such as regions in Spain, Greece or Ireland, experienced considerable population gains through migration processes. Since the main economic centers in Europe also experienced positive net migrations, it is rather unlikely that areas outside the blue banana can significantly catch up. Zooming into the BSR revealed that apart from the capital city regions, only the southernmost regions in Poland and Germany and the area of Sankt Petersburg show above average potentials, illustrating the general North-South divide in the BSR. The farther North a region is located, the poorer the indicator performance is. Beyond these very general patterns, there is also evidence that poor indicator performance is not only a matter of disadvantaged geographical location. Regions in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in Poland and also in Denmark, for instance, also yield values below the European average at the level of disadvantage compared to regions in Sweden or Finland, surrounded by regions with high population potential. These areas can be considered as ‘inner peripheries’ of low population potentials and thus with low attractiveness for economic and social activities.