One of the biggest strengths of the Report Series is that it tries to capture regional and national processes through numerous different data sources and plentiful dimensions. Our remarks aim at highlighting additional aspects that could make the monitoring and promotion of socio-economic cohesion processes even more effective in the upcoming edition of the Series.
Feedback on the 8th Cohesion Report’s Roadmap
It is comforting that every edition of the Cohesion Report discusses in detail and at a high level the structural characteristics of the specific regions in the EU member states through which the various trajectories of socio-economic development can be well identified. The below feedback was submitted to the European Commission in the course of the Roadmap’s public feedback period.
We will focus on two essential comments concerning the roadmap.
First, although the main aim of the reports is to examine social cohesion comprehensively, it can only be done to a limited extent using exclusively the so-called “hard variables” found in the reports’ datasets. Although the data used are specifically suitable for exploring the structural characteristics of individual societies and regions, these data are essentially insensitive to local and individual (also cultural) differences and the respective needs.
This is why we also recommend the use of “softer variables”, which can be identified through international survey research. Such practice would help bringing regional and individual attitudes to be brought into focus.
This is particularly important as current research and policy frameworks place increasing emphasis on capturing the development of societies and regions not only through macroeconomic indicators but also on people's quality of life, health, well-being.
In addition, and in line with recent European policy, we are of the view that sustainability aspects and the specific environmental impact are also of importance. In addition to our experience in international comparative research (ESS, EVS), the series of research work entitled “Századvég Europe Project” supports this: our survey, which reached out to 1,000 people in every country of the EU27, the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland focuses on the European population's faith in economic recovery, vision for the future, its confidence in institutions (such as the European Union) and the assessment of climate change and the coronavirus epidemic. The Cohesion Reports would be more accentuated taking similar variables into account.
Second, we consider it extremely important to draw attention to the fact that the study of the regional and social effects of the COVID-19 epidemic through traditional hard variables can only be ascertained to a limited extent – if so at all.
The data sources on which the previous Cohesion Reports were based, due to static reporting practices, are not sensitive to the dynamic changes needed for the impact assessment of the coronavirus epidemic – something we cannot disregard in 2021. Such approach is unable to assess, or can only capture a limited extent of, the population's perception and experienced (psychological) effects of the COVID-19 epidemic. According to our December 2020 study, the level of individual well-being was better determined by a variable measuring the psychological effects of the coronavirus epidemic (even if only to a limited extent given the short timeframe we had to work with). Based on all this, we consider it imperative that the report not only relies on “traditional macro data”, but also provides a synthesis of recent and relevant national researches conducted. The research made by Századvég, which surveyed 60,000 people between November 2020 and March 2021, contains a specific sub-sample of 5,000 people explicitly examining the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic and restrictive measures on behaviour change, is particularly well-suited to track the various trends in attitudinal and behavioural change associated with the COVID-19 epidemic. We note that fact-based policy-making is also of particular importance for the European Commission.