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CALL FOR PAPERS: 20th anniversary of the EU's biggest enlargement – territorial implications

The journal Europa XXI came into existence in the 1990s, i.a. given the need for a scientific look to be taken at the territorial dimension to the upcoming enlargement of the European Union. In the Foreword to the first edition (still part of a series of publications as opposed to a journal per se), founder Prof. Marcin Rościszewski wrote: The revealing of the dynamics to change in European space (…) under the influence of integration processes should become one of the main aims of this publication (Rościszewski, 1998). These words remain in date, even if there is now an entirely different perspective from which we look at the spatial aspect to integration. Back then the main subject of study was how the fast-approaching accessions of the CEECs to European structures would be conditioned, with focus on spatial changes resulting from Poland's participation in European integration processes, the development of co-operation with the neighbouring countries and the integration of Poland's space with the space of the European Union (as the title pages of the journal’s first editions read). We now have a chance to assess effects and consequences.

May 2024 will mark the passage of 20 years since history’s largest in-one-go enlargement of the European Union. That means a special occasion and opportunity to try and arrive at some kind of summary account of the changes of a territorial nature that have taken place, not only in the 10 Acceding States of that time, but also in Europe as a whole. An assessment of the kind needed might be made via a number of different scientific disciplines, through the prism of various theories and concepts, as well as from the points of view of different Member States.

A core element here is the territorial dimension to socio-economic convergence. We regard this as a success at the level of the Community as a whole, as – for example – Poland’s 2004-2019 increase in GDP (at PPP) was sufficient to bring it from 51% of the Union average up to 73%. However, many analyses (e.g. Komornicki & Czapiewski, 2022) reveal that the price of this success has been an increase in territorial inequalities at the sub-regional and local levels. A factor worsening this situation has been demographic change, especially migratory outflow and the ageing of societies. On the other hand, an influx of EU Structural Funds has allowed many units of local government to develop their technical and social infrastructure. Support for large new developments, especially roads, has led to an abrupt improvement in transport accessibility (Rosik et al., 2015). However, improvements are once again seen to have been uneven, to the extent that they may have helped worsen disparities at local level. Meanwhile, influxes of population into large cities have ensured that many face spatial challenges similar to those noted at an earlier stage in the agglomerations of Western Europe.

Parallel enlargement has brought about steady change when it comes to Europe’s functional linkages (Velasco Echeverria et al., 2022). This is how there have been territorial consequences for old Member States too, as their regions have come to interact much more intensively with counterparts in the CEECs. Extension of the Schengen Zone combined with support under European Territorial Cooperation to bring about a shaping of transboundary functional areas (as for example where Austria, Slovakia and Hungary meet – Pamer, 2018). In turn, a new external frontier of the EU was put in place, only to differentiate steadily over time (Komornicki & Wiśniewski, 2017), given instances of both inter-regional cooperation and geopolitical conflict.

Even where effects of the 2004 enlargement can be seen as entirely positive, the rate of improvement has been a far-from-steady one, since – as we recall – 2008 saw economic boom give way to bust, with global economic crisis. Once that might have seemed like peak-challenge, but our times have in fact brought several more – and each with a marked spatial dimension. The effects may have been overlain to shape a territorial mosaic of relative or absolute winners and losers across the integrating space. Both influxes of migrants from beyond the Union and the COVID-19 pandemic left the results of transboundary or cross-border cooperation in much doubt (as controls were restored, and lockdowns introduced; cf. Rosik et al., 2022). Russia’s aggression mounted against Ukraine influenced economies regionally and locally, as ties were cut, even as a vast influx of refugees changed the situation as regards, for example, access to public services. As all that was happening an energy crisis jostled with vastly challenging needs to mitigate ongoing climate change, while also adapting to it. And again there is no evenness across space when it comes to the influence anticipated solutions will have. The still-coal-dependent CEECs would seem to find themselves in a very complex situation (Wójcik et al., 2022); and the energy transition has already generated spatial conflicts at local level, thanks to the need to site a large amount of infrastructure. The spatial planning systems in this region’s countries were not fully ready to meet such challenges, to the extent that a barrier to effective structural assistance was sometimes put in place.

This plethora of processes can only encourage reflection as to what an overall summary-account of – or balance for – the 2004 EU enlargement might look like. For sure this must extend, not just to the Acceding States themselves, but also to regions across the whole Union, and indeed to those located nearby but beyond the EU frontier. Furthermore, the Union is facing the prospect of further enlargements – involving the Western Balkans, Ukraine and Moldova. The experiences of past accessions can only prove useful as this next process is planned for, not least in the context of future Cohesion Policy tools.

For all these reasons, the Europa XXI Editorial Office has determined that the next edition of the journal must address such a territorially-oriented sum-up and balance sheet for the last 20 years. The new volume will also accompany an upcoming Special Session of the Dublin IGU Congress (within the framework of activity of the Commission on the Geography of Governance). This is why we now invite authors to send in proposal for articles, as well as announcing anticipated appearances at the Session (


We would like both the articles and the debate at the Session to focus around the following questions:

a)  To what extent has EU membership influenced territorial disparities across the 10 new Member States, as well as more widely in the EU as a whole?

b)  What have been the changes over 20 years in the spatial organisation of the then Acceding States (polycentrism, concentration of population and economic potential, new economic poles)?

c)   To what extent have the new Member States joined the European ‘space of flows’ (where the flows are of people, goods, capital and knowledge)?

d)  Has European integration strengthened territorial cooperation and social, capital-related and economic linkage within the CEECs; and if so, then to what degree?

e)  Under the influence of membership, how have systems of territorial governance and spatial planning (of the CEECs in particular) changed?

f)   Has EU Structural Funding reduced regional inequalities and enhanced spatial justice?

g)  How has enlargement influenced spatial differentiation or disparities in the remaining Member States (e.g. through migration and/or market changes)?

h)  Do the instruments of Cohesion Policy suffice to tackle today’s challenges, or to what extent might they need modifying, with further EU enlargements in prospect?

Our invitation to have a paper published and/or participate at the Session is extended to both experts in Europe-wide integration and representatives of centres producing cases studies on the states acceding to the EU in 2004. While the two initiatives are indeed complementary, it is of course possible to participate in one or the other (only making an article ready, or only participating at the Session).



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Komornicki, T., & Czapiewski, K. (2020). Economically lagging regions and Regional development – some narrative stories from Podkarpackie, Poland. In E. Nell & S. Pelc (Eds.). Responses to Geographical Marginality and Marginalization.Perspectives on Geographical Marginality (vol. 5, pp. 65-83). Cham: Springer.

Komornicki, T., & Wiśniewski, R. (2017). Border traffic as a measure of trans-border relations. Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Geographischen Gesellschaft, 159, 151-172.

Pamer, Z. (2018). How governance counts? Comparative analysis of activity and funding patterns of Central European cross-border cooperation programmes. Europa XXI, 35, 111-126.

Rosik, P., Komornicki, T., Duma, P., & Goliszek, S. (2022). The effect of border closure on road potential accessibility in the regions of the EU-27. The case of the COVID-19 pandemic. Transport Policy, 126, 188-198.

Rosik, P., Stępniak, M., & Komornicki, T. (2015). The decade of the big push to roads in Poland: impact on improvement in accessibility and territorial cohesion from a policy perspective. Transport Policy, 37, 134-146.

Rościszewski, M. (1998). Wstęp. Europa XXI, 1, 3.

Velasco Echeverria, X., Izquieta Rojano, S., Sola Torralba, I., Salinas Sole, C., Llano Verduras, C., Moral Carcedo, J., Pérez García, J., Ángel Almazán, M., Pérez-Balsalobre, S., Pardo Fernández, J., Gallego López, N., Kallioras, D., Tsiapa, M., Rasvanis, E., Manetos, P., Adamakou, M., Topaloglou, L., Petrakos, G., Viseu Cardoso, R., Dabrowski, M., Uyttebrouck, C., Spiekermann, K., Schwarze, B., Rauhut, D., Halme, J., Kahila, P., Fritsch, M., Komornicki, T., Rosik, P., Wiśniewski, R., Szejgiec-Kolenda, B., Wójcik, J., Cerić, D., Czapiewski, K., Mazur, M., & Pomianowski, W. (2022). Interregional Relations in Europe. Final report, Luxembourg: ESPON.

Wójcik, J., Szejgiec-Kolenda, B., Czapiewski, K., Komornicki, T., & Almazán-Gómez, M., 2022. The place of Śląskie Voivodeship (Poland) in the greening space of flows. Europa XXI, 42,


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