One of the most pressing questions for many countries is what kinds of socio-economic conditions exist where and why in their space. National governments tend to have, as one of their mandates, the equalization of positive conditions for their citizens no matter where they live. Equality is a highly valued human characteristic. Normally, the bigger the geography of a country, the larger are its differences.
At the worldwide level, all the poorer countries want to improve their conditions to approach those of the developed world. When this cannot be done, many of its citizens migrate to the richer countries either legally or, more recently, illegally. Yet the richer countries want to increase their well-being of their people. Stagnation or decline is seen as something to be avoided at all cost by any country.
This spatial inequality, however, does not manifest itself only at the international and national scale. It also exists at the regional and metropolitan level. Here we have richer and poorer, growing and decaying, cities, towns, and neighbourhoods. It seems that the famous sayings ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and ‘misery loves company’ are true at all geographic scales and create tensions for a society.
How equalization can be achieved is a major challenge to politicians and planners. Natural forces seem to produce inequalities over space. However, inequalities are not constant over time. Healthy regions can change to depressed ones as the nature of their economies or even politics changes. Business, technology, fashion and environmental cycles can destroy privileged areas and build up former depressed or unimportant areas into new ‘power houses’.
One of the major interests of this Centre is to look at regional variations in Europe and/or how it compares to other areas of the world. The overarching research questions are; where are the major regional differences and how big or troubling are they? Second, what policies and programs are proposed to remove them?