Cohesion Policy and Perceptions of the European Union in Hungary. A Cultural Political Economy Approach

Publication Type: 
Working Paper
CEU Center for Policy Studies
Place of Publication: 
CPS Working Papers
Series Number: 
This paper examines the relation between cohesion policy (CP) and perceptions of the European Union (EU) in Hungary. It does so through a cultural political economy approach that sets out to think together, on the one hand, a political economy analysis of cohesion policy in the EU in general and in Hungary in particular and, on the other hand, a set of narratives about understandings and perceptions of the EU collected through interviews with people involved in designing and implementing cohesion policy in Hungary. The key argument developed in this paper is that CP was always characterized by a double objective: while it was mobilized in order to promote economic and social cohesion across EU member states, it also came hand in hand with a push towards further market liberalization. Moreover, the implementation of CP in member states also intersects with and is shaped by national administrative and political contexts. This paper thus studies how the deployment of CP in Hungary has been associated both with an intensive process of economic liberalization and a strong drive toward administrative and political centralization. Narrative interviews conducted with people involved in various ways in the design and implementation of CP in Hungary reveal how the combination of an EU policy with ambivalent objectives and a problematic implementation context has meant that CP has contributed to negative perceptions of the EU in Hungary.