Helping poor regions catch up with richer ones, increasing employment and economic growth, balancing regional disparities – this is the main purpose of cohesion policy, which historically has been one of the major policies of the European Union. From 2007 to 2013, cohesion policy accounted for some EUR 50 billion per year and from 2014 to 2020 it will represent a total EUR 350 billion. This is also a key policy for regions in Slovakia. Under the NUTS 2 classification, Slovakia is divided into four regions: Bratislava, and West, Central, and East Slovakia. The increase in gross domestic product (GDP) over the past fifteen years was higher in the Region of Bratislava than in all the other regions put together. None of those regions reaches the national average. There are several reasons for the current adverse situation. The self-governing regions have only limited scope to influence major decisions by central government, which means that reducing regional disparities is largely in the hands of the latter. This significantly limits the regions' opportunities to realise their internal development potential. Another issue is the unjustifiable overestimation of the role of played economic factors in the current situation. Prioritising economic factors over social welfare has meant that profit has become the sole objective of business, leading to ever-increasing inequalities in the distribution of wealth and consequent social problems. This is leading to the social exclusion of an ever larger part of the population.
The Economic and Social Development Programme of Košice Self-governing Region for 2016-2022 seeks practical solutions to these problems. If we want to prevent any further build-up of social tension in society, tension that could eventually promote extremism, we need to begin dealing with the growing lag of the eastern regions. We believe that the way to address this is by developing a local, municipal economy. This is actually a return to the original values and original understanding of the economy. It is about trying to put the economy back into society, politics and ethics, rather than vice versa. What is important here is a willingness to seek a well-balanced economic model that produces a solidarity-based society focused on social welfare. Such a model should include the whole of civil society: private and public sectors, non-profit organisations, associations, and businesses, cooperatives or local exchange systems based on social responsibility and a voluntary, non-profit-making approach. In this model, national demand is met as far as possible from national resources, and goods are consumed as close as possible to their place of production. Our Region and City was active in cultural projects such as Kulturpark, where we have received 27 million EUR. However due to delay in realisation of this projects, the EC requested return of 5,6 million EUR. Building an economic and social model combining EU funds and local ressources will be anything but easy ; however Cohesion Policy will play a crucial role in the future as well.