The New York Times published three maps, in conjunction with an article on the diverging national responses within the EU to the ongoing economic recession. The article is interesting as it provides an external view of the European Union but it is the maps, based on Eurostat Data, that grab the attention. These maps consider spatial differences in unemployment, debt and exchequer deficits. The maps draw attention to the Atlantic and Eastern peripheries of the EU as having the highest rates of unemployment. Similar core–periphery patterns are depicted in a map showing the national level of exchequer deficit. Ireland is prominent as one of the countries with significant issues. The third map explores national differences in debt to GDP. Here the pattern is somewhat different. Several of the new member states have relatively low levels of debt (although given that the IMF has been called into some of these countries in recent times it highlights the fact that all data is historical) and there appears to be a Northwest–Southeast gradient with the debt to GDP increasing the further south and east one travels in the EU.
These maps are interesting for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the considerable disparities in economic structures and performance captured in the indicators. It is these disparities that EU policy makers are struggling to confront at present through the increasing use of spatial concepts, most notably territorial cohesion (for more on this see here).
What makes this all the more interesting is of course the results of the EU Parliament Elections, which have thrown up a few changes in Ireland. The Parliament is set to get greater powers this year as, henceforth, the Commission and Council of Ministers no longer have to simply consult with Parliament but now have to incorporate the changes and suggestions arising from Parliamentary Committees and Parliamentary Conclusions. Given these new powers it will be very interesting to watch which committee groups Ireland’s new and returning parliamentarians opt into.