Socio-economic prospects in the new member states have significantly improved since they joined the EU. Nevertheless, this transformation is mostly limited to big cities, while peripheral and disadvantaged regions continue to contend with major problems such as unemployment and population drain.
Regional development contributes to the reduction of economic and social disparities between regions, especially through the strengthening of local initiatives. For example, local entrepreneurs and NGOs receive support to set up small businesses and projects through loans that do not have to be repaid, and benefit from education and training opportunities in the marketing and tourism sectors. The same approach to regional development is also applied in Hungary and Slovakia.
In Poland, Switzerland is supporting ten regional development projects with a contribution of CHF 47.70 million, where the focus is on promoting the tourism sector and marketing traditional products. For example, in Hrubieszów, one of the poorest cities in the Lublin Voivodeship (province), Switzerland is co-financing the construction of new tourist accommodations and the creation of the "Gotania" brand for local products. According to the Tourist Information Office in Hrubieszów, tourism in the sub-region increased by 14% in 2012 compared to 2011, as a result of reinforced promotion activities and new accommodations.
These and other results originate from an interim evaluation that was carried out in Poland in October 2013. It shows that the decentralised implementation of projects is mostly progressing positively. Close collaboration between the private and public sectors and the active participation of civil society are contributing to the sustainability of the projects.