While renewed interest in convergence has brought the term to the centre of the European agenda, there is still a lack of clarity over its meaning. Generally speaking, the meaning of convergence varies along two axes: convergence of what and convergence to where. While convergence of what is often intended to mean the convergence of geographical entities, such as Member States or regions, the meaning of convergence to where is far less exact. Several types of convergence are discussed in the European policy debate. They can broadly be separated into two main types: convergence in outcomes and convergence requirements for EU projects, such as convergence related to the Maastricht criteria or structural convergence.
Traditionally, the term convergence has been used predominantly in the macroeconomic context, especially in relation to the EMU and the criteria to access the common currency. However, it has also started to be used in reference to the social dimension of the EU in recent years.
Although they are sometimes used mistakenly as synonyms, convergence should not be confused with cohesion, nor should divergence be confused with inequality.
Notwithstanding all the possible different conceptualisations of convergence, the focus of Eurofound’s work on monitoring convergence in general – is upward convergence. This means the investigation of convergence of Member States towards better working and living conditions, measured through the monitoring of outcomes and performance on different indicators.
From a methodological point of view, the way to measure convergence relates to the type of convergence under investigation.