This thesis deals with shrinking regions in Austria and their status in the context of European regional cohesion policy. The research interest includes mainly the question of the extent of the Union's support for regions which do not record growth, but instead are shrinking and are located in the middle of negative transformation processes. Here especially the context of the European Union's former strategy of Lisbon and the current strategy "Europe 2020" - which mainly focuses on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth - is examined critically. Therefore it is analysed, whether the EU targets the support of shrinking regions, respectively if these areas are decidedly covered by the European regional cohesion policy. In addition, differences between diverse types of developments - for example between growing and shrinking regions - are identified. Besides the discussion of the term of shrinkage as well as an illustration of the development of the concept over time, the latest trends and characteristics are discussed and the so-called growth paradigm - especially its use within spatial planning - are reviewed. In addition, Austrian regions as well as the communities of Lower Austria and Styria are typified based on their regional/local development and analysed in terms of their demographic and economic developments within the last years. Beyond that, European regional cohesion policy, its recent modifications and the underlying concepts and strategies are considered and both, explicit as well as implicit statements about shrinking, structurally weak and peripheral areas are analysed. In the final step of analysis, the practice of regional cohesion policy in Lower Austrian and Styrian municipalities are considered and differences between the diverse types of development are elaborated, regarding the height and intensity of granted subsidies between 2000 and 2009.
In general, the analysis has shown that shrinkage itself constitutes a complex process of transformation, which often combines demographic, economic as well as spatial processes and which includes regional follow-up processes. In addition, shrinking processes probably do not match with the still ubiquitous paradigm of growth, but are an integral part of spatial develop-ment since the Middle Ages or the Early Modern Age. De-industrialisation, suburbanisation as well as post-socialist transformations can be identified as fundamental causes of shrinkage.
Both, the analysis of literature as well as the typing of regions has shown, that simultaneously happening growth as well as shrinkage processes often take place within geographical minor distance to each other. For Austria it has shown, that border areas, alpine areas as well as old industrial areas are still most affected by shrinkage processes; these regions are primarily located in eastern Austria (Lower Austria, Burgenland, Styria and Carinthia). The analysis of European regional policy has shown that the support of structurally weak regions has decreased within the current period of funding. Additionally the analysed operational programmes (Objective 2, RCE, INTERREG, ETC, LEADER) do address the issue of shrinkage, but the challenge is only insufficiently targeted within the main objectives of the analysed programmes. More surprising is the result of the analysis of subsidies, because here predominantly shrinking regions show higher per capita subsidies than the average. Overall, the subsidies granted to shrinking regions have converged to the subsidies for growing regions within the current funding period. The thematic orientation of the supported projects focused in the previous period largely on the support of SMEs and tourism, in the current period this focus has moved towards RTD and innovation; this reorientation is also recognisable in the two case studies analysed, dealing with the southern part of Lower Austria and the north-eastern region of Styria.