chapter  3
15 Pages

Cohesion and competitiveness: The evolving context for European territorial development


Introduction Adding to the previous notions of economic and social cohesion identified in Articles 3 and 158 of the EC treaty, the text of the Constitution for Europe, and of its natural follow-up, the Lisbon Treaty, has embodied the territorial dimension of European development policies with greater political significance than ever before. This book provides the reader with a wide-ranging discussion on the development, ethos and possible delivery mechanisms of ‘territorial cohesion’ across the enlarged European Union (EU). This chapter, more specifically, is centred on a reflection about a persisting tension embodied in the concept of ‘territorial cohesion’ and explores the potential mismatch between the implementation of the political objective of ‘territorial cohesion’ and its contextual economic reality. The discussion will provide the reader with an introduction to some of the current issues in relation to territorial development in the EU and in doing so provide part of the context within which the chapters that follow can be read. ‘Territorial cohesion’ has the aim of combating territorial disparities to achieve a more spatially balanced pattern of economic development by securing the coordination and coherence of development policies (CEC 2004: 28). The main concern with this objective relates to the unevenness and, by implication, the concentration of economic activity within particular territories of the European Union. The message outlined by the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) is clear: market forces alone will not result in balanced economic development across the Union as a whole and Eastern enlargement only has served to double existing regional disparities (CEC 2003: 38). This chapter’s key objective is to discuss the paradox associated with the notion of ‘balanced economic competitiveness’ in the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) and the subsequent Commission policies associated with planned economic growth (Davoudi 2003). It is possible to suggest that the ongoing emphasis on polycentric development in spatial strategies across the EU, in the aftermath of the ESDP’s publication in 1999, might have informed a shift toward spatial planning as a vehicle for the generation of economic growth in regions away from concerns to redistribute or compensate such regions (Ezcurra et al. 2007). But, in practice, ‘polycentricity’ and ‘balanced

competitiveness’ remain somewhat abstract phrases at the present time (Dühr 2007). This is largely a consequence of the lack of an evidence base behind the terminology of the ESDP as it was developed in the 1990s (Meijers et al. 2007). These abstract phrases allowed for different interpretations across Member States and the resultant planning policy nomenclature within nations and regions have had uncertain but variable impacts on urban form, development patterns and mobility. Furthermore, the economic performance of Member States was in a different state in 1999 compared to the present day, and the disparities between them were far less dramatic than they have been in the current post-enlargement scenario. In light of the recent global economic recession in 2008, the importance of stimulating economic growth within European cities and regions is likely to find stronger political footing as a pan-European agenda within the EU and thereby challenge aspects of both the ESDP’s agenda and to the spatial planning concepts within ‘territorial cohesion’. The following chapter has been structured to illustrate this debate and to try and inform the conceptual development of ‘territorial cohesion’. Following a critical review of how economic competition is addressed in the ESDP, this chapter turns its attention to the ongoing regional economic trends concerning foreign direct investment (FDI) and their spatial impact. The debate situates the latter trends in the context of regional competitiveness, drawing conclusions on the economic rather than the political concept of ‘territorial cohesion’ and its implications for European spatial development. In this context, the extent to which current policy is knowledge-based, the role that knowledge plays and who the agents involved in the generation of that knowledge are, will be discussed and this also provides a central theme that is discussed elsewhere in this book (cf. Adams, N. et al. in Chapters 1 and 2). Salient points are drawn out before returning to consider the spatial implications of ‘territorial cohesion’ and ‘balanced competitiveness’ in an enlarged EU.