chapter  4
19 Pages

European spatial planning: Current state and future challenges

ByBAS WATERHOUT

Introduction About a decade ago the institutional capacity that the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP. CEC 1999) had created was ‘in danger of evaporating’ (Faludi and Waterhout 2002: 177). This was also the conviction of the author of the ESDP, the Committee of Spatial Development (CSD), which consisted of representatives of the then 15 Member States plus the European Commission. During a CSD seminar in 1998 serious questions were raised, such as: Who really needs European spatial planning? What can European spatial planning achieve and with what instruments? What are the necessary arrangements for European spatial planning? And also, ‘we have been very focused on the ESDP text; we missed the wider picture!’ and ‘we must become more professional!’ (Faludi and Waterhout 2002: 169). Clearly, serious doubts existed. This chapter picks up on these doubts and sheds light on how the situation has been changed and what this means in terms of planning becoming part of EU mainstream policy or, in other words, becoming institutionalized. The institutionalization of European spatial planning is a complex, multi-facetted, multiactor and multi-layered process. It requires existing (mainstream) institutions to change in the way that they take on board planning perspectives and solutions. Although, by nature, institutions are in a process of continuous change, there are no proven recipes to change or design institutions into a desired direction. European spatial planning therefore faces a tough challenge, as was aptly recognized by the CSD members. Leaning on the general theoretical framework of this book, this chapter analyses the institutionalization of European spatial planning a decade after the ESDP. A major question is whether the ‘epistemic community’, which the CSD formed, has been able to spread its wings and influence important EU policy spheres and, in terms of this book, ‘knowledge arenas’. The focus in this chapter is on the post-ESDP period, from 1999 until summer 2009, in which the European spatial planning organizational framework has been extended with some important new pillars. ESPON was set up in 2002. In 2007 the ministers adopted the Territorial Agenda of the European Union (DE Presidency 2007a) and in 2008 the European Commission tabled the Green paper on Territorial Cohesion (CEC 2008). Combined with the already existing

INTERREG IIIB/IVB programme (now coming under the name European Territorial Cooperation – ETC), European spatial planning is currently organized around four pillars: ESPON, ETC, the Territorial Agenda and the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion. All of these pillars bear elements of the ESDP, illustrating that the institutional capacity apparently had not evaporated. Yet, despite all these impressive initiatives, the impression remains that planning is still a game in the margin of EU policy-making. So, what then, is the meaning of European spatial planning in a wider policy context, how has it evolved and what are the main challenges ahead? This chapter explores these questions in two parts. The first part elaborates on the evolution and the four pillars of European spatial planning. After having displayed the organizational set-up and the evolution of central ideas and concepts, the second part discusses the meaning of the framework for the wider EU policy context. In fact, it appears that planning finds itself back in the midst of a discourse coalition urging, against the backdrop of the 2013 regional policy reform, that territory matters! The chapter rounds off with some concluding remarks.