Evolving frameworks for regional development and spatial planning in the new regions of the EU
Introduction The development of European society at the start of the twenty-first century has been characterized by the increased dynamics of transformation processes toward a knowledge-based society, wider and deeper integration, demographic changes and globalization. As a result, there have been increased imbalances and tensions due to the contradictions between the different dynamics that regulate social development and the development of spatial systems. These development dynamics and the problems they generate concern both the established and the newer EU Member States, though with a different intensity. A variety of factors determined the level of this intensity, including the dynamics of societal transformation, the affectivity to relevant changes, the structural sensitivity, the ability to absorb the disturbances and the internal adaptability of individual regions. In this context, the problems that the regions in the new EU Member States have been facing are not issues specific for contemporary European spatial planning theory and practice. Some of these problems, such as suburbanization and inner-city blight, have been experienced in many Western European regions in recent decades, whilst others, such as the re-use of brownfields, the sustainable and efficient use of land and metropolitanization, constitute subjects of ongoing discussions in many parts of the world. In addition, some of the problems, such as demographic change or non-EU migration, represent an even more pressing problem in certain Western European regions than in the regions of new EU Member States. The specific situation in the new EU Member States results from the intensity and mutual synergy of different, often contradictory, development processes as well as from the specific new contexts within which these processes are operating. The development dynamics in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) regions have been, in some cases, several times higher than the average in the EU. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 2.3 per cent in the EU in 2007/2008, compared to an average of 8.7 per cent in Slovakia, 8.2 per cent in Romania and 6.8 per cent in Lithuania (Eurostat 2009). Such high rates of growth in combination with specific local circumstances have created multiple problems that require rapid and pragmatic responses. Global financial crisis seems to
exacerbate natural selective processes of economic and spatial development displaying hidden imbalances. This is caused by deformed development policies that focus only on rapid GDP growth in certain regions rather than development sustainability in the transition countries (cf. Tewdwr-Jones Chapter 3). The decline of the global economy has increased the pressure on spatial planning to react quickly and to offer efficient solutions to reduce the dramatic effects of the crisis in some EU Member States and to support the way out of the recession. Thus effective spatial planning needs to offer integrated and cross-sector spatial policies to these context-specific problems. At the same time, these territorial development concerns demonstrate the need to re-evaluate traditional spatial classifications at the European and global scales and to base theoretical and political approaches on these classifications. Building on the above considerations, this chapter will examine current trends in spatial planning policy in the context of EU integration. It will aim to assess the extent of the potential for developing approaches in terms of theory, policy-making and practice, which reflect the new realities of spatial development in Europe.