The emergence of ‘epistemic communities’ in the new European landscape: Some theoretical implications for territorial development and the spatial agenda of the EU
Introduction Transformative processes during the 1990s among countries of Central and Eastern Europe gradually contributed to a break with their socialist past, and a move toward democratic societies and market-oriented economies. Eastern enlargement finally took place during the 2000s with Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia becoming EU members in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. It turns out that integrating a large number of countries is a challenge in itself, as the last rounds of enlargement create large-scale disparities due to the accession of countries with a significantly lower socio-economic level, as compared to the EU-15 (Avery and Cameron 1998). The territorial dimension of the enlargement, as well as the disparity issue that came along with it, has significant implications for spatial planning at the European level. At the same time, European spatial planning can contribute to democratic and more effective governance structures in Central and Eastern European countries, and can foster the benefits of knowledge exchange on a European scale (Pallagst 2000). In this regard Faludi and Waterhout argue that ‘attitudes towards European spatial planning are shaped by people’s attitudes towards European integration’ (Faludi and Waterhout 2002: 17). The 1990s saw a boost in spatial planning on the European level, driven by the EU member states and supported by the European Commission. The European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) (CEC 1999) and the broad discursive process leading to its creation has played a crucial role in this regard. However, the main territorial focus of the document concerned itself with the former EU-15 Member States and their spatial development policy priorities, while the Central and Eastern European countries were only addressed in a marginal way. The 2000s finally delivered a view of European spatial planning,
integrating Western and Eastern European countries with an enlarged ESPON1 approach and the European Territorial Agenda (DE Presidency 2007) at hand. Thus, in the light of this recent evolution, European spatial planning has begun to engage Central and Eastern European countries, pertinently considering whether a new ‘epistemic community’ with Central and Eastern European development as its focal point will emerge. This chapter presents a detailed discussion of the future prospects for EU spatial planning in an enlarged Europe, suggesting that a new quality of conceptualizing European spatial planning has to be found. The argument is based on discussions of a theoretical basis for the informal policy area of European spatial planning, taking into account enlargement issues and thus spatial planning for Central and Eastern European countries. Moreover, the main institutional steps that have been taken to prepare and accomplish the accession of Central and Eastern European countries will be characterized. In this regard, structural policy instruments that have been applied in recent years to support these countries, as well as recent changes in EU structural policy, will be examined. Furthermore, the involvement of Central and Eastern European countries from a European spatial planning perspective will be outlined. Here the question is how far their integration might induce changes in the administration of European spatial planning. This chapter considers the potential shifts in European spatial planning, as an ‘epistemic community’, due to the appearance of new actors from these countries with an interest and possible influence on spatial planning. Two scenarios, ‘retention’ and ‘merger’, suggested by the author in 2006 (Pallagst 2006), will be revisited in this concern, assuming knowledge transfer to either create an ‘epistemic community’ around spatial planning for Central and Eastern Europe, or to shape an enlarged ‘epistemic community’ on European spatial planning.