9 Pages

Editors’ introduction to Part III

One of the most significant challenges facing the EU today is how to address the apparently increasing disparities between regions within many Member States. It is likely that the pursuance of socio-economic and territorial cohesion across the EU territory will have serious implications at numerous territorial levels. In light of this, the European Commission and the Member States clearly anticipated the territorial impacts that accompanied the accession of significantly less prosperous regions to the EU in the successive enlargements in 2004 and 2007 (CEC 1996, 2004). However, it would appear that whilst such impacts at the EU level provide a difficult challenge for EU cohesion, the problems facing national and sub-national levels are going to be equally challenging, if not more so. The increased focus on the Lisbon Agenda promoting economic competitiveness appears to be driving centralization tendencies and an increased concentration of population, activities and resources within a limited number of larger urban areas in many Member States, and in particular in the CEE countries. These phenomena appear to be taking place at an ever increasing pace since the start of the transition process and this has significant implications for territorial development. There seems therefore to be a paradox whereby current policies, whilst reducing disparities at the EU level between Member States, are in many cases fuelling increasing disparities within them (Ezcurra et al. 2007). The evolution of spatial policy in the EU since the publication of the European Spatial Development Perspective (CEC 1999) has seen a transition from concepts such as balanced and polycentric development to the more recent concepts of territorial cohesion and territorial capital. Though such concepts have been widely debated, particularly among the planning community in the ‘old’ Member States, the only real consensus amongst those engaged with spatial planning in Europe is that there is no precise definition of what these terms actually mean (Faludi 2006). The abstract nature and generative capacity of such concepts, whereby they mean different things to different people, will undoubtedly lead to multiple interpretations as stakeholders at different levels and within different contexts interpret them to suit their own ends (Adams 2008). Evers claims that this flexibility should be seen as an advantage and argues that

if spatial planning is employed to support a substantively vague and piecemeal approach (e.g. enhancement of territorial capital, promotion of territorial cohesion etc.) in a manner that effectively skirts the issue of redistribution, it can maximise its political capacity and contribute to supporting the larger European project.