Initiatives in European spatial development

Initiatives in European spatial development

As economic and social integration moves forward, the national borders within the European Union have ceased to be divisive. The challenges posed by sustainable spatial development in Europe can be more effectively met with the improved opportunities of transnational cooperation.

The Federal Republic of Germany is committed to regional development at the European level as well as through bilateral cooperation, and which does not seek to standardise cultural diversity but instead to improve the quality of life of all citizens.

The European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) established by the EU Member States and the CEMAT guidelines Spatial Development - CEMAT (guidelines for sustainable, regional development on the continent of Europe) adopted by the states of the Council of Europe offer an important reference framework for Sustainable Development of the European territory, both within and across EU borders.

EU funding programmes such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) provide the instruments with which to implement integrated spatial development, of which the community initiative INTERREG and the European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON) are particularly significant.

One current initiative is the so-called „Urban Atlas: Europe's eye in the sky provides cities with tools for smart development.”

It states:
Whether big or small, European cities need reliable and comparable urban planning information for safe, sustainable and prosperous development. This year, for the first time, 185 cities from all 27 EU Member States, will benefit from the "Urban Atlas", which has been produced by the European Commission and Member States with the support of European space technology. It will enable urban planners to better assess risks and opportunities, ranging from threat of flooding and impact of climate change, to identifying new infrastructure and public transport needs. All cities in the EU will be covered by the Urban Atlas by 2011.

European instruments and concepts in spatial planning

Current trends in development such as urbanisation, the globalisation of trade in goods, and the increasing use of natural resources all exert an impact on sustainable ecological spatial development. Due to continual interdependencies the problems that ensue can not be solved at the national level alone and require a problem-solving approach at the European level. The EU steers spatial development through sectoral policy on the one hand but also seeks stronger interconnections by means of a cross-sectoral development concept known as the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP). According to the new regulations in The Amsterdam Treaty, environmental protection and Sustainable Development must be more integrated and implemented in Community action and policies.

One must distinguish from among the instruments available to the EU for spatial development between information, planning concepts (e.g. ESDP, Natura 2000, Environment Action Programme ) and regional development incentive instruments (e.g. European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) , the Interreg III: the strands A, B, C , LIFE+). These regional development policy instruments are exerting increasing influence on the regional structures of the Member States. The priorities of environmental protection are to be taken into account in the development and application of these instruments.

As concerns normative regulations the Assessment of the effects of plans and programmes on the environment (SEA Directive) will prove significant in future. It was adopted by The Council of the European Union on 5 June 2001 and stipulates that certain plans and programmes (in German) (e.g. regional plans (in German), waste management projects) are subject to an environmental assessment prior to implementation. The directive must be transposed into national law within three years.

Cohesion and Regional Policy in the EU

In light of the integration of European states on the one hand and growing regional disparities on the other, the balancing objectives of the EU have become more pronounced and critical. The objective of achieving economic and social cohesion in the EU and its regions seeks to handle regional disparities appropriately (see also Karl-Peter Schön (BBR) in: Informationen zur Raumentwicklung, Heft 6/7 2006, p. 383 ff.)

In the Community Strategic Guidelines on Cohesion, the EU has initiated an attempt to strike a balance between the twin agendas of achieving growth and job creation as well as territorial cohesion. The Community Guidelines on Cohesion define the principles and priorities of cohesion policy; it suggests ways European regions can take full advantage of the € 308 billions that has been made available for national and regional aid programmes over the next seven years. National authorities will use the guidelines as the basis for drafting their national strategic priorities and planning for 2007-2013, the so-called Positive assessment of National Strategic Reference Frameworks. As per the Guidelines and in accordance with the amended Lisbon Strategy, the resources from programmes that are financed by means of cohesion policy must be implemented with a focus on the following three priorities:

  • Increase the attractiveness of Member States, regions and cities through improvement of accessibility, securing reasonable quality and a corresponding level of services, and preservation of ecological potential;

  • Encouragement of innovations, entrepreneurship, and growth of knowledge-based economy from research and innovation capacities, as well as information and communications technologies, and

  • Creation of more and better jobs that grant more people employment or other gainful activity, and which improves the adaptability of the workforce and businesses, and boosts investments in human capital.

Initiatives in European urban development

The term “European Urban Development“ is somewhat misleading at first, for unlike in the areas of competition, environmental or cohesion policy, the European Union does not dispose of any formal competence in matters of urban affairs. Nevertheless, it has had an influence on Urban Planning and Development (in German) for many years.

The following article by Christian Huttenloher and Holger Adam provides a comprehensive overview of the development of grant programmes in the EU in the areas of urban development. It takes a look at both their history as well as at the current 2007-2013 grant period (Europäische Stadtentwicklungspolitik – Erfahrungen und Perspektiven).

Similar problems in many European cities

These problems range from economic and social problems such as unemployment and segregation to environmental and transport problems, as well as air pollution and water pollution or noise, and include the increase of land take (more information: reduction of land use) in cities, in part with a loss of function in inner cities.

Approaches to solving these problems have included introduction of initiatives and development of concepts which all aim to better meet the challenges facing cities. Both EU measures and the initiatives brought forward by Members are welcome as they promote the widespread interest in cooperation between cities and the regions of the EU to develop joint projects and to exchange experience.

As the EU does not have any competences in the area of city planning, topics of common interest are handled by informal ministerial councils of the Member States involved. The potential for regional growth and in cities is supported through dialogue with all parties in charge. Support to boost the local economy is sought for as well as strategies to correct any deficiencies in terms of city planning, environmental policy, or infrastructure, and to upgrade the architectural and building substance of urban areas. The objective of spatial development policy in Europe is to do its bit to meet the goals of the Lisbon Strategy - to create growth and jobs.

Select initiatives, instruments, drafts

Territorial Agenda of the European Union

During the Germany EU Council Presidency an informal conference of ministers took place in Leipzig in May 2008 at which the which the ministers for regional development in the Member States of the EU agreed on the so-called Territorial Agenda of the EU.

The Motion for a European Parliament Resolution represents the current highlight in a process that was initiated at a 2004 conference of ministers in Rotterdam, and wich was continued at the 2005 conference in Luxembourg.

The CEMAT Process on the road from Hanover to Ljubljana

At the 12th European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning – CEMAT, which was held during EXPO 2000 on 7-8 September 2000 in Hanover and presided over by the German Federal Ministry of  Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, guidelines for sustainable regional development on the continent of Europe were passed as a foundation for future cooperation on spatial development policy. The objective of Germany’s policy was to include states that were not in the European Union in the political debate so as to reach some form of consensus among the greatest number of European states possible as to the objectives and fields of action in European spatial development.

Pilot projects as per Article 10 European Development Fund - ERDF

The European Commission provides funds from the ERDF: European Regional Development Fund for innovative measures to promote regional policy within the Community and the Member States (Art. 10 ERDF - Regulation ). The innovative pilot projects in large transnational regional development areas of Europe serve to test innovative regional planning processes and forms of cooperation. The programmes and projects were developed from the start with a focus to their supraregional and cross-border nature.

ESPON – European Spatial Planning Observation Network in Europe

The  European Spatial Planning Observation Network is a programme co-financed by the European Commission according to INTERREG criteria and European Union Member States as well as other European states in which research institutions across Europe cooperate in transnational projects to investigate topics relating to territorial development.

European Spatial Development Perspective – ESDP

The European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) does not confer any new powers upon the Community in the area of spatial development. Instead, it acts as a political reference framework to improve cooperation between Community sectoral policies which have a significant impact on spatial development. It was drawn up as it proved that the work of the Member States complemented each other best if directed towards common objectives. It is an intergovernmental document which provides guidance but has no binding character. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, it is applied at the most appropriate level and as deemed necessary by the various parties engaged in spatial development.

INTERREG Community Initiative

INTERREG (in German) is a Community initiative of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to promote cooperation in the area of regional policy among the different regions of the European Union . The scope of this pioneering initiative is to put innovative spatial development processes and cooperative projects to the test.
Its current phase is the INTERREG IV A Programme “Germany - Netherlands”, which focuses on the German-Dutch border area between the North Sea coast and the Lower Rhine region.

Other programmes as per Art. 53 of the Guidelines:

Completed projects

  • Umweltbelange in raum- und stadtentwicklungspolitischen Instrumenten auf europäischer Ebene [ Environmental aspects in spatial and urban development policies at the European level ]

    Research & development project number 299 16 103
    by Prof. Dr. Bernhard Müller, Dr. Markus Leibenath , Dr. Karina Pallagst Institut für ökologische Raumentwicklung e. V. (IÖR), Dresden, August 2001

In a project commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency to the Institute of Ecological and Regional Development, the evaluation of framework documents of six instruments showed that the goals of environmental policies of the Community are already taken into account in European spatial policies. The best examples in this regard are ESDP , Sustainable Urban Development: A Framework for Action, and the EU Community initiatives Interreg IIIB: transnational cooperation and Urban. In-depth case studies led to the result that the analyzed Community initiatives offer a great deal of opportunity to realize environmental goals which is not always taken full advantage of. Therefore, the position of environmental actors should be reinforced in the decision-making processes, and instruments at EU level should be linked more closely with related domestic instruments, e.g. Lokale Agenda 21 and regional development concepts.

The results have been published in UBA - Texte 04/02 "Umweltbelange in raum- und stadtentwicklungspolitischen Instrumenten auf europäischer Ebene"


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 European Spatial Development Perspective