Towards a European Territorial Reference Framework
During the European Week of Regions and Cities, Spatial Foresight organised on 10 October the participatory workshop "Towards a European Territorial Reference Framework". The workshop was based on the homonymous ESPON project, which supports the development of the Territorial Agenda of the European Union after 2020. In a changing world and a changing Europe, coming along with several challenges, the workshop looked at future possible ways to overcome them. The workshop opened with key messages of the project, by Ilona Raugze, director of ESPON EGTC, and by Andreu Ulied, lead partner of the project, who both emphasised the continuous importance of the territorial dimension in European policies to address needs. Focusing on the challenge of fragmentation, the key note speakers underlined that cooperation at different levels and across boundaries is the key to unlocking opportunities.
During the interactive session, participants were invited to discuss in a world café format, how social and geographical fragmentation could be addressed, what are the possible territorial implications and what actions need to be taken at European level. The focus was put on three different types of cooperation: i) cooperation between places, ii) cooperation between sector policies and iii) cooperation between different groups of society.
Soft and flexible borders, functional territories, more awareness raising of cooperation’s added value and knowledge exchange, tailor-made regulations, EGTCs and territorial cooperation projects, as well as developing alternative maps of territories based on territories’ necessities are among the main conclusions on cooperation between places. Cooperation between sector policies on the other hand, can be a contribution but not a solution to the challenge of fragmentation. It could support a more integrated approach towards a better quality of services and life. Breaking the silos of policymaking may trigger more resources and widen competence and knowledge, avoiding duplication of efforts and developing synergies instead. The discussions on cooperation between different social groups concluded that cooperation can be learned and trained, as it’s all about changing mindsets and balancing competition and cooperation. Developing trust, knowing each other’s culture better, exchanging knowledge and good practices, empowering the involvement of people and different social groups may help to identify common goals and better solutions.
The key messages from the world café discussions have been a valuable input to the project’s work and will be taken into account for the next steps.
Take away message
Territories in the European Union matter today more than ever. They are also challenged today more than ever. Cooperation of different types, at different scales and with different players seems to be a ‘must’. Considering flexible functional borders, creating synergies, investing in cooperation projects, being close to citizens will only be the first steps towards creating a common European cooperation mind-set. Cooperation may not be a panacea for all challenges, but could definitely be a tool to address them.
“The European Territorial Reference Framework is crucial considering the persisting regional imbalances and increasing interdependencies as it will help develop proactive policy responses addressing territorial development challenges beyond administrative borders. I hope this ESPON project will contribute to a more impactful EU Territorial Agenda post-2020.”, Ilona Raugze, director ESPON EGTC.
“Europe’s economic geography is changing, increasing the fragmentation of society and territories. Single territories will not be able to tackle this challenge alone.”, Jacek Szlachta, Warsaw School of Economics, Chair of the European Territorial Reference Framework Strategic Advisory Forum.
“Europe's most pressing territorial challenges are social and political fragmentation. Increasing interdependencies between European governments from local to regional, member-state and European scale, and internationally, will make multilevel governance indispensable to design and implement common policies to address fragmentation". Andreu Ulied, MCRIT, leader of the European Territorial Reference Framework project.