Ahead of the meeting, Danuta Hübner commented: "We first started to reflect on reinforcing territorial cooperation in Europe in Rotterdam in 2004. So I welcome the operational character of this first action programme. We are now at a turning point: the reform treaty recognises the dimension of territorial cohesion within regional policy, concrete actions will soon be implemented through the action plan and the Commission is preparing a Green Paper on this issue in 2008. We will be able to use our territorial potential to help achieve a more sustainable, competitive and cohesive Europe".
EU Cohesion Policy should be able to respond more effectively to the specific territorial needs and characteristics, geographical challenges and opportunities of regions and cities. Enlargement also represents a challenge for territorial cohesion since it is redrawing the European map and adds even more diversified territories and disparities. This is why the "Territorial Agenda of the EU" that ministers agreed at their meeting last May, argues the benefits of pursuing an integrated territorial development policy. It calls for more cooperation and networking on territorial aspects in the future.
Action programme for the implementation of the EU territorial agenda
The action programme presented by the Portuguese presidency in the Azores proposes 15 actions which are designed to be implemented in the period 2007-2011. Among others, the following priorities will be outlined:
* To influence EU key dossiers and to give a territorial and urban dimension to other sectoral policies of the EU. For instance, the ministers responsible for regional policy will prepare in Portugal a contribution to the Green paper on climate change adopted by the Commission in June, to highlight the importance of introducing the territorial dimension in this issue;
* To strengthen multi-level governance at EU and Member State level based on shared partnership between European, national, regional and local actors;
* To develop knowledge on spatial development at the EU level (territorial state, trends, policy impacts in the Member States). One of the programmes under Cohesion policy for 2007-2013, the European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON), is specifically intended to build European scientific knowledge in the field of territorial development.
A new treaty aiming for territorial cohesion and deeper subsidiarity
The Treaty adopted in Lisbon on 18 October and which should be signed on 13 December explicitly adds territorial cohesion as a third dimension of regional policy (beside the social and economic dimensions). It will contribute to strengthening the role of local authorities and civil society at the EU level. It will also recognise that territorial disparities which affect the overall competitiveness of the economy should be addressed: geographical disparities (islands, peripheral areas, sparsely populated areas) as well as territorial dynamics (development of pockets of poverty, polarisation of certain areas, suburbanisation phenomena).
The Commission will adopt a Green Paper on territorial cohesion in September 2008 and will open a large public consultation at the same time. It will provide an updated analysis on the disparities of the European territory and will start the debate on how to take better account of the territorial dimension within EU policies and programmes.
Since the adoption of the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP), in 1999, the notion of territorial cohesion has become a key dimension of cohesion policy. The Dutch Presidency organised an Informal Meeting in Rotterdam in 2004 where ministers agreed upon introducing the territorial dimension into the Lisbon process, against the background of the often unseen but huge impact of EU policies on territorial developments in the Member States. The German Presidency held an Informal Ministerial Conference in Leipzig in May 2007 during which the ministers adopted the EU Territorial Agenda.
More information on regional policy is available at:
- On the ESPON programme: http://www.espon.eu