Chair: Leaza McSorley (University of Sunderland, United Kingdom)
- John Bachtler (University of Strathclyde)
- Giancarlo Cotella (Politecnico di Torino, Italy)
- Marcin Dąbrowski (TU Delft, Netherlands)
- Sonia de Gregorio Hurtado (Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Spain)
The session, chaired by Leaza McSorley (University of Sunderland) and organised under the banner of the RSA Research Network on EU Cohesion Policy, presented a set of complementary perspectives on territorialising Cohesion Policy. Territorialisation here refers to making the policy more attentive to place-specific issues at various scales, as a means to better target the actual challenges in specific territories. While there are many compelling pragmatic reasons for doing this, linked to achievement of better results from more place-based interventions, the speakers related the territorialisation agenda with the need to make EU Cohesion Policy closer to the citizens. This is turn is expected to contribute to doing so addressing the ‘democratic deficit’ in the EU, build a shared EU identity and, echoing to the arguments advanced recently by Andres Rodriguez-Pose, counteract the rising tide of anti-EU populism, especially in the places where citizens may feel ‘left behind.’
John Bachtler (EPRC, University of Strathclyde), kicked off the sessions with an observation that place-based policies were especially important in light of the growing public discontent with the economic, social and political status quo in many regions that had been neglected by regional policies so far or suffered stagnation and/or marginalization as a result of the Great Recession. While recognizing the ongoing efforts to territorialize Cohesion Policy through tools such as Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) or Community-Led Local Development (CLLD), he highlighted the great challenges that their implementation brings, not least in terms of effective engagement of citizens. As a response to this problem, he pleaded for innovations in Cohesion Policy such as ‘open programming’ or ‘participatory budgeting,’ which, as the real-time ‘opinion polls’ during the talk indicated, did resonate with the views of the audience.
John’s presentation was followed by that of Giancarlo Cotella (Politecnico di Torino) who presented the insights from ESPON COMPASS project on the impacts of EU Cohesion Policy and other EU policies with a territorial impact on spatial planning and territorial governance in the Member States. While recognizing that the EU lacks a competence in spatial planning, Giancarlo observed that there are many ways in which cross-fertilization between Cohesion Policy and domestic spatial planning can take place, leading to more place-based interventions. In practice, however, these synergies between Cohesion Policy and planning are seldom realized, due to a separation between programming for the purpose of EU funds, which often remains spatially-blind, on the one hand, and the much more place-specific spatial planning activities, on the other hand. The talk closed with a recommendation for developing a strong Territorial Agenda for Europe post-2020, and focusing on its application.
Marcin Dąbrowski (TU Delft) continued the discussion by bringing the attention to the notion of spatial justice. In his talk he illustrated that despite growing convergence in economic terms across the European regions, there are many underlying aspects of spatial injustice when one scratches under the surface of this seemingly good news. Thus, the devil is in the detail: despite the said convergence, a closer look at the scale below that of a region (below NUTS 2) there is a growing number of territories that remain stagnant or in decline, forming ‘inner peripheries’ within regions. By the same token, in many urban areas across the EU socio-spatial inequalities and segregation have been rising and deepening as a result of the 2008 crisis. Against this background, he argued for adopting spatial justice as an alternative lens through which one could assess and manage Cohesion Policy, in order to achieve more socially just outcomes and focus interventions more precisely on the disadvantaged territories and their inhabitants. For this, however, we need higher resolution data and new assessment tools to understand the impacts of interventions funded with ESIF on the procedural and distributive dimensions of spatial justice.
The session closed with the presentation of Sonia de Gregorio Hurtado (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid) bringing the attention to issue of growing urban poverty, which is ‘territorialised’ in cities, and the scope for using Cohesion Policy to reduce it. She offered a valuable historical overview implementation and outcomes of the of the now somewhat forgotten URBAN initiative, predating the currently used urban policy tools, such as JESSICA, CLLD or ITI. Positing that the urban decline and poverty cycle was one of the biggest challenges for the EU, Sonia argued that in the current programming period the focus has shifted away from integrated area-based interventions targeting vulnerable neighbourhoods in cities, to projects that relate more to wider urban strategies and thematic objectives, dictated by the economic policy priorities of the EU (Europe 2020). You can read more about this research here: http://agendapublica.elpais.com/barrios-vulnerables-desafio-clave-de-la-politica-de-cohesion/ (SPANISH) and http://openeudebate.eu/?page_id=2596 (ENGLISH).
Summary of this session is available here.
AESOP, ERSA and RSA Europe.
Photos from the European Week of Regions and Cities Flickr album at https://www.flickr.com/photos/euregionsweek/albums/72157711248667772