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3 Territorial cohesion: towards a more balanced development

The objective of strengthening cohesion specified in Article 158 of the Treaty is aimed primarily at achieving harmonious development of the Union as a whole. This, indeed, was the rationale for the formulation of the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) by the informal Council of Ministers responsible for spatial planning and regional policy in Potsdam in 1999. The ESDP identified three main aims: a polycentric urban development and a new relationship between urban and rural areas; equal access for all European regions to infrastructure and know-how and prudent management of the natural and cultural heritage. The ESDP 1 sets out policy guidelines for all Member States, regions and local authorities as well as for the Commission.

The pursuit of the same objectives, and the general aim of achieving coherent and sustainable spatial development, underlies cross-border, transnational and transregional cooperation, financed by the ERDF.

The enlargement of the EU to the East, which will take place over the coming years, following the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden a few years ago, will change the Union significantly, more than doubling its land area in relation to the early 1990s. This raises new challenges for territorial cohesion, given the continued importance of reducing regional disparities.

1.In parallel with the development of the ESDP, a programme of studies was launched by the Commission in December 1998, in close collaboration with the 15 Member States. As a result of this programme, the basis of a common understanding on territorial analysis emerged, an issue which at a Union level had up to then been largely neglected. This part of the report makes use of the results of the studies undertaken over a period of 10 years.

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