Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion – Turning territorial diversity into strength

The goal of the debate on Territorial Cohesion has been to come to a better and shared understanding of territorial cohesion and its implications for policy making.

Between early October 2008 and the end of February 2009, contributions were sought particularly from stakeholders in departments of national government, local and regional authorities, EU institutions, economic and social partners, civil society organisations, academics and citizens.

Initial results of the consultation

The response rate, if only in terms of the volume of contributions received, has been extremely encouraging. Furthermore, their quality, depth and comprehensive scope will serve not only to provide the European Union with an invaluable perspective on the future requirements of this policy area but has also given considerable impetus to ensuring that the topic of territorial cohesion is followed-up with the degree of importance demanded by all of us, as stakeholders.

Messages from the debate

Firstly, the big question of what is territorial cohesion, how do we define it? Interestingly, we do not yet have any operational conclusion on this central issue. Many contributors argued for a clear-cut definition while others replied that this would be contrary to the very diversity of the European context, in all its dimensions. At least a common understanding of the basic principles and key elements emerged. Territorial cohesion is about:

  • Ensuring the harmonious development of different territories;
  • Enabling citizens to make the most of the inherent features of these territories;
  • Transforming diversity into an asset which contributes to the sustainable development of the entire territory of the European Union;
  • Complementing and reinforcing economic and social cohesion.

Territorial cohesion is not about changing the fundamentals of Cohesion Policy which remains a development policy with its emphasis on enabling and not on compensating, while keeping a close eye on subsidiarity concerns.

Through its objective of promoting harmonious or balanced development, territorial cohesion has a solidarity dimension, arguing for the reduction of territorial disparities and working for fair access to opportunities. In this sense the economic objective of achieving the proper functioning of the single market ties in with the current development rationale of Cohesion Policy.

Territorial cohesion certainly does not mean automatic compensation based on particular geographic situations. On the other hand it can imply that public policies might be more responsive to the different needs and potentials of all kinds of territories across Europe.
That is to say that the territorial dimension needs to be reinforced at all levels and at all stages in policy design and implementation. Within this area of the debate there was consensus on the following 6 strands:

  • Coordinated public policies at different levels
  • Better account of territorial impacts
  • Improved multi-level governance
  • The need for functional approaches - regions yes, but also consideration of other geographies where appropriate; river basins, mountain areas, networks of towns, metropolitan areas, deprived neighbourhoods for example. A question of flexibility.
  • Territorial cooperation as a clear EU asset
  • Reinforced evidence base - better territorial knowledge is needed

View the consultation document

Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion – Turning territorial diversity into strength

pdf bg cs da de el en es et fr hu it lt lv mt nl pl pt ro sk sl fi sv

Annexes pdf en

NUTS 3 Regions Classification 2009 xls

Reference documents and other, related consultations

Launch of the debate by Commissioner Danuta Hübner

Number of contributions received for this consultation: 388

View the contributions

Contact details

DG Regional Policy, Unit C2 Urban development and territorial cohesion

European Commission

DG Regional Policy

Unit C2 - CSM1 4/161

200 Rue de la Loi

B-1040 Brussels

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