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Reviving the EU Project : From values to new territorial development models

Relancer le projet UE : des valeurs aux nouveaux modèles de développement territorial
Joaquín Farinós-Dasí


Le but de cet article est d’analyser les relations entre l'aménagement du territoire, la cohésion territoriale (comme but à atteindre et comme politique) et les valeurs qui sous-tendent le projet de l'Union européenne (UE). Les territoires, les cultures et l’histoire des pays de l'UE peuvent jouer un rôle afin de redéfinir l'UE comme modèle social et politique de référence à l'échelle mondiale. Dans la « nouvelle grande transition » (écologique, économique, sociale, urbaine, féministe, démocratique…), la dimension territoriale et les politiques publiques jouent un rôle clé dans la définition des futurs possibles : nouveau modèle de développement économique, nouveaux modèles spatiaux et nouvelles tendances spatiales, nouvelle géopolitique (tant au sein de l’UE que dans les rapports entre l’UE et le reste du monde). En articulant efficacement les différents niveaux, du local à l'UE, par le biais de la coopération et de la coordination, il est possible de renforcer la cohésion territoriale en tant qu'alternative crédible pour un projet de l'UE renouvelé et renforcé. Dès lors, ce dernier permettrait à l’UE de se distinguer par rapport au reste du monde dont l’organisation politique et économique reste dominée par la forme traditionnelle de l'État moderne, d’une part, et par un développement à forte émission en carbone, d’autre part.

Cependant, depuis la récente crise mondiale, les intérêts nationaux et les coopérations renforcées (méthode intergouvernementale) semblent l'emporter sur la méthode communautaire. Face à ces tendances, davantage d'intelligence territoriale et de coopérations entre territoires sont nécessaires. Une nouvelle approche de l’aménagement du territoire prenant en compte de nouveaux modèles de développement (« vert et bleu ») ainsi que de nouvelles approches de la gouvernance territoriale (États postmodernes) serait un outil utile pour un développement plus intelligent, juste et cohérent, et pour la cohésion territoriale et sociale. Cette nouvelle approche constituerait une base pour renouveler le projet de l'UE.

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The definition of Europe : from absolute space to relational space

1For Julien Benda in his "Speach to the European Nation" of 1933, Europe is an idea and even a moral problem, beneficial for all Europeans to the greatest extent possible, and not simply an economic and even political project (from Müller, 2007). The idea of Europe has a double dimension :

  • material or economic, in which the EU project has been supported more : European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) and subsequently, still unfinished, the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), and

  • socio-cultural or symbolic : the basement, some background values that even economists such as Hayek (1945) have recognized as zero-level rules-institutions from wich they begin to be defined structures, which cause tendencies finally manifested in facts.

  • 1 Déclaration du 9 mai 1950 au Quai d’Orsay par Robert Schuman, ministre des Affaires étrangères.
  • 2 In November 2018, published two reports: “Beyond GDP. Measuring What Counts for Economic and Social (...)

2For some, including some of the parents of the EU project such as Robert Schuman, it is the ideal or symbolic level of European citizenship (with feelings of belonging, identity, loyalty, common heritage or culture community, in a shared rights area and freedoms) the one that would be at the top. "L'Europe ne se fera pas pas d’un coup, ni dans une construction d’ensemble : elle fera par des réalisations concrètes, créant d’abord une solidarité de fait"1. Similarly, in 1976, the then British Foreign Minister, Anthony Crosland, came to recognize that economic growth and technical achievements, the greatest triumphs of recent modernization, had proved inadequate sources for collective satisfaction and hope. He said that a society that praises itself in the fact of individual consumption is finally unable to maintain our loyalty. In similar terms, The Stiglitz Commission (2008) and the High Level Experts Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress of the OECD were positioned, from where new indicators are chosen to measure development levels incorporating elements of welfare2.

3Europe seems to have a clearer socio-political-cultural component than undiscussed geographical perimeter. Hence it is easier, and perhaps more proper, to talk about the European Union (EU) than about Europe ; a grouping of 28 countries of EU plus Norway and Switzerland (“Europe-30”), plus Iceland, plus… A sum therefore of pre-existing parties (sovereign nation-states), unitas multiplex that discuss between the functionalist approach or the institutionalist one (confederal, with institutions such as the European Council and Parliament, combining Community Method and Intergovernmental Method). But how many parts ? Where does Europe start and end ? How far to go with the enlargement of the EU, how many new states fit or interest ?

4Thus, geographical Europe appears to be elastic, flexible, both in its external and internal borders ; with variable geometries, depending on the interests and objectives pursued. A Europe not of watertight containers (Faludi, 2104a) but rather of “à la carte borders” that delimit new territories through institutional, economic and territorial cooperation agreements : the cross-border 'transnational petites Europe' that give rise to macro-regional strategies (case of the Baltic, Danube, Atlantic, Adriatic and Ionian...). The main institutionalized practices (administration, economics, politics and socialization processes) challenge watertight compartments, opening the way to new “soft spaces” and “fuzzy boundaries” (Allmendinger et al. 2015 ; Paasi, 2014). This new geography demands a revision, not only of the institutions but of the way in which they operate, giving way to new forms of territorial governance (Farinós, 2014a) that promote in a more democratic and efficient way smart, sustainable and inclusive development for European citizens of today and of the future.

5In the process of European integration several dimensions can be distinguished (Laursen, 2013) : institutional, territorial and functional. All three have variable geometries, with different speeds : EU, Euro Area, Schengen Area, European Economic Area, Council of Europe, European Customs Union, European Free Trade Association... Borders not only look outward, they also exist inside ; and not only the political-administrative ones but also those that arise from inequality and territorial imbalances (the inner peripheries). In Europe, several centers and peripheries have been alternated and coexist, referred to in an iconic way (blue banana, pentagon, areas of global economic integration...) in multiple and well-known cartographies (see Zanin & Lambert, 2018) present in documents such as Europe 2000 and 2000+, ESDP, and the various ESPON Program projects (i.e. "Scenarios : ET2050", "EU 2020 Strategy : SIESTA", "Economic Crisis : ECR2", among others). There are therefore several Europes, or 'petites Europe', according to criteria of : geographical affinity or proximity (Nordic, continental, UK and Ireland, Baltics, South Europe, Central and Eastern Europe –see EC, 2017-), functional relationships or historical, or by its level of involvement in recent agreements.

6And how to keep the European project underway as a sustainable project in itself ? According to Gallopin (2003), for a system to be sustainable, it requires some generic components : the availability of resources ; adaptability and flexibility ; empowerment (ability to innovate and induce the changes necessary to adapt and achieve their goals) ; general homeostasis (ability of the system to maintain or preserve the values ​​of the essential variables, not only material but also and very especially symbolic) and self-dependence (ability to self-regulate to improve their interactions with the environment). In this last sense, the situation of Europe in the World, both geopolitically and economically, but also as a reference for the ideal of democracy and the social and legal state, has changed dramatically since the second half of the XXth century (see next section 2).

7One of the important differential characteristics of the EU project, despite the existence of a basis and shared principles, it is not a unitary space with neither common thought nor ideology. This forces the complicated and necessary exercise of consensus and the search for agreements and alternation between different visions, forced to cohabit in this shared space, and also within the nation states that compose it.

8Article 3 of thee New Treaty of the Union, agreed in Lisbon in 2007, establishes, among the fundamental objectives of the EU and in addition to the establishment of the internal market, to promote a balanced growth of the EU, creating employment opportunities and social progress (art. 174), combating exclusion and discrimination, promoting justice and social protection. To this should contribute an intelligent association and coordination of both administrations and policies and territories, looking for the territorial cohesion goal. According to the European Commission, territorial cohesion consists in guaranteeing the harmonious development of Europe as a whole and that European citizens can take full advantage of territorial resources’ spaces they inhabit. It is therefore a means to transform identity and territorial diversity into an asset on which to base sustainable development across the EU. However, it is in the current crisis situation when citizens perceive more clearly the breach of these objectives and more clearly question the Union project, just when it should be more based on cooperation and solidarity and a shared European intelligence.

9The globalization paradox formulated by Rodrik (2011) forces to choose only two of the following three elements : democracy, state and globalization (or rather the ability to be competitive within it). It therefore forces to have to give up one of them in order to meet the other two. The European project precisely tries to solve this paradox and represents an exceptional case. It has its own market oriented model, that to date had been democratic, fair and balanced (more social than territorially, something that sought to be equalized by moving the equality of citizens also to the territories -Davoudi, 2006-). It combines social and civil rights with environmental values ​​and sovereignty on its own resources. However, it is threatened by a crisis of identity and trust, and by the recent tendency to re-nationalisation and populism (as developed in the following two sections). Europe, rather than competing with the competitive advantages of others (with less democracy and social and territorial justice), should do so with the own. By trying to export the European social model (see Davoudi, 2009 ; Faludi, 2007), just that those inmigrants who arrive here wait to find.

Europe in crisis : the risk of ‘less Europe ’confirmed by statistics

  • 3In recent years, there has been an erosion in the public's willingness to continue offering their (...)

10If between years 2013-2015 there seemed to be some deliberative activity about the challenges, threats and challenges of the EU project from different fields, groups and think-tanks, it seems as if thereafter a kind of fatalism had entered into to which some facts have led to. As a report on the attitudes of elites towards the future of Europe showed (TRIIACH, 2017), the year 2016 was the "annus horribilis" of the European project. There had already been some important setbacks in the previous decade (the failure of the Treaty establishing a new Constitution for Europe, the sovereign debt crises, the Ukraine crisis). However, it is in that year that, with an unprecedented intensity, a double rejoinder to the European project crystallizes : internal (the end of the permissive consensus3 and Brexit), and external (end of the US strategic alliance in support of the EU project ; first with the change of view towards Asia of the Obama administration, then, and much more clearly, with the Trump government, which denies the principles of the European project and predicts its end).

11The EU is facing a triple crisis today : democratic (with the emergence of populisms), economic (weight loss and influence in international markets) and migration (combined with a significant loss of relative weight and aging of the European population). According to the data handled by Eurostat and the UN Statistical Division, from 2004 to 2015 Europe's share of global GDP (EU27) decreased from 26 to 22 % (a four-point loss similar to that experienced by the USA -28 to 24 % - and Japan -11 to 6 % - in the same period), while China goes from 5 to 15 %. On the other hand, although the Euro as a currency has a good global currency ('Special Drawing Rights'), it lost weight from 2015 to 2017 (from 33 to 30 %) in favor of Japanese currencies (from 7 to 8 %) and over all of China (from 0 to 11 %) (Source : International Monetary Fund). As for the population, if in 1900 it accounted for 25 % of the world population, in 1960 it was already only 11 %, 6 % in 2015 and it is expected to be reduced to 4 % in 2060. With an estimated average age of 45 years by 2030, compared to 33 global average (Rand Europe).

  • 4 In terriotrial and environmental matters, the Committee of Regions (CoR) asks the Commission to stu (...)

12Facing this triple crisis, a triple effort has been proposed : to reaffirm common values ​​and achievements ; updating its objectives ; clarification of competencies and their forms of governance. In this sense it is likely to have to review the Treaties in accordance with current needs and conditions, looking forward and avoiding re-nacionalisation. The perception by some European citizens of an insufficient or inadequate application in some cases of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality makes necessary a revision of the Treaties towards a new active subsidariety and a better dialogue with citizens (CoR, 2019)4. Only if the leadership is clear and explicit enough will it be avoided to reproduce old vices that prevent the necessary changes, that increasingly arise bottom-up and to which traditional modern states are not very sensitive, contributing to the emergence of populisms. The European project can allow progress towards a postmodern state model, characterized by : a reinterpretation of sovereignty ; the coexistence of multiterritorialities (without renouncing what is unique to each individual in their specific living space, which is already multiscale and multidimensional thanks to means of transport and new information and communication technologies) ; the reconsideration of perimeters and borders, now permeable and of diffuse limits (soft). In this new reality, sovereignty becomes flexible and shared, which leads to renunciation (by agreement and pact, 'foedus') of the use of force, defining instead new codes based on coexistence and stable conjunction and not unilateral interests (Farinós, Ojeda & Trillo, 2019).

13As EC itself (2012) noted : “incremental changes, small adjustments to the current policy framework will not do the job… bold, ambitious and coordinated policy actions are required, and must formulated in such a way that they speak directly to citizens, in order to stimulate the emergence of a fully fledged European mind and identity”. The aforementioned report came to say that the rebirth of the EU must come not from a romantic idea but from a European ‘Realpolitik’. Europe irretrievably lost ground, both economically and politically ; the pathway of solutions inevitably goes through reinforced political integration.

14The political legitimacy of the European project is to guarantee the prosperity and security of European citizens. The issue of security is one of the most recurrent in recent Eurobarometers about what is expected of Europe in relation to our neighbors (Russia, Africa, China), integrating immigration issues into the negotiation of our relations with the states of origin of migrants. The demand for greater security is specified in the fight against terrorism (82 %), immigration control (75 %), protection of external borders (71 %), the promotion of democracy and peace in the world (68 %), security and defense policy (66 %). But this security also takes other aspects : fight against unemployment (77 %), fight against tax fraud (75 %), environmental protection (67 %), Health and social security (63). Other issues such as security of energy supply (53 %), economic policy (52 %), agriculture (50 %) or industrial policy (47 %) are below, being also explicitly less desired items (ESPAS, 2016). These preferences coincide with the data produced by the Eurobaromer Survey 89.2 (European Parliament, 2018a), in which become more important : Environmental protection (75 % expect more EU involment than the present), Health and social security (69 %), Equal treatment of men and women (65 %), Energy supply and energy security (65 %).

15Regarding the economy, a more ambitious commercial policy is demanded in the service of European interests, which should be socially balanced. A recent European Parliament report (2018b) came to confirm that “With growth in the rest of the world continuing to outpace that of Europe, it is likely that intra-EU trade will continue to lose importance relative to external trade. This implies that the importance of the internal market relative to the global market will diminish. This centrifugal force is likely to have political implications… The EU will either have to accept more bilateralism itself (in which it might still remain a relatively large player) or try to forge a ‘global alliance to save globalization’”. For instance, regarding the fight against climate change, the responsibility rests with Europe. But Europe will not be able to lead this response alone, partners, including at the state, regional and local level, will be imperative to achieve the goals (China, Brazil & other SE Asia countries).

Options for a New / Alternative Economic Model

16The war of the economy under the old parameters is being lost, but it is possible, and necessary, to open other fronts of exchange based on new criteria that grant differential advantages, new windows of opportunity and non-tariff barriers, such as the new Sustainable Development Goals, a greater democracy and the maintenance of the valued 'European model'. It is worth asking how to achieve these changes : whether to combine the old and the new, and in what proportion, if through a radical change or a strategy in the middle. It is difficult to think about producing a change of these characteristics while maintaining the current state of affairs. The obvious loss of economic weight requires a change in orientation, a change in the production model (numerical and energy transition based on differential human capital) on which to base new intelligent competitive advantages adapted to the context and the particularities of the European space : a Smart Specialization Strategy (S3) at European level.

17Rifkin (2018) points out that with the change to the Internet of things platform and a Third Industrial Revolution, it is conceivable to increase aggregate energy efficiency by 60 % over the next twenty years. This would result in a spectacular increase in productivity, while leading to the transition to a structured society almost one hundred percent from renewable carbon energy and a very solid circular economy. All these are valuable concepts and arguments to the cause of the Green New Deal. In this regard, the European Council invites the Council and the Commission to advance their work on the conditions, incentives and the enabling framework that have to be established in order to ensure the transition to a climate-neutral EU, in line with the Paris Agreement (see European Council, 2019). European countries already have a good position regarding the National Adaptation Strategies and National Adaptation Plans (EEA, 2018).

  • 5 According to the Eurobarometer, European citizens recognize the value of the European project from (...)

18This new development model will have territorial effects and impacts. In Moisio’s conceptualization (Moisio, 2011, Moisio & Paasi, 2013), the internationalization of spatial policy regimes is associated with the contemporary capitalistic modes of production. The idea of competitiveness is not yet only a national issue but becomes a matter of European importance5. Not only in order to mantain positions at global level (some estimations about effects of EU integration in trade are from 25-50 %, and welfare from 2.3-14.2 % -see Mayer et al. 2018-) but also to develop new kind of advantages based on the new Green economy, cultural industry and fourth industrial revolution (Foundation Robert Schuman, 2019 ; PWC, 2018) ; as well as, and mainly, in order to facilitate a more balanced development among territories (Territorial Cohesion goal –see next section).

  • 6 Reports as ETUI aisbl, Brussels, Benchmarking Working Europe 2013, also are coincident with these a (...)

19Neverthless, in last years the EU lagging growth has not been evenly distributed and inequalities between EU members have been growing. This economic reality has direct impact on confidence on the EU project itself, by generating a new Geography of discontent (Dijkstra and al. 2018)6. The empirical analysis of anti-European integration voting across the EU has confirmed some basic beliefs about the drivers behind the geography of EU discontent : long-term economic and industrial decline emerge as two of the fundamental drivers of the anti-EU vote. Persistent territorial inequalities could lead to major political breakdown (Gordon, 2018 : 110) ; however, more than this, it is the long-term economic and industrial decline of places that makes a difference in the anti-system vote. Much more than immigration and trade, discontent against EU is fuelled by low levels of education, low employment opportunities, and a historical dependence on manufacturing. Authors concludes that richer places are more opposed to European integration than poorer ones (that Romero & Ariño (2016) called ‘the secession of the rich people’). According to the Pew Research Center, there are not only the countries that must host and cope with the waves of illegal immigration who believe that greater diversity makes living space worse (Greece, with 63 % of respondents, and Italy with 53 %), but also new member countries where the routes of these immigrants go through, such as Hungary (41 %), Poland (40 %), but also other nuclear ones they reach such as the Netherlands (36 %), Germany and UK (both 31 %). A new agenda for EU project itself would be built on a “sense of common purpose”, with new updated criteria and strategies instead of a “sense of survival” saving only those they can (New Pact for Europe, 2017).

20No one can doubt at this point that the possible diversification or direct transformation of our modes of production, consumption and exchange must be carried out through the concrete and massive participation of citizens, endorsed by suffrage, assuming the risks that the electoral confrontation on these aspects entails. Smart territorial cooperation strategies, which would allow for adequate specialization and complementarity, even in the models of production of goods and services, for a new European regionalism, can become concrete in an effective instrument. According to the Global Future Survey (Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2017), Europe is one of those who least believe in the intervention of the State in the Economy. However, it is appropriate to raise the focus from national to supranational (European) to regulate financial markets, find continental solutions and try to preserve the welfare model. The framework is no longer national, but supranational, in our European case, with a new revised regionalism (Farinós, 2014b). With a strategy that combines civil society (along the lines of the 'Good society' proposed by the Labour Party) and government, re-qualifying the political practice (of 'politics' and 'policies') through democratic governance at European level, on which to base clever territorial cooperation that makes territorial cohesion possible. Also review some traditional values, such as equality, as the best guarantee for the full enjoyment of individual freedom.

Produced space and production space : relations between territory and policies. What role for Spatial Planning ?

21What is the common future that is desired as a way out of the current crisis ? What is the model of Europe (weakened with a return to the old nationalisms of the states) and lifestyle that we want to impose and we are willing to accept ? Which is the role that the territory plays or should play (territorial resources, position, territorial structure ... that give it its attractiveness) in these decisions ?

22The EU project (its viability and achievements) can be interpreted both from the impact that community policies have on regions and member countries (predefined and pre-existing) and, alternatively, we are most interested in highlighting at this time, a process of creation of 'territory-ies' from the political action of the EU. There is evidence on the inherently spatial dimension of the political narrative of European integration (Faludi, 2010), often neglected in the political debates as well as in the conventional studies of Europeanization. We depart from the hypothesis that policies create ‘new territorialities’. In this regard, policies that have a marked territorial impact, such as cohesion, infrastructure, rural development, environment, deserve special attention ; as well as the progressive process of Europeanization of spatial planning policies of Member States (see Faludi 2014b & 2018).

23As Clark & Jonas (2008) underline, European spatial planning is one of the several “spaces of Europeanization” which make it possible to be forward on the EU project as a territorial polity. As Luukkonen pointed out, planning scholars have examined it from three perspectives : the development of the EU’s spatial planning, European spatial planning as a politics of scale, and (less frequently) the related practices of EU meta-governance. European spatial planning can be seen as a strategy for (European) space making, as a way to define the EU future model. There are three possible understandings of the Territorial Model concept (see Cruz Villalón, 2019) one can apply to EU :

24i) The way or result in which society has transformed a territory (occupation and use of the territory by a society that shapes it for its own interest).

25ii) The proposal to reorder or alter the organization of a territory (the spatial planning model for the future). These criteria at European level were raised in the ESDP document, imagining and reordering European spatial composition. The ESDP was identified as the vehicle for delivering this new approach. The core of ESDP is a “spatial planning approach” which aims at strengthening regional potentials through new forms of co-operation. Finally, the high-level strategic aspirational style of the ESDP and the transnational spatial visions moves towards more pragmatic and action oriented forms of planning, focusing on transnational spaces (see Adams and al. 2011).

26iii) As a synonym of the political-administrative organization, the territorial organization of the State (establishing EU space as possible object of government). The European spatial planning system does not represent an attempt by the EU to monopolize the right to speak authoritatively about European regions and places. It rather evidences a will to govern Europe as an identifiable political unit and to rework its spatiality. Spatial ontology of European spatial planning is soft, relational, networked and multilevel.

27Europeanization of spatial planning indicates wider societal changes, which stem from shifts in territoriality, governance and governmentality (see Lagendijk and al. 2009). These shifts resignified the understanding of the traditional relationship between the state and its territory leading to new forms of territoriality and governance (soft, transnational, flexible, multidimensional space).

28More attention has been paid to the second one. Researchers have explained the adoption of the EU’s spatial policy principles and mechanisms through EU policies applied by member states (Moisio and al. 2013), mainly Cohesion Policy. The three ‘fronts’ of action for achieving territorial cohesion as defined in the Green Paper (concentration, connectivity, and cooperation) envisage EU as a uniform spatial entity.

29However, the objective of territorial cohesion does not seem easy, beyond the achievements of the traditional regional policy, now cohesion policy, whose effects have come to contradict those of other European policies. Hence the need to integrate territorial policy concerns into these sectoral policies (territorial policy integration -TPI) as a key policy priority. TPI was defined as the attempt “... To integrate the territorial dimension into EU policies with the aim of achieving a coherent approach to the development of the EU territory, on the basis of the concept of territorial cohesion” (Luxembourg Presidency, 2005, p. 1) (in Schout & Jordan, 2007).

30Even though “Territorial cohesion” is a “Treaty objective”, its “conformance” in Cohesion Policy regulations for period 2014-20 is weak (Purushottam, 2015). The “Union Strategy” of “smart, sustainable and even growth” supported by a set of “thematic objectives” are at the forefront ; despite efforts to incorporate, ex post, the territorial dimension to the Europe 2020 Agenda (Böhme and al. 2013), and some limited progress to develop “integrated approach for territorial development” (mainly for transnational co-operation). Efforts in this regard include adoption of provisions such as CLLD’s (Community Led Local Development) and ITI’s (Integrated Territorial Investments). So, the precept of territorial cohesion potentially offers a unifying normative direction for the diversity of European planning styles and systems in the same way that the spatial approach was applied to the ESDP (Adams and al. 2011). European spatial planning is full of fuzzy concepts (differently interpreted in orde to adapt them to adapt them to specific contexts) whose function is to generate a consensus, also in terms as Territorial Cohesion and Polycentrism (Elissalde and Santamaria, 2018).

Territorial and Geopolitical Model

31As Moisio & Luukkonen (2014) pointed out, Spatial planning has been one of the key constituents of state territoriality since the 19th century, that Foucault (1991) conceptualized as the “governmentalization of the state”. More recently, after the Second World War, territory and geopolitics (both internally and more traditionally of an external type) return to topicality and importance in countries such as France (with the aménagement du territoire internally and the DATAR prospective externally), in Germany (since 1970 in CEMAT) and the Netherlands (trought their National Policy Strategies for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning and their incardination within the framework of the European space). At the EU level, this geopolitical interest is also presented today at both levels (internal and external).

  • 7 According to Eurobarometer 89.2 data from 2018, Europeans are divided in two when responding if the (...)

32Internally, the future course of action of the European project would be guided by functional and pragmatic needs, capable of welcoming all those who defend principles of equality, solidarity of interests for the common good and the quality of life (welfare) that is fair to all (fraternity). That is able to wipe out the current and growing social deficit (Fernandes & Maslauskaite, 2013), without that being done at the expense of ‘the others’, by seeking to balance security and solidarity concerns to enhance the notion of a ‘protective Europe’ while avoiding the pitfalls of a ‘fortress Europe’7.

33The document 'A new strategic agenda 2019-2024' (Council of the EU, 2019), a working guide for European institutions over the next five years, defines what the four main priorities should be : to protect citizens and freedoms ; develop a solid and dynamic economic base ; build a climate-neutral, ecological, fair and social Europe ; promote European interests and values on the world stage... and, it should be added, internally. All of them are elements that attract (Burrows & Burwell, 2017) and motivate many of the migratory movements, both legal and illegal, as the different reports of the International Center for Migration Policy narrate.

34Undoubtedly, this entails important challenges, not only that of security but also a more complex one such as the challenge of maintaining the system precisely for those who arrive attracted to him. These newcomers are not co-responsible for their creation, but they must be for their maintenance. Negotiation and inclusiveness in Europe (integration, non-assimilation or unique thinking) is a ‘sine qua non’ condition to fight against the demographic challenge and its effects.

  • 8 European countries are among the 25 most peaceful ones according to the Global Peace Index. Regardi (...)

35In this same sense point the conclusions of the ‘New Pact for Europe : First Report. Strategic Options for Europe's Future' (Emmanouilidis-EPC, 2013) : the state of the Union and complexity of current and future challenges require a more fundamental rethink of European cooperation and a longer-term approach aimed at strengthening the EU's ability to respond to the challenges that lie ahead, finding new ways to involve the public in policy-making, and boosting the EU's capacity to safeguard the fundamental rights of its citizens and guarantee their basic social rights by strengthening the Union's caring dimension8.

  • 9 In this sense, according to The German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Trends, the desirability of the (...)
  • 10 Flash Eurobarometer. Emotions and political engagement towards the EU. Report. https://www.europarl (...)

36Therefore, the challenge is to 'keep it inside', but also to know 'export it outside', in a proper balance that allows not to lose control, both internally (strengthen the EU project) and externally, making the EU a influential global player that improves their relative position in international relations9. According to ESPAS (2018) “The next decade will be defining for the future of Europe and Europe’s role in the world. Its ability to protect its citizens, develop a vibrant economy, to contribute to peace and development around the globe can make the difference in the multi-polar world of the 21st century.” According to the Flash Eurobarometer of 2019 (excluding UK)10, the idea of ​​the EU raise Doubts to 33 % of respondents, Hope to 28 % and Confidence to 27 %.

37Currently, certain processes are taking place that can affect social movements and the possibility of consolidating traditional European values through the persistent empowerment of organized civil society. Among these threats one can highlight (EESC, 2017) : the rise of populism and protectionism, population aging, increase of social inequalities and migrations. The great challenge is how to be able to bridge the distance between the will of the people and the action of government, between citizenship and state, which we have posed as postmodern. A challenge that also arises at EU level (Ulied, 2018).

38In sume, Europe has dominated the world during centuries. It has developed the values ​​of personal freedom, human dignity, market economy as well as modern science. European economies remain world leaders on social and economic progress and perform well on indicators of economic health but, above all, social ones (McKinsey Global Institute, 2015 : p. 9). The EU has no competitors with respect to the well-being societal, leading European countries the ranking, although with internal differences. Europe also has countries among the most egalitarian in the world (the Nordics and some Central Europeans such as Slovenia, Czech and Slovak Republics, Austria and Benelux). On the other hand, its leadership role is not so clear, and in the best case shared with the USA, Japan and Australia, regarding Economic Health. These indications make us think about the best strategy for Europe for the future. If it is possible and more convenient to maintain a defensive strategy (given the risks or threats, correcting some of their competitive deficiencies in models in which others are better positioned, and that are generating important menaces such as populism and disaffection of the project), in order to maintain the status quo. Or if, on the contrary, it is better to rely on strengths (the social model) and opotunities (new sustainable economic model hypocarbonic). Everything seems to indicate that more of the same will not be enough. The option that arises then is to support the European model of society, sustained on an adequate territorial model, nourished on a new sustainable productive model (Club Praxis, 2014). In that, the EU is a lonely leader, hence the need and convenience not only to consolidate it within but also to be replicated and shared outside, as a new geopolitical challenge in the European agenda.


39The EU is not the most prosperous traditional economy nor is it the leading edge in geopolitics and NTICs (as is happening with new countries as China), but in terms of environmental sustainability, cities, quality of life and welfare, fields in which others have not yet arrived. The EU can take competitive advantage of a dematerialized, sustainable economy and services for equality. That should be its development strategy, and engage the territorial model to that new development model. A new model of territorial development whose guiding principles are territorial cohesion and cooperation and governance. Within the current 'new big transition' (ecological, economic, social, urban, feminist, democratic… one), territorial dimension (consequently territorial policies and spatial planning) plays a key role in order to define futures in three related and strategic fields : new economic development model, new spatial planning models / trends, new geopolitics (within Europe as well as abroad ; EU in the world).

  • 11 As from the presidency of the Club of Rome was written last December 11 to the President of the Eur (...)

40At the moment, just when the EU project is more in question (from exceptional situations - such as Brexit, before, and now current COVID-19 pandemic- to the most recurrent difficulties in approving the multiannual financial framework of each programming period - as happened again on 12/20/2019 when the European Parliament suspended the negotiations without being able to close the agreement, as again when special rescue funds for EU states hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic should be decided-), also opens up new strategic opportunities with a marked geopolitical approach. Both internally (where reinforced cooperations may be revealed as an increasingly likely option in order not to block changes -without this meaning to create a closed ‘core Europe’- by improving relations between space and policy) or external (as leaders of a New Green Deal or a 'New Deal for Europeans' or a' New European Deal for People-Planet-Prosperity', as well as leader on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and social effects)11. Very recent events such as the Declaration of Climatic Emergency by the European Parliament (on 28.11.2019), the uncomfortable results of the 25 Conference of the Parties - COP25- (held in Spain -from 2 to 13.12.19), the presentation on 12.12.19 of the aforementioned EU Green Deal by Presidency of the European Commission, and the recovery plan and long-term budget for 2021-2027 support the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and investment in the green and digital transitions, all them are good examples of it ; concentrated in time but with important implications for the future.

  • 12 A synthesis could be seen atCommittee of the Regions (2018): Spatial Planning and governance within (...)

41This green and healthy European turn, which should be drawn from the political debate between political options of the opposite sign, to turn it into a matter of general and State interest with a very clear territorial character. Because of its economic but also, it should not be forgotten, social implications ; a ‘Just Transition’, marrying social security with green and healthy purposes. More than 20 years have passed since the approval of ESDP in Potsdam ; a document that laid important foundations for the development of any sectoral policy with territorial impact, but that always had an indirect application through alternative, increasingly intergovernmental and sectoral ways (the Territorial Agenda, Cohesion and Regional Policy, the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion and Multi-level Governance, the Barca Report, Community Strategic Guidelines on Cohesion, methods and measures for Cross-Border development planning as Interreg, ESPON, Natura 2000, Environment Action Program, LIFE Programs, Strategic Enviromental Assessment –SEA– Directive, Initiatives in European urban development...)12.

  • 13Both documents –ESDP and 2000 CEMAT Guiding Principles- avoid explicit ethical issues implicitly a (...)

42Now we are in a new moment of change, which makes ESDP’s review advisable, that would abound and maintain some issues that have been working with different levels of success, but that would make the underlying values more visible and clear ; unlike the one that happened in its first version (for the 15 Member States of that time)13. Some issues should take unavoidable part of this review ; among them, the following stand out :

43- Make the objective of Territorial Cohesion, in a green and healthy perspective, the core axis. Understood not only as a reduction of territorial imbalances (essential principle for the maintenance of the European project itself and to deal with the growing exclusionary nationalisms) but also attentive to the fundamental principle of coherence of sectoral policies, as only Spatial Planning can do. The financial aspect will continue to be central for this objective.

44- Review the idea of territorial articulation in terms of not only the market (economic integration) and communication infrastructure (necessarily prioritizing intermodality and non-polluting modes ; including self-supply energy), but also from a Green Infrastructure perspective, as the backbone of successive actions and projects of territorial transformation.

45- Not only Protected Areas will be part of this Green Infrastructure (and its future Directive to advance in The EU Strategy on Green Infrastructure - Communication from the Commission : Green Infrastructure (COM (2013) 249 final-) but also risk areas, through clear cartographies of obligatory observation for any territorial transformation. Progress could be made in the development of supra-regional and cross-border Green Infrastructures. At city level, open and community spaces, both developed and not, they should be part of the New Urban Agendas based on the objective of citizens' health (sustainable and healthy cities).

46- Greater attention should be paid to the second part of polycentric development, the first strategic objective of the ESDP : a new rur-urbany relationship (in terms of metropolitan regions and their governance, ecosystem services –including health- and circular economy, regenerative, sustainable, carbon sequestering, local Green mobility and local-close production -'food to fork 'corridors-…). This would allow to recover one of the axes of the previous action program of the Territorial Agenda in the beginning of the 2010s : the best articulation between urban planning (city) and spatial planning (territory). The various initiatives carried out so far would allow to show trends and territorial transformations whose recognition, as well as the evaluation of their effects and impacts, could be interesting reference guides to redefine current or budding territorial models that should be enhanced or modified.

47- Improve the practice and monitoring of the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Public Participation processes associated with the procedure, both in the sense of incorporating territorial issues in the scoping stage (and not only those natural and biodiversity) as in the improvement of their application and monitoring for any initiative co-financed with European funds.

48A common base is already available, although with some internal differences and different speeds at the level of each Member State. In the old production model the States alone cannot (so for example, in 2008 became clear that the financial crisis could not be contained in any one country, the only solution was to move towards more Europe in the form of a nascent banking union ; the same now in the current pandemic situation). However, it has a greater chance in the new model exposed ; in a more offensive strategy. This is the challenge, the focus, the ultimate goal.

49How to combine national and subnational levels with EU level, trough cooperation and multilevel coordination seems, again, the way to reinforce territorial cohesion as valid alternative for a renewed and strengthened EU Project ; as said. As strong differential trait in front of general-global trends (based on traditional modern State’s organization and hypercarbonic economic development models). In this sense, national interests (instead regional / local) and reinforced cooperations (intergovernmental) seems to win against Community Method and complementary Open Methods of Coordination. Spatial Planning, this time most clearly related with new / renewed development models (Green and Blue) and new territorial governance routines (in Post-modern States), represents an alternative way to a more smart, healthy, just and cohesive development and territorial and social cohesion. Against these new strong menaces, more territorial intelligence and alliances among territories (as EU Project was and should be) is needed, non less.

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1 Déclaration du 9 mai 1950 au Quai d’Orsay par Robert Schuman, ministre des Affaires étrangères.

2 In November 2018, published two reports: “Beyond GDP. Measuring What Counts for Economic and Social Performance” and “For Good Measure. Advancing Research on Well-being Metrics Beyond GDP” (available at

3In recent years, there has been an erosion in the public's willingness to continue offering their leaders a 'permissive consensus', where voters were generally loyal to the main parties and, with a few notable exceptions, content to defer decisions about European integration to their leaders” (TRIIACH, 2017). The appreciation and the value of the achievements and the maintenance of the community initiative is more enthusiastic within elite than in public. There is a pronounced divide between them in several important areas, in particular perceptions of the EU, integration and enlargement, and immigration.

4 In terriotrial and environmental matters, the Committee of Regions (CoR) asks the Commission to study, in each legislative file that is relevant, the need to carry out ex ante assessments of territorial impact (art. 5); calls on the EU institutions to strengthen multi-level cooperation to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and to further increase the participation of local and regional authorities in the decision-making process on climate matters (art. 32). (COR-2019-02550-00-01-PRES-TRA (EN) 17/27. Consolidation of the democratic base of the European Union and improvement of its governance).

5 According to the Eurobarometer, European citizens recognize the value of the European project from the point of view of economic stability and the maintenance of the four freedoms of movement: of products, services, labor and especially capital.

6 Reports as ETUI aisbl, Brussels, Benchmarking Working Europe 2013, also are coincident with these arguments: survival of European integration is threatened by growing divergence; divergence and structural reforms fuel social injustice; social injustice exacerbates anti-European populism.

7 According to Eurobarometer 89.2 data from 2018, Europeans are divided in two when responding if they must new integration steps be set without a EU Members being ready for it (multi-speed Europe): yes 44%, no 43%, although the 'yes' has decreased compared to 2017 data.

8 European countries are among the 25 most peaceful ones according to the Global Peace Index. Regarding international cooperation, according to OECD data referring to 2015, the EU was th biggest donor of development and humanitarian aid (74 billion USD, 56% of the total).

9 In this sense, according to The German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Trends, the desirability of the EU Leadership in World Affairs was 73% of respondents in Europe, 70% in the USA (compared to 83% of USA people who desires USA leadership) and 31% within Turkey (in front of 20% for USA, 16% for China and 14% for Russia in this case).

10 Flash Eurobarometer. Emotions and political engagement towards the EU. Report. [Accessed 09.11.19].

11 As from the presidency of the Club of Rome was written last December 11 to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen ( -accessed 02.01.2020-).

12 A synthesis could be seen atCommittee of the Regions (2018): Spatial Planning and governance within EU policies and legislation and their relevance to the New Urban Agenda. COTER, 22 p. (accessed 02.01.19).

13Both documents –ESDP and 2000 CEMAT Guiding Principles- avoid explicit ethical issues implicitly accepting the existing orderSuch omissions often say more about the underlying values, than the explicitly stated policy aims” (“An urban ethic of Europe”, 1998; -accessed 02.01.2020-).

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Joaquín Farinós-Dasí, « Reviving the EU Project : From values to new territorial development models », Géocarrefour [En ligne], 94/3 | 2020, mis en ligne le 21 septembre 2020, consulté le 28 octobre 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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Joaquín Farinós-Dasí

Professor at Department of Geography & IIDL (University of Valencia, Spain), Fundicot President and Director of Valencian Territorial Culture Chair

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