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Diversity of regions is an asset for Europe

Publication date 10.11.2006 10.57
Press release -

How could Europe's regions be made to develop more evenly? Director generals responsible for spatial planning are meeting to discuss this crucial issue on 16.11.2006 in Espoo, Finland. Around 60 director generalsand experts from virtually all of the EU member states, the EU Commission, candidate countries, Norway and Switzerland will participate in the meeting, which is being hosted by Pekka Kangas, Director General of the Finnish Environment Ministry's Land Use Department.

"Balanced territorial development does not mean that all regions should become more similar - and in fact great regional diversity is a strategic asset for Europe, says Kangas. "The challenge is rather to make sure that we take advantage of these differences, and recognise the respective strengths of each region."

Kangas believes that it is not possible, for instance, to make every European region an engine for growth in high-tech or information technology. Regions' advantages may be derived from factors such as their geographical location, with certain regions being well positioned to serve as logistical gateways to Russia and Asia, for example.

The meeting of the director generals will also examine the draft for The Territorial Agenda of the EU. The agenda aims to make territorial cohesion as important a dimension of the future development of the EU as social and economic cohesion. This draft agenda is scheduled for approval by an Informal Ministerial Meeting in May 2007 during the coming German EU Presidency.

Expert seminar to assess threats and opportunities

The European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON) is holding a major seminar on 14-15.11.2006, also in Espoo, Finland, where contributions from more than 200 European researchers will help to provide a basis for the high-level planning officials' discussions.

Researchers believe that Europe's regions will face major new challenges in the near future, including ageing populations, the economic impacts of globalisation, climate change and energy issues. They want to encourage policy-makers to find ways to help Europe's regions to adapt to these inevitable changes, according to their varying capabilities and strengths.

Problems associated with ageing populations are particularly faced by Finland and Italy, reflected in imbalances in labour markets and the growing demand for social and health services. Finland nevertheless has many advantages over other parts of Europe, including an effective educational system, high levels of safety and security, and relative freedom from natural hazards.

One pronounced spatial trend in Europe is the increasing concentration of economic activities in the core region of Central Europe. Only a few metropolitan areas outside this core area seem to have the capacity to grow significantly, with Helsinki being one of them. This centralisation process can be expected to continue unless new policies are shaped to promote regional cohesion more effectively.

For more information: Pekka Kangas, Director General, Land Use Dept., Ministry of the Environment +358 50 5599138 (Director Generals meeting). Ulla Koski, Director of Spatial Planning, Ministry of the Environment +358 50 3006358 (Director Generals meeting). Harri Pitkäranta, Councellor, Ministry of the Environment, +358 40 5061170 (ESPON). Ilkka Mella, Counsellor, Ministry of the Interior, +358 40 5695 329 (ESPON). Anne Brax, Communications manager, Ministry of the Environment, +358 50 567 5381