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New measures required to ensure the balanced development of the european territory and its regions

Publication date 17.11.2006 11.15
Press release -

Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of the Interior

The next 20-30 years will present new challenges for Europe, but the European Union does not yet have the policy solutions to meet these challenges. This was the conclusion of a scenario report presented at the ESPON research programme seminar in Espoo 14. - 15.11. by an international team of researchers working on regional trends perspectives and policy impacts in Europe. Over 200 researchers from all over Europe attended the seminar.

The main results of reports of the ESPON programme drawn up by an extensive research teams were presented to the audience, which included many Director Generals responsible for regional planning in Europe.

According to the researchers, the significant issue is that the challenges faced in different areas of Europe vary and that EU regional policy in its current form is not enough to guarantee cohesion in the development of different areas.In addition, the Lisbon strategy designed to improve the competitiveness of the EU seems to come up empty handed in many areas when confronted by fundamental long-term issues. The main issues to considered deeper include the rapid ageing of European populations, accelerating globalisation, rising energy prices and climate change with its diverse consequences for regions and cities.

European regions may find themselves in situations that can only be resolved accepting short term and effectively poor solutions. "Is building new roads the answer to traffic congestion and should the changes resulting from climate change in Southern Europe be accepted without taking any preventative measures" asks the report.

In the ESPON programme for applied territorial research, one project has drafted various alternative futures and scenarios for the development of Europe.According to the report, developmental differences among the different regions in Europe will come to a head if the EU only aims strengthening its current strategy to promote international competitiveness. For example, the Gulf of Finland zone between Helsinki, Stockholm, Tallinn and St. Petersburg could develop into one of Europe's metropolitan growth areas. However, measures supporting territorial cohesion would be needed not to risk the development of Eastern and Northern Finland as well as in Estonia and Sweden.

According to the researchers, Europe requires a new proactive strategy for European territorial cohesion. Current general measures aimed at creating territorial cohesion and balance and strengthening competitiveness are inadequate. New, more ambitious goals and policies are needed. This requires recognising the diversity among the various regions in Europe as potentials and taking better advantage of potentials in regional and national development. The researchers estimate that modern and efficient strategies should include significant investment by the public sector in education, research & development as well as social and health care services, in addition to increasing competitiveness and productivity growth, in order to ensure places that are attractive for investment and people. According to the report, these aspects are already highly considered in the Nordic societies.

The Director Generals discussed the process concerning the territorial cohesion of the EU in their separate meeting held on November 16, 2006. The meeting discussed the draft document entitled "The Territorial Agenda of the European Union". The purpose of the territorial agenda is to promote economic growth and sustainable development by strengthening the territorial cohesion within Europe and by taking advantage of the various regional strengths of Europe. A significant number of countries considered it important that measures to combat and adapt to climate change should be closely linked to the territorial agenda. The aim is to ratify the document during an informal ministerial meeting organised by the German EU Presidency in Leipzig in May 2007.

The Meeting of Director Generals, chaired by Director General Pekka Kangas, involved Director Generals and experts from nearly every EU country, the European Commission, EU candidate countries, Norway and Switzerland.

For more information

Mr Pekka Kangas, Director General, Ministry of the Environment,
tel.+358 (0)50 559 9138 (Meeting of Director Generals)

Ms Ulla Koski, Director, Spatial Planning, Ministry of the Environment,
tel.+358 (0)50 300 6358 (Meeting of Director Generals)

Mr Harri Pitkäranta, Counsellor, Spatial planning, Ministry of the Environment, tel.+358 (0)40 506 1170 (ESPON)

Mr Ilkka Mella, Counsellor, Ministry of the Interior,
tel.+358 (0)40 569 5329 (ESPON)