4 mins

Territorial Agenda in practice: 6 Pilot actions

Kai Bohme

In Europe, increasing inequalities between people and between places, as well as unsustainable development, have reached a critical level.During the COVID-19 pandemic, spatial inequalities between places and societal groups increased even further. These growing spatial inequalities risk undermining the basis on which the EU and countries, cities and regions across Europe build their success.

Therefore, concrete action is needed at all geographical and governance levels to adequately address the territorial impacts of sectoral policies and ensure positive future perspectives for all people, communities and places In Europe.

The Territorial Agenda 2030 seeks to contribute to sustainable development and to keeping Europe together. The overall aim of the Territorial Agenda 2030 is to ensure that the need for a sustainable future for all places and people is addressed appropriately. To achieve this, it has identified two overarching objectives - a Just Europe and a Green Europe - and, within these, six priorities for developing the European territory as a whole and all Its places.

The Territorial Agenda 2030 will be agreed upon at an informal meeting of the ministers responsible for spatial planning, territorial development and/or territorial cohesion on 01 December 2020. In the run-up to this meeting, everybody can follow the development of the document at the website of the Territoriall Agenda.

TeritoriALL asked Kai Bohme, founder and director of Spatial Foresight, that supported the preparation of the first pilot actions to explain their importance and the steps ahead for their implementation.

TerritoriALL: Why is it important to have pilot actions for the Territorial Agenda?

Agreeing on nice words is the easy part. The hard work follows when the agenda needs to be put into practice. The priorities spelled out in the Territorial Agenda 2030 need to be supported by the actions of committed players. Actions putting the Territorial Agenda into practice can be taken at any governance level and can vary in character and focus.

“The Idea for these pilot actions actually draws on an ESPON study on the European Territorial Reference”

Indeed, all key players are asked to take action to implement the Territorial Agenda2030 in the context of their regular mandate. Only then can spatial inequalities and societal transformation towards a carbon- and climate-neutral economy be addressed appropriately.

At present, six pilot actions are In preparation and will be launched at the informal ministerial meeting in December. The idea for these pilot actions actually draws on an ESPON study on the European Territorial Reference Framework. Following a large workshop during an ESPON seminar in Vienna in December 2018, the project team developed initial ideas for possible pilot actions. This was an important stepping stone for the current work and helped to kick-start the discussion on pilot actions.

The sixpilot actions demonstrate, test and develop practices that can contribute to achieving the Territorial Agenda 2030 priorities. They mirror the increasing recognition of the importance of place-based policies by showing how the territorial dimension of regional, national and European policies can be actively addressed. They focus on learning, sharing best practices, joint working groups developing ways forward, and implementation. Everybody is encouraged to closely follow them, take inspiration and come forward with proposals for new actions.

TerritoriALL: What are these pilot actions?

As you can see at the website of the TA2030 the six pilot actions have broad spatial and thematic coverage and illustrate the diversity of possible applications of the Territorial Agenda. They address different types of territories, including cities and small towns (‘Alpine towns for citizens’, ‘Small places matter’), rural and remote areas (‘Climate change adaptation and resilience through landscape transition’, ‘A future for lagging regions’), and functional cross-border regions (‘Territorial vision for a cross-border functional region’). The pilot action ‘Understanding how sector policies shape spatial (im-)balances’ will be implemented in different types of territories.

“The six pilot actions demonstrate, test and develop practices that can contribute to achieving the Territorial Agenda 2030 priorities

The six pilot actions address a wide range of spatial development topics, from decarbonisation, resilience and climate change adaptation to territorial impact assessments, participatory governance approaches and vision building. Most of the pilot actions cover more than one priority of the Territorial Agenda 2030.

TerritoriALL: What are the next steps?

Every pilot action involves partners from different European countries. At present, the national or regional authorities leading the work are reaching out to possible partners to join the pilot actions - if you are interested get in contact via the website.

Together with their partners, they will refine the scope of the pilot action and agree on the aims and how to ensure that the pilot action delivers useful results. Most of the pilot actions have no or only very limited dedicated funding.

Therefore, it is important that the partners participating can envisage direct benefits from the work on the pilot action and have an idea of how they want to use the outcomes later on.

At the informal ministerial meeting in December, the pilot actions will be presented and launched. Depending on their respective action plans, they will run for around 1-2 years. Thereafter, the teams will share lessons learned with the Network of Territorial Cohesion Contact Points to allow all countries and players to benefit from their work and apply some of the lessons where appropriate.

Of course, we hope that the six pilot actions currently in preparation will not be the only ones. There are expectations that this work will inspire more pilot actions. It would be great if we could see a few new pilot actions every year. The aim is a continuous flow of pilot actions that contribute to achieving the Territorial Agenda priorities.

If ESPON wants, it can play an important role in implementing the Territorial Agenda and supporting new pilot actions.

This article appears in the A regional geography of COVID-19 Issue of TerritoriALL

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This article appears in the A regional geography of COVID-19 Issue of TerritoriALL