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Outlook of the Portuguese presidency

Ana Seixas

As we face great social and economic disruption owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and a high risk of increased disparities and inequalities between people and places, it is more relevant than ever that we consider the pandemic?s territorial impacts in the framework of territorial development and cohesion in Europe.

We are all living and experiencing a global pandemic, and facing the same economic and social impacts, which can lead us only to the belief that strategic solutions cannot be based on addressing one factor alone but must holistically take into account the interplay of all factors involved. It has become apparent that the economic and social effects of this pandemic will severely increase disparities and inequalities throughout the world and leave places and people behind with regard to development.

We are discovering that an adequate response can occur only if there are strong cross-sectorial approaches and if there is an understanding of places more in regard to their functional relationships than in regard to their administrative boundaries. We are also experiencing the need for a multiscale joint and coordinated effort, whereby the EU and its Member States, regions, cities and stakeholders each play a role in responding to the global challenge and its differentiated territorial impacts.

We have become aware that the economy?s recovery can be sustainable only if transition models help us to become a cleaner, more circular and digital economy and lead us towards a greener and more just and inclusive Europe.

The Territorial Agenda 2030 is also more relevant than ever, as the strategic framework for territorial development and cohesion in Europe seeks to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable future for all places and people by paying more attention to the diversity and specificity of places and their different potentials and challenges. However, it is also even more relevant because it recognises the greater challenges and trends that Europe is facing beyond this pandemic, namely climate change and sustainable development, demographic changes and the digital transition, and how these challenges and trends will have significant effects on territorial cohesion in Europe.

More than ever, ESPON can play a decisive role in collecting and storing data, developing new and more accurate indicators and better monitoring territorial effects and evolution, and helping to design new policies and better governance responses.

In the first semester of 2021, Portugal will take over its fourth Presidency of the Council of the European Union. As in 2007, this will happen after an informal ministerial meeting and the adoption of the Territorial Agenda, and, as before, we want to ensure its continuity and momentum. We want to develop and implement actions for communication at European, national and local levels and to inspire and engage the relevant stakeholders in the priorities and implementation of the Territorial Agenda 2030. Six pilot actions will gain momentum during the Portuguese Presidency, and we will be able to start seeing some progress and assess their implementation.

Through the German Presidency, we now share the collective vision of the New Leipzig Charter, which will guide our cooperation and governance efforts on urban matters. Despite being a national competence of Members States, urban policies have long been promoted under cohesion policy. This has fostered a convergence between Member States, the Commission and regions and cities of all sizes and has led to the de facto sharing of responsibilities for urban policies. The European Urban Initiative proposal builds on this effort and presents us with the opportunity to strengthen the bridges we have built so far.

"We are discovering that an adequate response can occur only if there are st rong cross-sect orial approaches"

Under the Portuguese Presidency, besides the informal meetings of national Contact Points for Territorial Cohesion and Directors-General for Territorial Cohesion, we will host the ESPON week. In the face of the evolution of the current pandemic, it is still uncertain if and when the Portuguese Presidency will have in-person meetings. Regardless, the ESPON week is due to take place in June 2021.

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
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