Wikt or Szydarowski, ESPON EGTC Director

Dear readers,

As we live through yet another COVID-19 year, in TerritoriALL we seek answers to a fundamental question: what is quality of life? For policymakers, it is the ultimate goal and the driving force when designing public policies. For people, it is what makes a place worth living in, working in or visiting. But do we all share the same understanding of and values for what matters in our lives? Has the pandemic been changing our perceptions and priorities, and is it possible to measure the impact of public policies on what we consider essential in our lives? 

Evidence from ESPON research, summarised in our recent policy brief on the Quality of Life, which we published together with the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, shows that we can measure this impact even at the territorial level. 

And Andrej Vizjak, the Minister for the Environment and Spatial Planning of Slovenia, underlines that quality of life is among the main priorities of the Slovenian Presidency, and notes that quality of life is an individual and societal value with a territorial dimension.

Policies affect the quality of life through different channels, says Romina Boarini, Director of the Centre for Well-Being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunity of the OECD, while describing the impact of COVID-19 on people’s lives and the effort to build back better after the pandemic.

ut we cannot have an economic recovery without maintaining sound social security for all and implementing the principle of solidarity, notes Andrej Zorko, EESC Workers’ Group member.
How successful recovery will be, depends greatly on our ability to respond to these new challenges, to make sure that the transition to the ‘new normal’ does not leave rural areas behind, points out Massimiliano Mascherini, Head of the Social Policies Unit in Eurofound.

Smart villages can support this effort and improve access to services for rural areas, helping citizens take ownership and responsibility for their territories, explains Frank Bogovic, Member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the Intergroup on Rural, Mountainous and Remote Areas.

Participatory planning is also the quest of the international consultation ‘Luxembourg in transition’. Marie-Josée Vidal, Director-General of the Department of Spatial Planning, analyses the process of developing a more sustainable territorial vision that will create an integrated cross-border functional region.

Similarly, Sandrine De Meyer, from Perspective.Brussels, describes how Belgium is exploring synergies between the Territorial Agenda 2030 and the Urban Agenda to protect open spaces and limit urban sprawl

Things are more complex when it comes to places with a great diversity of natural and cultural environments, such as the Alps. For Alenka Smerkolj, Secretary-General of the Alpine Convention, quality of life is hard to define, as every person understands and perceives it differently. That is why underlying data is key for policymaking

An example of how to use data to support policymaking is the Atlas on Quality of Life in Slovenia, which aims to place quality of life in Slovenia in a European context, with a selection of the 40 most representative indicators.

Lili Madjar, Director of the Regional Agency of the Ljubljana Urban Region, reminds us that the concept of quality of life also differs among regions, and these different perceptions should be considered when planning development and measuring the results achieved.

Culture and tourism are two aspects that are directly linked to quality of life. Victoria Ateca-Amestoy and Andreas Joh. Wiesand from the ESPON HERIWELL project and Cristina Nuñez, Director of NECSTouR, provide us with insights into how these two sectors can support well-being and local economies in the post-pandemic era. 

Finally, you can always read the latest insights from our ESPON projects and publications, and also see an update of activities for the upcoming French EU Council Presidency.

Enjoy your reading!

This article appears in the Quality of Life Issue of TerritoriALL

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This article appears in the Quality of Life Issue of TerritoriALL