6. Territorial cohesion:  a multiscale approach

The objective of territorial cohesion has since the adoption of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty set the agenda for policies and activities concerned with ‘spatial coordination’. Territorial cohesion has effectively replaced the terminology of ‘spatial planning’ and ‘spatial development’ in the EU’s discourse. However, at the core of territorial cohesion and European spatial planning lie the same concerns, namely in relation to achieving spatial balance, sustainable development, and socio-economic wellbeing. A better coordination of activities across spatially-relevant policy sectors, across different levels of governance, and across administrative, institutional and cultural boundaries is considered important for territorial cohesion, with spatial planning offering a useful approach to pursue such objectives.

Yet, and in spite of much debate about possible interpretations and applications, the objective of territorial cohesion remains somewhat elusive. Many questions remain over how spatial coordination might best be achieved in different contexts and through which instruments. While attempts have been made to give ‘territorial cohesion’ a more central role in the EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020, next to the longstanding objectives of economic and social cohesion, the policy is arguably not yet an integrated ‘territorial cohesion policy’ but maintains a largely thematic focus in pursuit of the EU’s competitiveness and employment agenda. Territorial cohesion is, however, being pursued through experimental initiatives to promote multilevel and multisector governance solutions in transnational spaces (e.g. macro-regional strategies) as well as in regional and urban contexts (e.g. ITI’s).

While the focus on this track is on territorial cohesion, papers are also invited that discuss questions of interest to the AESOP Thematic Group on ‘Transboundary spaces, policy diffusion and planning cultures’ more generally. Topics that could be addressed in this track, among others, are: how the objective of territorial cohesion is being defined and pursued in different contexts, through different policies and across different spaces; the effects of economic or political crises on territorial cohesion; how territorial cooperation initiatives seek to achieve territorial cohesion across collaborative spaces and which (spatial) outcomes are envisaged or have already been achieved; and how territorial cohesion is being pursued through EU Cohesion Policy (or other EU sectoral policies) in different spaces and places and which lessons can be learned from this for the future orientation of EU policies.