Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Territorial Cohesion, Economic Growth and the Desire for European 'Balanced Competitiveness'

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Territorial Cohesion, Economic Growth and the Desire for European 'Balanced Competitiveness'

Article excerpt

EU spatial policy upholds the need to proactively counterbalance the negative effects of increased inter-European competitiveness brought about by the 'single market' and globalisation. As global economic integration continues to create interdependencies among nations and localities, competition for scarce inward investment continues to intensify. As these economic trends continue, and as spatial planning takes on growing significance within the EU, there remains uncertainty about the role of spatial policy in the inward-investment process. The market and competition-oriented spatial development content of the ESDP questions the coherence and effectiveness of this spatial strategic document in tackling the EU economic development ethos. This paper addresses how spatial planning contributes to the competition for foreign direct investment and provides an invaluable window onto the articulation of global and local economic and political processes, drawing conclusions on the concept of territorial cohesion, balanced competitiveness and the implications for European spatial development.

Adding to the previous notions of economic and social cohesion identified in Article 3 and Article 158 of the European Community Treaty, the text of the Constitution for Europe has embodied the territorial dimension of European development policies with greater political significance than ever before. This special issue of Town Planning Review provides the reader with a wide ranging discussion on the development, ethos and possible delivery mechanisms of territorial cohesion. This paper, more specifically, is centred on a reflection about a persisting tension and explores the potential mismatch between the implementation of the political objective of territorial cohesion and its contextual economic reality.

Territorial cohesion has the aim of combating territorial disparities to achieve a more spatially balanced pattern of economic development by securing the coordination and coherence of development policies (CEC, 2004, 28). The main concern with this objective relates to the unevenness and, by implication, the concentration of economic activity within particular territories of the European Union (EU) and its implications. The message outlined by the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) is clear - market forces alone will not result in balanced economic development across the Union as a whole and eastern enlargement will only serve to double the existing regional disparities (CEC, 2003, 38). The fact remains that, as global economic integration continues to create interdependencies among nations and localities, competition for inward investment continues to intensify (Phelps and Raines, 2003). Nevertheless, as the paper by Polverari and Bachtler elsewhere in this issue also reminds us, the economic geography literature points to the fact that internationally mobile investors remain, to a greater or lesser extent, embedded in particular places (Yeung, 1998). Political geographers emphasise the contribution of local politics to processes of economic globalisation (Jessop, 1999). That is, the economic flows orchestrated by multinational companies are fixed and valorised in distinctive national and local modes of social regulation (Peck and Tickell, 1992).

This paper's key objective is to discuss the paradox associated with the notion of 'balanced economic competitiveness' in the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) and planned economic growth. Balanced competitiveness has been referred to as the attempt to achieve a better balance between competition and cooperation so that the whole European territory can reach the optimum level of competitiveness (first draft of the ESDP, cited in Faludi and Waterhout, 2002). We suggest that the ongoing emphasis on polycentric development might inform a shift towards viewing foreign direct investment (FDI) and spatial planning as ingredients in the production of economic growth in regions away from concerns to redistribute or compensate such regions. …

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