Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Cohesion and Subsidiarity: Towards Good Territorial Governance in Europe

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Cohesion and Subsidiarity: Towards Good Territorial Governance in Europe

Article excerpt

The message of this paper is twofold: (a) the pursuit of territorial cohesion, the importance of which the new European Constitution recognises, requires coordination of national planning systems; and (b) subsidiarity, a Community principle usually invoked to counteract it, should instead become the principle underlying a feasible and effective form of such coordination at the EU (European Union) level. Indeed, the Constitution should at least encourage planners to discuss principles of good EU territorial governance by addressing the performance of statutory planning systems in the common area of territorial cohesion. In brief, these principles might be termed vertical subsidiarity, horizontal subsidiarity, and the coordination between subsidiarity and cohesion.

European integration requires ... also new mental maps and removal of Cartesian inhibitions. (Williams, 1996, 264-65)

Territory in the new Constitution for Europe

Discussions on voting systems, Member State representation and the number of Commissioners have overshadowed innovations in the debate of the European Constitution (CRGMS, 2004). As explained in the introduction of this special issue, these innovations include the recognition of the territorial dimension of 'cohesion' (the Community principle introduced in the 1986 Single European Act), which perhaps more than any other represents the political will for European integration. Subsequently, 'Protocol No. 28 on economic and social cohesion' was formally approved as an addendum to the 1992 Treaty on European Union.

The section entitled 'Economic, social, and territorial cohesion' (Articles III-22O to III-224) of the new Constitution would substitute the current Title XVII ('Economic and social cohesion', Articles 158 to 162) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty). Without specifically mentioning territory, Article 158 establishes that 'the Community shall aim at reducing disparities between the levels of development of the various regions and the backwardness of the least favoured regions or islands, including rural areas'. For this purpose Article 159 states that 'Member States shall conduct their economic policies and shall coordinate them in such a way as ... to attain the objectives set out in Article 158', while the Community pursues action 'through the Structural Funds ... the European Investment Bank and the other existing financial instruments'. In particular, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), being the most effective among these instruments, 'is intended to help to redress the main regional imbalances in the Community through participation in the development and structural adjustment of regions whose development is lagging behind and in the conversion of declining industrial regions' (Article 160).

The novelty of the European constitutional project is not limited to the recognition of 'territorial' cohesion policies, but extends to the institutional modalities of such policies. In particular, Article III-221 announces possible 'European laws or framework laws' which 'may establish any specific measure outside the Funds, without prejudice to measures adopted within the framework of the Union's other policies'. Maybe it would require a constitutional expert to explain the concrete potentialities and limits of such an enunciation. However, planners may rightly wonder about possible connections with provisions concerning environmental policy (Articles III-233 and III-234). There it is stated that 'European laws or framework laws' may establish 'measures affecting ... town and country planning' and even 'land use', albeit 'with the exception of waste management' (Articles !!1-234). It is true that an almost identical provision (which so far has not been invoked) is found in the existing EG Treaty. But, this being a matter of practical need and of political willingness, the reasons for territorial cohesion could perhaps modify the scenario. …

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