Willem Salet, Andy Thornley and Anton Kreukels
In this book a comparative analysis is made of spatial planning strategies and metropolitan coordination of public and private action in 19 major city-regions of Europe. The crucial challenge of metropolitan policy coordination is the spatial complexity of social and economic activities in the context of institutional fragmentation and the resultant diversity of power coalitions. In this opening chapter we first discuss some important institutional changes at the macro level that are conditioning current dilemmas in European city-regions. We explore the shift from European welfare states to a more varied and complex pattern. In the welfare state era, the national government in most European countries protected its national economies strongly and often also orchestrated the supply of public amenities in metropolitan areas. Strategies of spatial coordination in urban regions were backed by the proactive involvement of national governments. Since the early 1980s two crucial trends have produced dramatic institutional shifts: the globalisation of the new information-led economy and the liberalisation of economic markets on the one hand, and - almost simultaneously and to a considerable degree linked - the emergence of a new differentiation in intergovernmental relationships on the other. This latter trend had a major effect on the centrality of the former national 'welfare state' with shifts to both supranational and decentralised arenas. National governments still have a strong stake in metropolitan development, but the policy arena has turned into a 'multi-actor and multilevel game' (Hooghe and Marks, 2001). The challenge for metropolitan governance and spatial policy coordination is increasingly complicated under these dynamic and more open-ended circumstances.
Next, the internal dynamics of urban regions are analysed. The metropolitan arena is facing new, often paradoxical challenges in its institutional and spatial development. Devolution of governmental competencies has increased local