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The Making of the European Spatial Development Perspective. No Masterplan - Review

Book by Andreas Faludi and Bas Waterhout

by Luisa Pedrazzini

Andreas Faludi and Bas Waterhout, the authors of The Making of the European Spatial Development Perspective, assert that the target group of this book is essentially identifying with who are implied in European spatial planning.
Trying to define the target group in a better way, the authors say that it might be thought of in terms of three concentric circles: "Those immediately involved form the innermost circle. It is to this group the book will, hopefully, be of most relevance. Professionals engaged in the application of the ESDP, in one way or another, form the second circle. Students entering the field of planning form the third circle".
To state the true range of those interested in these issues is largest compared with the elite defined by the authors: it is demonstrated by the increased interest on European spatial policies, given the awareness of their impact on European regions and by the relevance of spatial development issues in the Community programmes.
It is recognised that the EU has an important influence on spatial structure with its instruments and sectoral programmes such as R&D, the European Investment Bank, the Common Agricultural Policy, the European Regional Development Found, Trans European Network and Environmental Policies.
Despite the fact that territorial and spatial planning are still member states competence, as put forth in the Union Treaty, authors highlight that these themes are becoming priority issues in recent European policies. Art. 16 of the Amsterdam Treaty identifies the theme of territorial cohesion and the importance of a sustainable and balanced spatial development. The Commission also strengthens its spatial development policies, by placing itself along side state and region competencies.

Within this background the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) looked at studies analysed in the book of Andres Faludi and Bas Waterhout is a little more clear. This is the first complete document containing addresses and guidelines for European spatial development; it was formally adopted on May 11, 1999 in Potsdam by EU member states. The ESDP is published in eleven official EU languages, issued in 40-50,000 copies and so it is considered the most international planning policy document that exists. Despite this fact it is one of the least known documents both among planners and citizens, as is defined by Sir Peter Hall in the foreword "a rather esoteric subject".
Its adoption substantially passed under silence in the world of planners, as wrote in the foreword by Peter Hall: "Even those claiming the title of professional planner may not know too much about it. The same could probably have been said of the Treaty of Rome when it was signed by six European countries in 1957, an event which apparently went almost unreported in the British media. Ignorance can sometimes have serious consequences. In fact the ESDP is likely to have profound consequences for the lives of the 300 million people of the European Union and the may others soon to join it".

The Making of the European Spatial Development Perspective, is a very comprehensive account of the process of preparing, negotiating and adopting the ESDP. It is a important book offering a snapshot of contemporary European spatial planning. Moreover, considerable attention has been given to the role of the European Commission and CSD (Committee for Spatial Development), within are represented Member states and experts of the Commission, constituting the 'European vanguard' of Europe's spatial planning and territorial cohesion process. In the book Community programmes and documents are reviewed, the role carried out by DG Regio (former DG XVI) of the European Commission, the main promoter of policies with spatial impact, is analysed. DG Regio manages the second largest budget (after the Common Agricultural Policy - CAP) amongst Community policies.
Reviewing the last ten years, probably the most active in the history of European spatial planning and cohesion process, it could be inferred the elitist character of that process (at least in the initial phase of the making of the ESDP) performed substantially in a core area within a 500 kilometres circle around Luxembourg, involving in a relevant way three countries: France, The Netherlands and Germany. It was based at first on the French centre-periphery model and then integrated with the German federal-regional one.

Different approaches to spatial planning are explained in an effective way in the book, on the basis of a ten year process of negotiation between the member states for the construction of the ESDP, started in Nantes (1989) and finished in Potsdam (1999). For example, highlighted are the hesitations of some South Europe countries which feared spatial planning and the creation of a Spatial planning observatory as instruments used to potentially reduce its share on Structural Founds. Also highlighted is the request of southern countries for the need to put in evidence issues such as cultural landscape and cultural heritage, missing in the early version of the ESDP, but essential issues in a sustainable development policy concept.
Another theme illustrated by the authors is the difficulty of conceptualising and visualising shared European feature, sometimes shaped on national concepts and varying between the centre-periphery model ('blue Banana' of DATAR) and federal-polycentric model ('European brunch of grapes' of Kunzmann and Wegener). We are reminded that in the first official version of the ESDP (Nordwijk 1977) one map was much criticised: it was the map of the European distances, still reflecting a centre-periphery model of Europe, considered very contradictory compared with the polycentric feature stated in the ESDP. The rejected map was modified in the final version approved in Potsdam.
There is another approach to the idea of spatial planning by the Commission, due to the fact it is not a Community competency. If spatial planning is about strategy, then competency is a non-issue. In this case strategy is the overriding theme that guides policy results.

The conclusion underlined that the process is still evolving, after the adoption of the ESDP in Potsdam and the promotion of the Action Programme of Tampere, aiming to give reality to the ESDP policy options, many challenges are still ahead, tasks to do. Many are the issues for reflections in a Europe still characterised by different speeds toward a common idea of spatial planning. Studies, analysis and scenarios make evident the heterogeneous situation on spatial planning in Europe, as well as "no consensus on the meaning of the terms 'metropolis', 'agglomeration', 'gateway' 'rural area' and 'urban network'". There is still much work to do to harmonise the language and styles of communication before sharing spatial development concepts.
Another theme reflected upon is the meaning of globalisation in planning, related in particular to the large spatial impact of Community policies. about this the authors affirm: "The world is becoming more and more 'globalized'; cross-border, transnational and international planning therefore pose many more challenges. The ESDP represents the most sustained effort so far to confront these challenges, thus making it worthy of study". Among these challenges; to face with adequate and comprehensive instruments spatial issues, using structured knowledge system and sharing themes and issues among regions to face and solve them together.

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