A recently published special issue in the journal Transactions of AESOP reflects on the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) – more than 20 years after its initial publication and shortly after the release of newest ‘European planning documents’ (EU Territorial Agenda 2030 & New Leipzig Charter) at the end of 2020. The special issue features an introduction and five original papers which explore the legacies of the ESDP and the present and future prospects for European territorial development and urban policy. The intention of the special issue is to ‘look back to look forward’: While the star of European spatial planning has waned since the publication of the ESDP, spatial challenges remain ever present in Europe, and the ESDP, its ideas and its reception might hold some answers regarding how to address them.

The special issue includes two contributions from the SPS researchers:

Andreas Faludi revisits  the ESDP in view of the ‘poverty’ of territorialism, linking it to EU member states as being regarded as sovereign. In areas which they have not conceded to the European treaties, like spatial planning, policy is therefore an matter of agreement. Eventually, the European Commission therefore ended its support, banking  on an EU policy of territorial cohesion instead. It’s introduction was overshadowed by the demise of the European Constitutions, eventually to be replaced by the Lisbon Treaty, by which time momentum had been lost. The paper looks at three alternative scnearios held by planners of various stripes, including the author, as to the future of the ESDP/territorial cohesion policy before its demise. It comes to the conclusion that, rather than by a revival of anything like the ESDP, the future will be marked by the recognition of the existence of overlapping networks and of their fuzziness. The metaphor advanced of Europe as an archipelago, with member states like  islands being embedded in overlapping functional relations well captures this. Rather than thinking of the EU as either intergovernmental or supranational, one should therefore think of it therefore as sui generis – one of its kind.

Eva Purkarthofer’s article explores the ‘enticement of the ESDP’ by asking why the ESDP triggered more interest among planning researchers and practitioners than other policy documents that followed. Using the theoretical lense of persuasive storytelling, the article finds answers in the ESDP’s fuzzy and appealing language, its fortunate timing and focus of attention, the long process and multitude of actors involved, and the ESDP’s substantial and pragmatic links to other policies. According to the analysis, the Territorial Agendas published in 2007 and 2011 were not as successful in creating a similarly appealing story for planning actors, and thus turned out to be less relevant. Finally, the article argues that planning education plays a key role in shaping planners’ attitudes towards the EU and spatial policies at a European scale. How and what students learn about EU policies and policy-making will thus determine whether future planners establish meaningful connections between abstract EU policy documents and their daily work.

The whole special issue is available here: http://transactions-journal.aesop-planning.eu/volume-4-issue-2/

Faludi, A. (2020). European Spatial Planning Beyond Sovereignty. Transactions of the Association of European Schools of Planning, 4(2), 99-110. https://doi.org/10.24306/TrAESOP.2020.02.002

Purkarthofer, E. (2020). The enticement of the ESDP: Motivating (future) planners to engage with EU policies. Transactions of the Association of European Schools of Planning, 4(2), 133–145. https://doi.org/10.24306/TrAESOP.2020.02.005

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