The first comprehensive comparative analysis: the EU Compendium of Spatial Planning Systems and Policies was published by the European Commission in 1997. Subsequent studies have to a greater or lesser degree updated the findings of the Compendium. Since then the number of EU member states has nearly doubled, the territorial dimension of EU sector policies has deepened, and there have been many, sometimes radical, reforms of systems territorial governance and spatial planning across Europe. To some extent these reforms have been stimulated and informed by EU initiatives, notably the European Spatial Development Perspective the Territorial Agenda 2020 and other EU sectoral policies, such as EU Cohesion Policy, environmental policy or the Common Agricultural Policy. Territorial governance and spatial planning systems have been changing in response to wider global trends, from the dominance of neoliberal policies, societal shifts towards individualism replacing collective action in societies; the growing awareness of climate change risks to the fallout from the financial crisis and austerity programmes unfolding since 2008. As a result of all these trends and reforms, the relationship between EU policies and territorial governance and spatial planning in the member states remains uncertain, even though there is arguably strong demand for more effective territorial governance and more place-based EU interventions in line with the specificities and needs of the different territories across the EU. In other words, there is a particular need to review the relationship between territorial governance, spatial planning and EU policies with a territorial dimension, especially EU cohesion policy. Spatial planning should help to combine actions in particular places to achieve more effective results. Is this happening in practice however? How these linkages vary across the very differentiated and changing planning contexts in Europe?

ESPON Applied Research project Comparative Analysis of Territorial Governance and Spatial Planning Systems in Europe (COMPASS), coordinated by Prof. Vincent Nadin, seeks to address those issues. It takes stock of the trends in territorial governance and spatial planning systems across Europe and explores the linkages and cross-fertilisation potential between them and EU Cohesion Policy. The COMPASS Consortium has been constructed so as to provide expertise in all relevant aspects of territorial governance and spatial planning, and ‘hands-on’ experience of spatial planning in all the countries under study. The Consortium comprises 8 partners and 17 sub-contractors.

COMPASS is the first comprehensive research on European spatial planning since 1997 when 15 countries were included in the EU Compendium. It covers 39 countries – the 28 member states of the EU, the four EFTA countries and seven candidate and other countries.The project will produce:

  • A comprehensive comparative analysis of territorial governance and spatial planning systems, including all 28 EU Member States plus the four ESPON Partner States, with a possible extension to the EU candidate countries and other countries of the Western Balkans.
  • Qualitative analysis of the praxis of spatial planning and territorial governance and the relationship, in practice, between strategies and outcomes.
  • In-depth analysis of the role of EU Cohesion Policy and other macro-level EU policies in shaping territorial governance and spatial planning systems and their impacts in concrete practice – and the in uence of territorial governance and spatial planning on EU sectoral policies.
  • In-depth case studies of good practice in cross- fertilising EU Cohesion Policy and spatial planning, including a focus on cross-border/transnational case(s).
  • Pan-European maps illustrating the key findings.
  • Recommendations on the potential role of spatial planning in shaping the future of EU Cohesion Policy and on ways to generate synergies between national territorial development policies and EU Cohesion Policy, as well as other macro-level EU policies.


TU Delft COMPASS team:

Prof. Vincent Nadin, Prof. Wil Zonneveld, Assoc. Prof. Ana Maria Fernández Maldonado, Assoc. Prof. Dominic Stead, Asst. Prof. Marcin Dabrowski, Dr. Nikki Brand, Dr. Kasia Piskorek, Dr. David Evers (PBL), Ir. Xiaolan Lin, MSc.