The ESPON INTERSTRAT project aims to encourage the use of ESPON 2013 research findings in the creation and monitoring of integrated territorial development strategies.

Integrated territorial development strategies bring together spatially sensitive policies and programme plans to support economic, social and environmental change. They focus on “place” or “territory”, cross-sectoral development policies, integration of policy between scales and across borders, and processes of strategic assessment. Examples of such strategies continue to be developed at national, cross-border, regional, city and local levels.

The European Spatial Development Perspective provided a common language for this approach that has been used widely in plan-making across Europe. ESPON INTERSTRAT will discuss experience from nine different EU countries in such plan-making. It will also explore the new insights about territorial or spatial dynamics that ESPON research can bring. We try to help answer questions like:

  • How can strategic planners in urban and rural development improve policy and practice?
  • What can they learn from other practitioners in Europe?
  • What can new European analysis offer their work?


What is a good Integrated Territorial Development Strategy?

According to the GRIDS INTERREG IIIC Project (Best practice guidelines for instruments of regional development and spatial planning in an enlarged EU) a good ITDS is one that:

  • is embedded in its organisational, economic and social context;
  • establishes a widely-shared vision for the future development of the region;
  • engages stakeholders in an open and productive manner during preparation of the strategy;
  • communicates its key messages clearly to a variety of audiences;
  • identifies clear mechanisms for delivery;
  • phases and sequences key investments and actions;
  • establishes a simple but effective framework for monitoring.

How to develop a good Integrated Territorial Development Strategy?

According to the Polish Ministry of Regional Development responsible for preparation of national Strategy for Regional Development, to develop such a strategy we need:

  • to change the way of thinking (from barriers to potential and from competition between public institutions to cooperation in achieving common goals),
  • new coordination mechanism between different levels of management (new multilevel system of governance),
  • new system of programming focused on limited number of issues,
  • new institutional system allowing for efficient implementation of the strategy,
  • new system of programming and implementation of public policies.
  • make results-oriented and evidence-based policy

There is a strong need to develop a dialogue and partnership while striving to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of public spendings. Deepening regional differences require strengthening of functional approach in local planning, reaching beyond administrative boundaries.

Especially in the new member states, rapid development of market economy in the 90s started a real "struggle for space" (mainly the cities), leading to a very distorted concept of spatial order on local level (the rural areas too). We strongly need to develop integrated tools for monitoring not only results but to observe changes in territorial structures and monitoring of trends.

How to include territorial dimension in ITDS?

According to the authors of Handbook on Territorial Cohesion territorial objectives and preferences need to be included in ITDS, as in context of territorial diversity no sector or area can draw up a strategy without defining territorial objectives. Instead of focusing on entire planning territorial units, territorial objectives cover certain territories within them. These sub-territories may be specific areas or settlements or groups thereof, as well as certain types of areas or settlements (e.g. less favoured areas, urban networks). Territorial objectives may also focus on the relationship between areas and settlements (e.g. balanced relationship between urban and rural regions based on the mutual provision of services).

What can sectoral policies do?

According to the authors of Handbook for the National Implementation of the Territorial Agenda of the European Union territorial cohesion cannot be realised in the framework of a single policy but it depends on the territorial coordination of all sectoral policies. Therefore, the spatial harmonisation of sectoral policies, increased territorial awareness of certain sectors, the integration of territorial aspects into each sectoral policy, strategy and their realisation at different territorial levels are required. In order to achieve territorial objectives defined by the Territorial Agenda at the European level and the NSDC at the national level, several tasks can be defined for each sectoral policy which have to be taken into account in the realisation of different development actions. These policies are:

  • Investment promotion policy
  • SME policy
  • Innovation policy
  • Tourism policy
  • Housing and construction
  • Employment policy
  • Social policy
  • Education policy
  • Cultural policy
  • Health policy
  • Information-communication technology policy
  • Transport policy .
  • Energy policy
  • Agricultural policy
  • Environmental and nature protection, water management
  • Security policy. 

Is territorial dimension already present in ITDS in Member states?

According to DG Regio Working Paper on The Territorial and Urban Dimension in the National Strategic Reference Frameworks and Operational Programmes (2007-2013) overall, all NSRFs address explicitly or implicitly the territorial aspects of development, although there are significant differences of approach. In the majority of Member States, the opportunity offered by the NSRF to develop a strategic vision at national level on territorial development has generally been taken up. The way in which Member States deal with the territorial dimension at strategic level can be summarised as follows:

  • Most Member States present a basic account of territorial disparities and characteristics, though some go further by providing an in-depth territorial analysis and categorisation as a basis for determining territorial priorities and interventions. The less detailed analysis are sometimes the result of the institutional structure (inside the Member States) so that the responsibility for the analysis of the territorial dimension is delegated to the sub-national level (and therefore to the level of the Operational Programme).
  • The majority of Member States set territorial priorities at the level of the NSRF. Some include territorial references even in the specification of the general NSRF objective, for example, regional competitiveness and attractive regions or balanced territorial development or territorial cohesion.
  • Certain Member States include urban issues as a strategic priority. Territorial cooperation is a priority in three cases and rural development in one.Certain Member States address territorial issues as a horizontal matter, so that the territorial dimension is taken into account as a component of actions that are sectorally networks). The majority, though, prefers to mainstream territorial priorities along with sectoral ones. Based on the NSRFs and some OPs, it seems that explicit consideration of the territorial dimension under sectoral policies is rare. Though in most cases accessibility is linked to territorial cohesion objectives, it remains to be seen how the operational levels will contribute to achieving these aims.
  • Most of the NSRFs differentiate interventions between urban and rural areas, although some Member States provide a more detailed territorial typology. This may help to better address local needs at the level of programming and implementation. Among these Member States, a few set clear and explicit interventions for specific types of territories (i.e. mountainous, coastal, insular, sparsely populated areas).

In terms of content and focus of the territorial priorities and issues addressed in the NSRFs, the following emerges from the analysis of the NSRFs:

  • Balanced territorial development is clearly an objective ranking highly among Member States' priorities and goals. In most cases, the NSRFs set out growth pole strategies (addressing competitiveness and territorial balance objectives at the same time).
  • Problems of rural development are addressed in the majority of NSRFs although less emphasis and detail is given than for urban issues. The important complementary role of the EAFRD is taken into account. In the majority of the countries which explicitly address rural issues, attention is given to the relations between urban and rural areas, and in particular the role of towns in more remote rural areas as well as the citysuburban relation. Improving accessibility, ensuring effective service provision and supporting cooperation and networking are the most generally mentioned types of interventions. Thus, there are some examples of prioritising new forms of territorial governance arrangements and joint action of local authorities.
  • Although the treatment of European Territorial Cooperation in the NSRFs was not a regulatory obligation, this is mentioned in some two thirds of the NSRFs, and one third provided a more or less comprehensive analysis of the problems and of the cooperation possibilities. However, the identification of specific fields of interventions is rare at this stage of the programming exercise.


Further debate

Video materials from the international conference: "Evidence Based Cohesion Policy", which took place on 7-8 July in Gdańsk. The presentations open the debate on the future of EU funds.


Evidence Based Cohesion Policy - Indicators


Evidence Based Cohesion Policy - Evaluation


Evidence Based Cohesion Policy - Performance incentives