The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2005URL (Internet address) : http://www.eu2005.lu/en/actualites/communiques/2005/05/21infoterr-halsdorf/
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The European Ministers in charge of territorial cohesion discussed the contribution of the territorial dimension to the Lisbon/Gothenburg strategy
At the second session of the informal meeting of Ministers in charge of regional policy and territorial cohesion, held on 20 and 21 May 2005 in Luxembourg, the European Ministers in charge of Spatial Planning talked about territorial cohesion issues. They discussed the operational contribution of the territorial dimension to the Lisbon and Gothenburg strategy on the basis of a framework document entitled "Territorial State and Perspectives of the European Union". This study, presented by the "European Spatial Planning Observation Network" (ESPON) deals with the interconnections between the "European Spatial Development Perspective" (ESDP) and the Lisbon Strategy.
At the press conference, Jean-Marie Halsdorf, Minister for Home Affairs and Town and Country Planning, who chaired the meeting, said:
"Today’s meeting has been very interesting. Significant progress to sustain 'territorial thinking' has been made since our last meeting in Rotterdam. We have a definition of a common basis in the framework document concerning the 'Territorial State and Perspectives of the European Union.'. This very useful document has considerably enriched the discussion on the ‘Community Strategic Guidelines on Cohesion’ proposed by the Commission. The Commission has already included certain ideas concerning territorial cohesion, while acknowledging the restrictions imposed by the Treaty.
We have been able to highlight the added value that can be contributed by the development of the territorial dimension in the guidelines, in such a way as to promote both the cohesion and the competitiveness of the Union in terms of the ambitions of the re-launched Lisbon process.
Our document represents a very useful source of ideas for the preparation of national strategies and action plans to be developed within the framework of the Lisbon process.
Indeed, the strategic national framework programmes that will be based on these Strategic Guidelines will have to face the territorial dimension of their own areas, with their respective assets and weaknesses. This applies even more to the concrete projects whose parameters they will define.
As a result, it is important to bear in mind the territorial challenges that Europe faces, to enable these framework programmes to contribute not only to the development of the regions and Member States, but also to the cohesion of the entire Union, in accordance with the ambitions of Lisbon.
But in order to give concrete expression to the framework document as an information base and to implement a ‘territorial thinking’, the commitment and particular efforts of all the Member States are vital.
The current Presidency, future Presidencies and the Commission will have to assume a special role as the driving force behind this process and in order to ensure, together with all the Member States, that this process is constantly monitored.
Furthermore, on the day that the Constitution is ratified, territorial cohesion will exist side by side with economic and social cohesion. Detailed discussions will have to be held on this subject when the Commission lays down its political policies on territorial cohesion.
The Member States must prepare to enter into these discussions in a spirit of partnership with the Commission.
In this context, the group of Presidencies, from the Netherlands to Germany, will be able to ensure the political handover jointly with the Commission, since there will be no meeting at ministerial level until the German Presidency.
The discussions over the last two days have clearly highlighted the inter-related themes of which we must be aware, even though the themes have been discussed separately.
I realise that, in almost every country, there is a different sharing of areas of competence as regards regional policy, structural funds, territorial development and territorial planning, which makes it difficult, and therefore even more useful, to organise joint meetings at which all the Ministers responsible can discuss a joint European response.
The absence of decisions concerning regulations on structural funds and financial prospects has obviously not simplified this already difficult situation. Consequently, we have done whatever we can and we have moved forward significantly, despite these fairly difficult framework conditions.
This applies, in particular, to ESPON, whose importance, usefulness and necessity is emphasised by all the Member States, but where it is difficult at the moment to make concrete proposals, given that the financial framework is still not clear.
Here it is important to emphasise that it is not enough simply to acknowledge that territorial cooperation can reinforce cohesion - Member States also have to agree on the appropriate resources for this cooperation in terms of structural funds.
To conclude, I would like to say that, as a result of our work, our joint meeting has been a success, for there has been greater awareness that territorial cohesion can both make it possible to link the various sector prospects and provide theme contributions to those same policies by adapting them at the same time to the specific nature of the different territories.
These ideas have already to a large extent influenced the Community Strategic Strategic Guidelines and I am very happy about this, as are my colleagues in the domain of territorial cohesion."