The Territorial Agenda 2030 ‘A future for all places’ has been adopted in 2020, by the ministers responsible for spatial planning, territorial development and/or territorial cohesion in cooperation with the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Investment Bank Group and relevant European and national associations. It is the latest in a long line of documents paving the way for spatial planning and territorial cohesion in Europe. It advocates a broader and more timely understanding of cohesion to underpin policy making in Europe. As its predecessors, the Territorial Agenda 2030 is an intergovernmental declaration with no direct legal, financial or institutional implementation instruments. Indeed, rather than implementation, it talks about application and calls on a wide range of players to consider and apply its objectives and priorities.
As imbalances between people and places increase, economic, social and territorial cohesion become ever more important to ensure that Europe does not become divided, and the potential of all places are best utilised. Europe needs to ensure positive future perspectives for all places and people. The Territorial Agenda 2030 offers initial steps in this direction, including contributions to an updated understanding of (territorial) cohesion.
The key drivers for the Territorial Agenda have been summarised under the heading ‘Why we need to act’ addressing needs related to the ‘quality of government and governance’, ‘places and people drifting apart, i.e. increasing imbalances and inequalities’ and ‘sustainable development and climate change, i.e. increasing pressures on the environment’. The details are summarised in the table below.
The Territorial Agenda 2030 further aligns EU territorial development objectives with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the European Green Deal. It also underlines the importance of strategic spatial planning and provides orientation for this while strengthening the territorial dimension of sector policies at all governance levels. It seeks to promote an inclusive and sustainable future for all places.
It defines two overarching objectives, a Just Europe and a Green Europe, which have six priorities for developing the European territory as a whole along with all its places (see figure).
The application of the Territorial Agenda 2030 relies on informal multilevel cooperation between member states, sub-national authorities, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Investment Bank and other relevant players. All key players are asked to apply the Territorial Agenda 2030 in the context of their regular mandates. How they do this is mainly up of them.
To inspire key players to take action, the Territorial Agenda 2030 is accompanied by a report ‘Implementing the Territorial Agenda 2030’ with examples for a territorial approach in policy design and delivery. In line with linking existing schemes to implementation of the Territorial Agenda, there is unused potential in programmes and projects.
Furthermore, to inspire joint actions across Europe, six pilot actions were launched with the adoption of the Territorial Agenda 2030, a seventh was added recently:
- A future for lagging areas,
- Understanding how sector policies shape spatial (im)balances,
- Small places matter,
- Cross-border spatial planning,
- Climate action in Alpine Towns,
- Climate change adaptation and resilience through landscape transition,
- Reducing land artificialisation, urban sprawl and soil sealing in cities of different sizes and functional urban areas.
They demonstrate, test and develop practices which contribute to Territorial Agenda 2030 priorities. Pilot actions demonstrate how Territorial Agenda objectives can be pursued ‘on the ground’ at local and regional levels. This involves implementation activities, such as working with local and regional actors on how they can address opportunities and challenges linked to their thematic focus. These activities offer examples of place-based approaches, with consensus-oriented stakeholder dialogues. They implement experimental and/or innovative solutions adapted to local specificities.
Pilot actions for the Territorial Agenda are still at an early stage. As they mature there are progressive improvements in their design, management and implementation. A more systematic capitalisation on the broad range of experiences under Cohesion Policy could significantly strengthen pilot actions, by providing broader evidence and good practices while also helping to identify potential local and regional dialogue partners across Europe.
To make the Territorial Agenda more visible and disseminate information about its objectives and the pilot projects, a dedicated website has been set up: www.territorialagenda.eu
The Territorial Agenda 2030 envisages a stocktaking in 2024 including a review of the governance system, implementation progress and relevance of the priorities. This review will start during the Spanish EU Presidency in 2023. The focus is expected to be on governance and implementation. Despite the rapidly changing world as well as multiple unexpected events and crises since adoption of the Territorial Agenda in 2020, the priorities are more relevant than ever.