"The guiding principles for sustainable spatial development of the European continent" - CG (6) 20 Part II

Rapporteur: Leon Kieres (Poland)



At its meeting in Strasbourg on 31 January 2000, the Working Group on New Prospects for Regional/Spatial Planning and Transport Policy in Greater Europe prepared for adoption by the Congress a draft recommendation containing an opinion on the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent (preparatory document for the 12th European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning, CEMAT, due to be held in Hanover on 7 and 8 September 2000).

The Working Group analysed and unanimously adopted the draft recommendation, which is the result of several meetings and two conferences organised by the Congress, viz:

- the “Pan-European Conference on Regional/Spatial Planning” held in Poznan from 3 to 5 April 1997 on the role of regions in regional/spatial planning, the final declaration of which was adopted by the Congress;

- the “Forum for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent” held in Strasbourg on 25 and 26 November 1999, which was specifically devoted to analysis of the CEMAT document.


The above discussions showed that the adoption of guiding spatial development principles applicable to all Council of Europe member states would be a major political advance. The Working Group felt that the Guiding Principles should follow on from the Torremolinos Charter, which states that regional/spatial planning “gives geographical expression to the economic, social, cultural and ecological policies of society.” Spatial development can therefore be regarded as a territorial dimension of the exercise of human rights.

Effective regional/spatial planning can prevent forced migration caused by a lack of means of subsistence or poor living conditions in a given area, the aim being to give people the fundamental freedom to live in the places to which they feel attached. To achieve this against the background of the globalisation now under way, it is essential to find ways of enabling all regions to take part in the process of sustainable development.

In this sense, the concept of “territorial cohesion”, which is broader than that of regional/spatial development, gives expression to these aims, while complying with the relevant rules on competence. The Poznan declaration was the first text adopted by a European institution to refer to the concept, which was subsequently taken up in the Amsterdam Treaty in connection with services of general economic interest and then also in the European Union’s European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP). The Committee of Ministers adopted the idea in its reply to CLRAE Recommendation 41 (1998) on New Prospects for Regional/Spatial Planning Policy in Greater Europe, dated 1 December 1999, in which it stressed that the European Spatial Development Perspective "needed to be implemented in a manner that covered all Council of Europe member states so as to open up new prospects for regional and national spatial development policies and, more generally, to ensure the territorial cohesion of the whole of Europe".

In this connection, I would like to point out that the participation of the Congress in the preparatory work for the ESDP (report submitted to the Brussels seminar by Mr Savy, Mr Van Voorst tot Voorst, Mr Nicut) was also instrumental in leading the European Commission to include a new chapter (chapter 5) devoted to enlargement of the European Union in the final version of the European Spatial Development Perspective.


With regard to the discussions within the Working Group about the draft Guiding Principles, it can be said that, despite the very substantial improvements made to the successive versions, the text does not adequately highlight what should be the seven main guiding principles for spatial development policy: recognition of a geographical expression of human rights, the exercise of democracy, the application of subsidiarity, co-ordination and consistency of policies at Greater European level, efforts to achieve sustainable development based on quality of life and respect for key equilibria, the goal of territorial cohesion, and due consideration for the (necessarily global) dimension of principles applied to the vast territory covered by the member states of the Council of Europe.

The draft CLRAE recommendation sets out a list of practical steps to be taken to give effect to the “Guiding Principles”, involving, in particular, transfrontier co-operation, the development of corridors of communication and efforts to achieve and maintain economic competitiveness. This must all fit in with a dynamic approach to globalisation and to the need to improve living conditions throughout Europe.

These policies must be developed effectively if the “Guiding Principles” are not to remain mere declarations of intent. It is therefore essential for a monitoring procedure to be agreed and set out in the final text.

Lastly, the draft recommendation raises the fundamental issue of the diversity of regions, and suggests an overall approach and specific measures that need to be adopted in response. This applies, in particular, to mountain regions, which are disadvantaged areas of Europe, especially vulnerable to globalisation: the Congress text reiterates the need to adopt an outline convention on mountain regions and calls on the ministers to take a decision to this effect at the conference in Hanover.

We believe that the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent offer the member states of the Council of Europe an opportunity to consider – in a process that should be ongoing – the way the individual citizens of the future will live in the regions of their choice in a world that is unified but where each region remains as unique as the individuals living in it.