Recommendation 72 (2000)1 containing an opinion on the "guiding principles for sustainable spatial development of the european continent", in preparation for the 12th European conference of ministers responsible for regional planning in Hanover

The Congress,

1. Mindful of an essential spatial dimension to human rights which is reflected in particular in policies that shape working, housing, transport and environmental conditions wherever Europeans live;

2. Having regard to the Council of Europe’s current activities in regional/spatial planning and in particular the "Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent", which will be submitted for adoption to the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT) in Hanover in September 2000;

3. Pointing out that on 25 and 26 November 1999 the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and the CEMAT Committee of Senior Officials held a forum in Strasbourg on sustainable spatial development of the European continent in order to hear the views of elected national, regional and local representatives on the "Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent" prepared for the Hanover conference;

4. Having noted the results of the Forum, and welcoming the active input of local and regional authorities and associations specifically concerned with formulating regional/spatial development policy for Greater Europe;

5. Reaffirming local and regional authorities’ important responsibilities in the implementation of regional/spatial development policy, and pointing out that policy for spatial development, regional planning and countrywide cohesion can be promoted effectively at local and regional level;

6. Bearing in mind the CEMAT European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers (Recommendation No (84) 2), as well as CLRAE Recommendation 41 (1998) on new prospects for regional/spatial planning policy in Greater Europe,


7. The Opinion appended hereto on the "Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent";

Recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

8. Forward the Opinion to the CEMAT Committee of Senior Officials;

9. Ask the CEMAT Committee of Senior Officials to hold, before each future ministerial conference, a Forum modelled on that of 25 and 26 November 1999 for consultation with national, regional and local authorities;

10. Informs the Committee of Ministers and the CEMAT Committee of Senior Officials that for the Hanover CEMAT the Congress, in collaboration with the Parliamentary Assembly, is reviewing the draft European charter of mountain regions to recast it as an outline Convention;

11. Calls for arrangements to be made for Council of Europe monitoring of implementation of the "Guiding Principles".


Opinion on the "Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent" Conclusions of the Forum for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent (Strasbourg, 25 and 26 November 1999)

At the instigation of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, a Forum on sustainable spatial development of the European continent was held in Strasbourg on 25 and 26 November 1999. The purpose was to consider the "Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent", drawn up for the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT) by its Committee of Senior Officials. The Forum – preparatory to the ministerial conference - brought together members of the Parliamentary Assembly, CLRAE members representing local and regional authorities, senior civil servants, representatives of relevant associations and experts in the field.

The participants based their deliberations on a September 1999 draft document on the Guiding Principles. This was a significant step towards – though still short of - a consolidated document reflecting both the wider tasks of the Council of Europe and the political and geographical characteristics of the vast area to which the principles will apply (and it is essential that they are actually applied).

The "Guiding Principles" will be submitted for adoption by the Ministers at the 12th CEMAT in Hanover on 7 and 8 September 2000.

1. The policies behind the principles

A geographical expression of human rights

The "Guiding Principles" reflect concerns that have to do with the Council of Europe’s fundamental principles. They are intended not as an urban planning code but rather as an expression of human rights in a spatial-planning context. As emphasised in the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter, which the Council’s Committee of Ministers also adopted in the form of a recommendation, “Regional/spatial planning gives geographical expression to the economic, social, cultural and ecological policies of society.” The "Guiding Principles" are therefore intended to set out the means by which people in all the countries of Europe can achieve an acceptable standard of living in relation to the constraints and potential of the regions where they live. The Congress considers that the document needs an uncompromising introduction, referring explicitly to the spatial-planning implications of all policies for giving practical effect to human rights, and laying particular emphasis on the notion of “territorial cohesion”. In suggesting additions and amendments to the draft, the forum drew attention to key aspects of this geographical interpretation of human rights.

1.2. Democracy: Geographical space is where individuals live their lives and function socially, culturally, economically and at work. Organising that space is a matter for the community, to be dealt with either by the people or through the people’s elected representatives, and this applies no less to overall policy than to measures affecting daily life. This key requirement should be emphasised in the Guiding Principles and in implementing them.

1.3. Subsidiarity: While the same principles must apply right across Europe, the continent is diverse and must be organised at the closest possible level to the public, in a spirit of mutual responsibility. The current draft omits this further requirement, which is a prerequisite for democracy and also a means of preserving the “unity in diversity” bequeathed to Europe by its history and geography, and rightly referred to in the draft. Central government alone cannot direct Europe’s regional and spatial development. Local and regional authorities have a key part to play, particularly in local-level and regional-level development.

1.4. Consistency and reconciling of policies: The Guiding Principles are concerned with common policy for all the Council of Europe member states. Thus it is not clear why Russia east of the Urals has been excluded - an omission all the more regrettable inasmuch as the same regional development principles must apply there as elsewhere: the environment, for example, must be protected everywhere, because one area’s environmental shortcomings can have an impact elsewhere. Generally, the Guiding Principles should state more clearly that regional/spatial planning means striking a balance between different policies in order to focus on the common aim of seeking to satisfy people’s aspirations without neglecting disadvantaged groups (such as the unemployed, women and young people). The environment must be protected but it is equally essential to defend economic competitiveness, which works through a countrywide/continent-wide web of small and medium-sized companies. Likewise, efforts should be made to harmonise living standards without erasing cultural identity, and to take account of the economy’s local/regional impact.

1.5. Sustainable development and quality of life: Sustainable development is an imperative that reconciles protection of the global environment - and here Europeans have a responsibility to the world as a whole - with satisfying men’s and women’s basic aspirations. The draft lacks an analysis of the factors (particularly spatial-planning factors) that threaten quality of life: spatial planning is concerned simultaneously with the environment, the distribution of activities and the balanced siting of health-care, leisure and commercial facilities. The examples cited at the Strasbourg Forum highlighted how these problems of spatial reorganisation, with their particular impact on jobs and population movement, will increasingly affect the ways that people live and exercise their rights.

1.6. Territorial cohesion: The Poznan conference’s final declaration, which the CLRAE adopted in 1997, was the first European institutional document to refer to this concept, which reflects the intention that all geographical areas should share in global development. A degree of “territorial cohesion” must be developed in Europe in order to close the remaining gap between the “two Europes” and ensure that activity relocation and human migration do not eventually destroy - or at least desertify - certain areas. The Strasbourg forum highlighted this concern and the need to counter the negative impact of globalisation, particularly in the countries in transition, and in recognition of these considerations the 15 European Union countries have widened out the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP).

That is something that needs taking further. Territorial cohesion necessarily implies a comprehensive approach.

The "Guiding Principles" should promote a multidimensional, polycentric approach to the continent in order to allow the development of less favored regions.

If the principles are not adhered to, an unacceptable scenario could develop in Europe, and the draft could usefully have outlined that risk. It needs to include forecasts based on the inequalities that need reducing and the elements of diversity to be protected.

1.7. Globalisation and all its implications: The fact that the Forum on sustainable spatial development of the European continent coincided with the opening of the World Trade Organisation negotiations led the participants to stress the paradox that while economic competitiveness was essential, it needed pursuing within a framework that was not confined to merely economic considerations. There are myriad ways in which globalisation affects people’s lives and the exercise of their rights as citizens. It cannot therefore be addressed in purely commercial terms. The "Guiding Principles" should look much harder than they do at present at methods and criteria for coping with the medium-term and long-term effects of globalisation. The present version opens up avenues that should have been explored further.

2. The principles and their application:

The Forum highlighted a number of major areas in which the principles should apply, and this needs taking seriously. The "principles" must apply as a matter of priority in the following fields, which call for concrete action at the various levels of responsibility:

2.1. Transfrontier co-operation: Regional/spatial planning is a key means of promoting European integration. It must help areas on either side of what are increasingly artificial borders to begin looking towards one another so that they take advantage of their complementarity. While co-operative activities cannot and should not be confined to border areas, there is nonetheless tremendous potential here.

2.2. Developing planning networks based on corridors of communication: In order to bring people together, geographical distance must be overcome. Regional/spatial planning in Europe must ensure that axes of communication connect up rather than dividing the continent. These “corridors” must not be walls in all but name: what is needed is comprehensive provision serving the whole of Europe so as to create planning and development networks that respect the environment in which they operate. In the case of the new telephone networks, a concerted effort is needed to prevent damage to the landscape - an example of the constant care that has to be taken with installation of infrastructure. Similar care is needed in selecting - or switching to new - modes of transport. The networks are a major challenge, and balanced, cohesion-preserving development of Europe’s geographical components depends on them.

2.3. Adapting to globalisation: We must resist the notion of regional/spatial planning as a purely defensive process in terms of world development. It must also be a tool for promoting international competitiveness rooted in local competitiveness. The planning process is an instrument for reconciling local and global considerations.

2.4. Improving living conditions: Protecting the conditions in which people live - whether permanently or temporarily as tourists - is a major challenge. It requires appropriate measures, which in themselves can be tools for optimal patterning of human settlement and activity.

3. The particular problem of mountain areas:

On this important issue, the CLRAE has opted to play an active role. Accordingly, the Forum emphasised the importance of adopting the outline Convention on mountain regions, as recommended by the Parliamentary Assembly and the CLRAE. This is something that both bodies are pushing hard for and fundamentally ties in with the draft principles’ concern to distinguish between major types of geographical area. Mountains (or, perhaps more accurately, traditionally settled upland areas) are probably the type of area most vulnerable to globalisation. Mountain areas occasionally gained from the way some of their products complemented those of the neighbouring lowlands. Globalisation, based on the reduction of distances, is going to end that by allowing in products that, for natural reasons, are more competitive than those of mountain areas (where, likewise on account of natural factors, switching to new types of economic activity is more difficult than elsewhere). The "Guiding Principles" should identify the problems more clearly and draw the appropriate conclusions, highlighting that, in regional/spatial planning, it is people’s future that is at stake.

4. Monitoring and supervising implementation of the Guiding Principles

With an eye to the Hanover Conference the Strasbourg Forum pointed out the need to monitor implementation of the "Guiding Principles" continuously. Supervision here could take the form of an annual report to the Committee of Ministers.

1 Debated and adopted by the Standing Committee of the Congress on 2nd March 2000, (see doc. CG (6) 20, draft Recommendation, presented by Mr L. Kieres, Rapporteur).