A Historical Institutionalist Framework for European Spatial Planning

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    Sorensen invokes historical institutionalism as a theoretical framework. This paper does so revisiting the making of the European SpatialDevelopment Perspective of 1990s vintage and the subsequent Territorial Agenda of the European Union. The context is EU Cohesion policy. Firstthe paper presents the theoretical framework. Then it explains why European spatial planning has been a limited success by identifying fault linesin the institutional architecture of European integration generally: whether integration merely means states relinquishing specific powers, calledcompetences in EU jargon, or whether the EU transcends states and state institutions and whether representatives of state governments withtheir political and electoral concerns or the European Commission with its detached expertise should take the lead. There is also the fault linebetween planning and the spending department, or sectors. The view that the EU has no business in planning because planning is a state powerhas prevailed. To its chagrin, the Commission has also been side-lined by national planners. To overcome this problem, the European Union was tobe given a competence, if not for spatial planning, then for territorial cohesion. To mark their joint position on the matter in relation to evolvingEU policy, member states adopted the Territorial Agenda of the European Union. Neither their initiative nor the pursuit of territorial cohesion bythe EU as such went far. Estimating that member states would not accept whatever it might propose in the matter, the Commission never took, asit could have done under there relevant rules the initiative. With its cross-border, transnational and interregional strands, 'European territorialcooperation' serves as a substitute for EU territorial cohesion policy proper. The paper explains the course of events over the more than twenty-fiveyears covered by these developments by reference to the institutional architecture of the EU. The primacy which that architecture gives to memberstates means that state institutions and their politics prevail over expertise, including that of planners. It also implies European space beingconceptualised as a seamless cover of sovereign jurisdiction. The story of European spatial planning casts a critical light on the EU institutionalarchitecture being challenged by a fluid, dynamic spatial reality.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)161-172
    Number of pages12
    JournalInternational Planning History Society Proceedings
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    Event17th IPHS Conference History-Urbanism-Resilience - Delft, Netherlands
    Duration: 17 Jul 201621 Jul 2016


    • historical institutionalism
    • European spatial planning
    • territorial cohesion
    • EU Cohesion policy


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