The Dutch ‘Gateway to Europe’ spatial policy narrative, 1980–2020: a systematic review

M. Nefs, W.A.M. Zonneveld, Paul Gerretsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Like other countries with large ports, the Netherlands developed a policy narrative to acquire a key position in global value chains starting in the 1980s, through the spatial development of its hinterland logistics complex. The negative environmental effects of logistics, such as landscape transformation and congestion, have increasingly come to be seen as spatial policy problems. The literature on policy narratives emphasizes the importance of balanced trade-offs and learning from alternative views. In this paper, we discuss why the ‘Gateway to Europe’ narrative has remained in place. This paper systematically reviews spatial planning documents, advisory reports and academic papers between 1980 and 2020 to develop a chronology of logistics planning concepts pertaining to economic and technological milestones. It also maps policy influences, aiming to identify underlying causal policy theories on logistics development and its spatial-environmental effects. We determine that critical reports have been structurally ignored, challenges have been outsourced and advocacy coalitions have been unbalanced, increasing path dependency and risking a spatial-economic lock-in. Looking at the ‘Gateway to Europe’, we point to pitfalls in the policy narrative and the policy-learning process, enabling policymakers to avoid them in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-68
Number of pages20
JournalPlanning Perspectives
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • hinterland logistics
  • quality of life
  • policy narrative
  • spatial planning
  • systematic review
  • Gateway to Europe


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