Policy Brief: Cross-fertilisation of cohesion policy and spatial planning

It is incumbent on governments at all levels to ensure that cohesion policy is efficient and helps deliver territorial cohesion. Spatial planning tools can play a key role in ensuring that in the countries and regions that receive cohesion policy funding the combined territorial impacts of cohesion policy and other sectoral policies are positive. Spatial planning in countries and regions is too often poorly prepared to assist with the territorial coordination of investments. The keyword here is cross-fertilisation: the interaction between sectoral policy decision-makers that creates complementarity increases efficiency through synergy and avoids the costs of non-coordination.

Drawing on real experiences across Europe, seven practical steps are proposed in this policy brief that may enhance cross-fertilisation in the short term. They complement current trends and could guide and accelerate the achievement of a more territorially sensitive and efficient cohesion policy. For each step, a summary of actions that will facilitate cross-fertilisation is given. This provides a checklist for reflection on current practices and the design of initiatives according to local conditions and practices.

This policy brief draws on the findings from a set of ESPON research activities:

  • “Comparative Analysis of Territorial Governance and Spatial Planning Systems in Europe” (ESPON COMPASS project, 2018)
  • ESPON COMPASS ‘interactive dialogue’ with spatial planning and cohesion policy experts from the ESPON programme countries which took place during 2021 and which consisted of several phases, culminating in an online event held on 9 April 2021. The event was attended by 45 different experts from 11 countries (see the summary report below).
  • Case study report “Cross-fertilisation between spatial planning and EU Cohesion Policy in the Czech Republic” (2021) which developed a survey and held interviews with the key planning and Cohesion Policy stakeholders in the Czech context, complemented by insights from an online ‘interactive dialogue’, a workshop with Czech and international experts, all held in 2021 (see the Case study report below).