European Territorial Reference Framework

Theme: Territorial foresight studies


The conclusions of the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2015 invited the upcoming presidencies, together with EU institutions, to start the process of preparing a Territorial Agenda post-2020. This should be informed by a long-term scenario and visioning process involving relevant stakeholders from all sectors and levels of government. Likewise, the Committee of the Region’s (CoR) opinion on the future of Cohesion Policy post-2020, published in 2016, notes that the Europe 2020 Strategy does not sufficiently take into account Europe’s territorial divide and the differing development challenges in Europe’s regions. Furthermore, as a ‘spatially blind’ strategy, it is not contributing adequately to reducing strong territorial polarisation and regional inequalities of economic performance across Europe. Growing regional disparities, particularly since the onset of the financial crisis, have been identified by the Conference for Peripheral and Maritime Regions’ (CPMR) forum on the future of Europe, for example, as a contributing factor to growing Eurosceptism and ‘Brexit’. From this perspective, the CoR notes that the goal of European cohesion, anchored in EU treaties, remains a major challenge and that the territorial dimension must be significantly strengthened in Europe’s post-2020 growth strategy. The CoR’s Opinion ‘Territorial Vision 2050: What Future?’ has therefore called for a broad Europe-wide consultation on a future territorial vision for Europe.

The purpose of this ESPON Applied Research Activity is to respond to the above policy demand and produce, through a substantial pan-European stakeholder dialogue, a Territorial Reference Framework for Europe to inform, catalyse and animate the upcoming policy debate on a Territorial Agenda post-2020. The Applied Research Activity should also help inform other macro-level EU policies, including, for example, the territorial dimension of future Cohesion Policy; the successor to the current Europe 2020 growth strategy; and other territorially relevant sectoral policies, taking account of the lessons of the past.

The European Territorial Reference Framework shall be articulated through the two primary objectives, as follows:

  • Produce a long-term territorial development perspective for Europe in order to assist in informing and shaping the territorial dimension of post-2020 EU strategic policies and longer term cohesion goals; and,
  • Provide workable and realistic mid-term policy proposals for the integrated governance of Territorial Agenda post-2020, and strategic investment programmes in Europe’s territories, regions and cities, as a means towards the advancement of the long-term territorial development perspective.

Policy questions

  • What are the key long-term challenges and opportunities that will shape Europe’s territories and regions to 2050 and beyond?
  • What should Europe’s territory ideally look like in 2050 in order to achieve EU cohesion and convergence goals?
  • Which key thematic policy areas should future territorially relevant strategic EU policies focus on in order to address key long-term development challenges and opportunities facing Europe’s territories, regions and cities, and in order to promote the advancement of cohesion and convergence goals?
  • What is the most appropriate and efficient EU investment strategy to address differentiated territorial development challenges in Europe and to maximise the potentials of cities and regions in the framework of post-2020 EU strategic policies?
  • How can the governance of a Territorial Agenda post-2020 be strengthened and implemented in practice, in order to bring about greater strategic coherence and integration with other EU strategic policies and investment programmes?


  • MCRIT, S.L, ES
  • Spatial Foresight, LU
  • European Policy Centre, BE
  • Politecnico de Milano, IT
  • Warsaw School of Economics, PL
  • Jacques Delors Institute, FR

Project Support Team

  • Roland Arbter, AT
  • Daniel André, SE
  • Cécile Altaber, FR

Budget: € 873.550.00

Lifetime: November 2017 – May 2019


  • Inception delivery, 15 March 2018
  • Interim delivery, 15 August 2018
  • Draft Final delivery, 15 February 2019
  • Final delivery, 15 May 2019
  • ESPON ETRF external website

Contact: Gavin Daly (Senior Project Expert) [email protected], György Alfoldy (Financial Expert) [email protected]




  • Acrobat Document | 480KB


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ESPON_ETRF_Annex 1_Policy_Pathways.pdf

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ESPON_ETRF_Annex 2_Modelling_Results.pdf

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ESPON_ETRF_Annex 3_Infographics.pdf

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ESPON_ETRF_Annex 4_Governance_Assemblages.pdf

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ESPON_ETRF_Annex 5_Participatory Events.pdf

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ESPON_ETRF_Annex 6_SAF Members.pdf

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ESPON_ETRF_Annex 7_National_Reginal_Spatial_Plans.pdf

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ESPON_ETRF_Annex 8_ESPON_Related_Projects.pdf

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