Polycentric Territorial Structures and Territorial Cooperation

October 2016 - Polycentricity is a concept that encourages regions and cities, working with neighbouring territories, to explore common strengths and reveal potential complementarities, which brings added value that cannot be achieved by the individual regions and cities in isolation. Importantly, a polycentric approach allows for joining existing assets in order to increase their competitive power, efficiency of using limited resources by avoiding duplicating roles and functions and bringing more benefits for local inhabitants using the combined resource potential.

Rather than attempting to change the existing settlement patterns some of which cannot be altered (like continuous urbanisation), the Policy Brief suggests that policy-makers at different scales should strive for increasing flows and interactions among places in order to boost their competitiveness and bring more benefits to their inhabitants through combining existing assets and resources. Making Europe more polycentric requires taking strategic advantage of existing regional diversity and further strengthening territorial cooperation and governance in order to target investments and reduce regional disparities.

The Policy Brief builds on existing evidence produced by ESPON highlighting the polycentric development potential in Europe and it is guided by questions on:

  • why polycentric territorial cooperation matters?
  • where polycentric structures can be found in Europe and where there are potentials for more polycentric development through territorial cooperation?
  • how policy-makers at different territorial scales should engage in and support territorial cooperation arrangements to further enhance polycentric settlement structures in the EU?

Based on these questions the Policy Brief attempts to provide considerations on a potential EU Territorial Reference Framework which could support relevant policy processes, such as the update of the EU Territorial Agenda post 2020.

Read the Policy Brief below.