Governance models

Governance is a key word that is central for the work of ESPON. All of the projects have an applied focus and are searching to provide hands on policy advises and introduce often innovative governance models. An example where especially collaborative governance plays a big role is polycentric development.

New urban forms and configurations have emerged as a result of the continuous transformations of European cities from social, economic and environmental perspectives. Those transformations show that traditional governmental levels are facing increasing difficulties in tackling the de facto city and that a better spatial fit for dynamic and evolving challenges of urban spatial development has to be designated. In their attempts to find a way out by adapting traditional government structures, the de jure city to address the new reality, there are many initiatives among the Member States that see local governments working together and exploring different arrangements of territorial cooperation areas (TCAs), such as the metropolitan areas or even areas with geographical specificities. The discussion of a better spatial fit governance level is happening all over Europe and the solutions given are based either on hard means or on soft governance tools.

In general, governance systems in Europe are changing to become less top down, more flexible, and involve a wider group of public and private organisations. This raises questions of interdependencies across levels of governance, and amongst public and private actors, institutions and organisations. Simultaneously, the influence of national governance and planning traditions make these changes path and context-dependent. These are topics on which the ESPON ReSSI project is focusing.

European local and regional authorities are required to promote sustainable and inclusive economic development, within the context of overarching European and national strategies. Common policy topics in terms of smart growth include, among others, infrastructure projects for delivering free Wi-Fi connectivity in city centres; development of ‘apps’ and interactive technologies which allow citizens and businesses to interact with local and regional government and for example the health system; and producing and collecting data on urban living, including the usage of spaces, traffic, and energy use in buildings and electric vehicles. In terms of sustainable growth, cities and regions are concerned with the development of infrastructure for low-carbon transport (such as charging posts); promoting resilience and energy security through local electricity generation; the development of new economic sectors, including green industries; and greening existing sectors and supply chains assisted by ‘smart procurement’ systems. As for inclusive growth, local and regional authorities mean to take account of issues such as demographic change and vulnerability created by aging populations and large-scale migration; development of affordable, sustainable housing, and the provision and distribution of public services to all members of society. In order to have an overview on how different regions are coping with this in terms of spatial planning, ESPON provides insights with its COMPAS project.