This line of research questions the contemporary dynamics of the European Union and neighbouring countries (east, south) through the prism of three basic concepts: functional integration, territorial cohesion and multi-scalar governance. The originality of this axis lies in the fact that we do not take for granted the existence of Europe as a relevant object of study and that we prefer to adopt a spatial perimeter that evolves over time as a study framework. The idea is to avoid presuming the final location of borders.
The crisis of the European project is analyzed on several levels, in a context of questioning and redefinition of the role that territorial solidarity plays at all levels: national, sub-national and supranational.
The functional integration of the European territory can be considered through the material and immaterial flows that link territories and that contribute to their growth or to their decline. This analysis is jointly carried out with other fields UMR deals with. With the second axis, we suggest renewing certain regions of the world integrated through exchanges, but whose extension may happen to be broader or narrower than that of the EU political territory or that of the territory perceived in mental representations as « European ». With the fifth axis, we suggest analyzing the economic and demographic processes that lead to the implementation of marginal spaces within the EU. The comparison between EU dynamics and those of other long-standing industrialised countries is particularly important here. With the mobility axis, the aim is to see how migratory circulations are involved or not in the integration between the EU and neighbouring countries and in the emergence of new centres/margins.
Territorial cohesion is considered in terms of statistics and maps, through the analysis of ESPON results, by questioning the productions made so far. In this regard, the analysis of EU discourses made in the context of the cohesion policy is continued and deepened, especially by mobilising an analysis of mapping productions done by the EU in order to determine the underlying representations in actions linked to territorial cohesion.
The issue of multi-scalar territorial governance issue leads to studies on the analysis of territorial governance processes within the EU or its vicinity. These studies imply an interest in the redefinition of links and in their ability to act on territories. We question, sometimes with the help of international comparisons, the concrete functioning modes of territories in their relationships to the EU. In this perspective, it is the issue of linking levels of decisions and levels of action which is at stake, as the question of territorial governance poses the problem of the vertical and horizontal coordination of actions. We also question the way territorial identities are redefined both within the EU and in its vicinity.
In the context of this issue, the question of links between competitiveness and cohesion is tackled. Other than the issues dealing with local development, employment and urban regeneration, the question of the production and management of energy within the EU, and especially in some Central Europe countries, should appear as an important issue of city management and of the relationship between cities and territory in the following years. This theme constitutes a good field of investigation that aims at establishing whether solutions to energy issues can be found outside international and national frameworks by more local initiatives, notably at the level of cities. The evidence for this “bottom up” solution could ultimately challenge the links between the levels of European governance by giving the local a special role. The very idea of territorial cohesion, which implies a certain articulation between actions and the reduction of territorial inequalities within the European territory, could also be questioned by such changes.
The neighbouring countries of the European Union are in many ways an important key to comprehend the internal dynamics of the EU, provided that the dimensions of Eastern and Southern neighbours are simultaneously taken into account. Neighbouring countries indeed offer a faithful mirror of the internal contradictions of the EU and can reveal understated elements of the European construction. Analyses focused on specific countries will be undertaken in a comparative way, in order to, on one hand, grasp how the planning policies of these countries are linked to a potential European model but also, on the other hand, what European countries could learn from the difficulties found in these territories and from the often innovative solutions which are developed.
Furthermore, studies on Europe concerned by this axis are also based on the analysis of the perception of borders, particularly on the way borders act as an obstacle to migrations. These studies enable us to deal with the way this continent and its institutions are perceived inside and outside Europe.
The pictures are extracted from :
Europe’s Neighbourhood from a Territorial Perspective - February 2013 Report from the ESPON Internal Seminar on 5-6 December 2012 in Paphos - Cyprus