With the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union will be endowed with a new mission: that of promoting territorial cohesion in addition to economic and social cohesion. Its implementation has been raising as much hope as apprehension, because it may disrupt certain policies which have a strong territorial impact.
Briefly, it could be said that the “battle” for territorial cohesion consists of having to pass three successive tests, all of which have not yet been fully passed. The first amounts to debating the need to impose specific constraints or benefits in order to restore the balance in favour of certain territories. The second is predicated on justifying the level of policy-making competency required for such intervention, in this case, added value for the European Union or other actors, while also respecting the principle of subsidiarity.
The third challenges the validity of a new regulatory or financial framework and the scope of a possible compensation for disadvantaged territories.
This study presents the historic evolution, content and ramifications of this concept. It analyzes the forces at work in, and the three main components of a territorial cohesion approach””reducing geography-related disparities, ensuring coherence between sectoral policies and strengthening ties between territories. Acknowledging the difficulty of introducing new game rules on the European, as well as national, regional and local levels, it proposes to follow a two-stage roadmap: to adopt various specific measures of limited impact early in 2009 and then to speed up the process as from 2014.