Challenge for Europe

Getting Reacquainted with Territories

The unification of the European market and the deployment of a common currency have involuntarily contributed to a veil of ignorance that shrouds the real economy of exchanges between territories. And yet European territories, enveloped in a globalised system, have the habit of assuring their balance by taking from flows of energy and matter from the rest of the world. To anticipate and accompany development, the European Union should be designed to support and promote in depth studies. It needs to understand how systems of territorial relations work with the biosphere and in their interrelations with neighboring territories, adjacent or encompassing.

Local Bursts in: a New Deal on Competitiveness

Territorial cohesion policy is neither the support vehicle of sectoral policy, nor the remedy for harm caused by macro-economic thinking. It is a structural policy wholly separated from positive integration. It the best way for Europeans to find direct answers to concrete problems since it recognizes the peculiarities – including cultural ones – of territorial resources. Not only does it take into account the benefits and constraints of globalised production, it is suitable given the major developments that have taken place in European society. What is more, it responds to the demands of users and the projects of entrepreneurs who invent organizational forms appropriate to their purpose.

Experience forms and takes shape

The gap is widening between citizens and the European construction. The economic crisis is global and impacts every type of regulation. The new parameter of sustainable development, eminently transversal in its applications, is dramatically changing the exercise of territorial governance. Too many missing links in the chain make transparent decision-making partly impossible and ensures their unpredictable application.

At the level of the territories we live in it is possible to make development intelligible and encourage the participation of residents. Taking time for dialogue and then following up on citizens propositions are the first steps in the political exercise of making clear and verifiable decisional mandates. “Les Pays” in France, local Agenda 21s and other territorial projects across Europe are witnessing the efficiency of open partnerships between all components within a territory, all inclusive. These systems encourage initiative, open-mindedness and improve the quality of politics. Framed by the same guiding principles, these policies are more appropriate to the uniqueness of their respective contexts. The principle of subsidiarity implies that territorial governance is more legitimate and better accepted. Its added value is verified by results that are easily ascertainable (better services, new activities, jobs) and by improved social relations (quality of a consensus, social networks, empowerment, and creativity).

Training New professionals in the Art of Interfaces

These first steps in learning turned towards the preparation of the future serve also to locate the important people who engage themselves, increase collective competencies, bind project teams of paid and volountary workers, and activate processes of resilience. To support these people, we need to return to the drawing regarding even the territories lines of work to stop binding them functionally as technical, specialized or administrative. We need to prepare the new generations of territorial development professionals to understand the territorial approach and know how to adopt it humanely. Indeed, as long as it makes sense to manage the space occupied by a population and share limited resources, multiple interests are bound to confront one another. Managing the conflict in order to steer it toward the common good is not something that can be improvised. To build the missing links between fragmented approaches towards more coherence, we must also redefine the missions, mandates and deontological conditions that guarantee a new undertaking that does not submit to the sectoral objectives of institutions.

The Production the Common Good

The pursuit of the common good is not the prerogative of public authorities. Today, the term civil society designates new social actors who share in the goals and responsibility of this common good. These civil society actors come from all the socio-professional colleges, bringing political sensitivities of all persuasions. They are often dedicated to territorial cohesion because of their attachment to the places they live, whether they are native to them or not. They act with a territorial view of proximity, often following a particular vision for social transformation, at distances go from near to very distant, on the most variegated themes. The debate called Grenelle (conference) on the environment in France showed the potential of common expertise, consolidated over 20 years of activity, in generating local innovation through reflection and advocacy. Organised as associations, platforms or networks, they are active and resolved promoters of a society of knowledge.

Our Proposal

We support an integrated territorial approach, starting with the resources and realities of territories since this constitutes the ideal response to complex and closely interlinked problems. At some levels, territory constitutes the site where the actions are articulated and we can form the roots of change. Europe is probably the best at encouraging decompartmentalisation and horizontality, supporting the construction of collaborations between families of territorial actors, from local to regional, inter-regional to national and beyond. Combining solidarity and efficiency thanks to the renewal of territorial democratic governance, this is an ambitious project for an enlarged Europe. The European elections are the occasion to express the public will, beyond national borders and partisan politics.

Learn more:

“What is the best territorial cohesion policy for Europe?” The Pactes Locaux, associated with different partners on a platform of European work, gave their contribution to this open debate at the Commission. Their analysis is founded on the lessons from 5 territorial meetings between 2007 and 2009, on the experience of experimenters, public authorities, elected officials, residents and researchers. This first step towards collective intelligence prepared Atelier 7 of the international forum Lux ’09, “Democratic participation and territorial anchoring for another economy” April 22-25, 2009, Luxembourg) www.pactes-locaux.org

President: France Joubert. Telephone: 06 70 00 14 67. Contact info: 5 rue de Cadène 11580 Alet les Bains ; 04 68 69 92 88 ; martine.theveniaut4@orange.fr

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