• Dr.-Ing. Evelyn Gustedt
  • Professor Giancarlo Cotella
  • map
  • Politics
  • Spatial & state & regional planning


  • What changes in territorial governance and spatial planning systems and policies can be observed across Europe over the past 15 years?
  • Can these changes be attributed to the influence of macro-level EU directives and policies?
  • What are best-practices for cross-fertilisation of spatial and territorial development policies with EU Cohesion Policy?
  • How can national/regional spatial and territorial development policy perspectives be better reflected in Cohesion Policy and other policies at the EU scale?

COMPASS - Comparative Analysis of Territorial Governance and Spatial Planning Systems in Europe 

TU Delft (NL) led the applied research project “Comparative Analysis of Territorial Governance and Spatial Planning Systems in Europe” (COMPASS) from June 2016 to May 2018.

The ARL was one of the partners because it had already recorded the planning systems of neighbouring countries in various book publications since the early 1990s. Later (2004-2008) ARL led the INTERREG project COMMIN with which it comprehensively and systematically presented for the first time planning systems of 11 states in the Baltic Sea Region.

Since the late 1990’s there have been significant developments in pan-European territorial and cohesion policies. Territorial governance and spatial planning systems have evolved to become one of the key components of integrated cross-sectoral development strategies and policy delivery mechanisms among ESPON member and partner states. There are no legally EU binding tools for a European spatial development policy. National governments are therefore under no obligation to implement strategic spatial concepts such as the European Spatial Development Perspective, the Territorial Agenda 2020 etc.

Nevertheless, many countries and regions in Europe are gradually adapting their territorial governance and spatial planning systems in order to reflect the continuing advancements and complexities of macro-level EU cohesion and growth policies. There are numerous reasons for this, including, for example, the need to maximize European funding opportunities, to limit land-take and promote polycentric and compact urban development patterns in response to EU climate change, energy and sustainable transport policies. Furthermore, EU Directives, such as the Habitats Directive, Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive or Water Framework Directive, are obligatory and indirectly influence territorial and spatial governance.

It is clear that territorial cohesion, aiming at voluntary coordination and networking of actors, is strongly related to territorial governance and more and more becoming a matter of transforming physical space and crosscutting spatial and sectoral integration. The extent to which EU metagovernance discourses have created a catalycatalytic environment resulting in the so called ‘Europeanisation’ of domestic spatial planning systems and whether or not there is convergence or divergence has been the subject of much debate. A key criticism of the Europe 2020 strategy is that it is ‘spatially blind’ and lacking any territorial focus.

The Sixth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion published in 2014 highlighted the need for better territorial governance; the ‘Barca Report’ called for a “place-based” approach to territorial development.

As a consequence, there was a strong policy demand to revisit this issue and to undertake an updated systematic comparative analysis of territorial governance and spatial planning systems across Europe in order to examine commonalities and differences of approach, and for further developing the territorial dimension of cohesion policies.


  • TU Delft, NL (lead contractor)
  • ARL, DE
  • Institute of Geography, Polish Academy of Science, PL
  • Nordregio, SE
  • Politecnico di Torino, IT
  • Center for Economic & Regional Studies, HU
  • Spatial Foresight, LU
  • University College Dublin, IE
  • ÖIR, AT
  • Omgeving, BE
  • National Institute of Geophysics, BG
  • University of Thessali, GR
  • Czech technical University, CZ
  • University of Tartu, EE
  • Anna Geppert, FR
  • ILS Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development, DE
  • Georgia Giannakourou, GR
  • London Southbank University, UK
  • Lithuanian Social Research Centre, LT
  • Architecture Project Ltd, MT
  • Centre for Geo. Studies, PT
  • Inst. Geography, SK
  • Ipop, SI
  • Mcrit, ES
  • Istanbul Technical University, TR

Project Support Team

  • Ann Pisman, Belgium (Flanders)
  • Romana Mynarikova, Germany
  • Blanka Bartol, Slovenia

Budget: € 869,700.00





Final delivery
Draft Final delivery
Interim delivery
Inception delivery


COMPASS results

Systems of spatial planning and territorial governance in Europe are well established and maintained. There is a huge amount of energy expended on ‘planning’ as demonstrated by the multiple types of plans at all levels. These tools are used to pursue a common objective to steer spatial development to achieve a wide range of economic, environmental and social objectives. They increasingly engage with citizens in that task. ‘Plans’ are usually multifunctional, dealing with a combination of visionary, strategic, policy and regulation tasks.  


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