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An Observatory of European Spatial Planning

Europe in the 21st Century: what Planning Policies?

The ambitious idea of the programme ORATE is to bring spatial planning specialists together in a network to make better planning tools available. One of ORATE's French coordinators, Claude Grasland, explains the concept.

What are the precise goals of the research programme ORATE 2006?
Claude Grasland: The Interdisciplinary Network for European Spatial Planning (ORATE, whose French focal point RIATE1 is directed by Nadine Cattan and myself) brings together scientific experts and political decision-makers from across the Union, from candidate countries, and from neighboring nations. The overall goal of this research programme is to further the emergence of a European spatial planning policy. In the short run our job is to furnish concrete answers to specific questions such as “what are the spatial consequences of enlargement?” or “how can EU sectoral policies be harmonised and their overall spatial impact measured?”. Looking further ahead, ORATE research will work to determine what policies can reconcile economic competitiveness, social cohesion, and sustainable development.

What new criteria are you developing to enable you to gauge an area's dynamics and potential?
C.G. An early research avenue has been to get beyond the usual lot of official statistics (per capita wealth, unemployment, and the like) and explore new types of indicators and define new criteria for getting at things like cultural resources and natural resources. These pave the way for a policy of resource conservancy.

Are these first attempts at quantification convincing?
C.G. Not really. Science and politics obviously intermingle when a certain country of northern Europe suggests cultural resource indicators based on “cultural landscapes” while a country in southern Europe suggests that emphasis should be placed more on architecture.

In the Atlas of France you show that existing indicators can be improved with the help of tools of spatial analysis...
C.G. While waiting for new and more pertinent indicators we can try to use better available sources, especially with the help of multiscalar approaches. For example, knowing that Catalonia's per capita GNP in 1999 was 17,340 euros does not in itself hold much interest. But it becomes interesting if we can show where this number puts Catalonia in relation to the average value in the EU (21,360), in Spain (14,270) and in neighboring regions either in France or Spain (16,260). In so doing we highlight where conflicts might arise in spatial policies, as when a region is a beneficiary of European funds (-18%) but a net contributor at a national level (+22%) and roughly equal to surrounding regions (+7%).

Do these new approaches have an impact on map making?
C.G. Yes, of course. As soon as the value of an indicator is relative to a certain spatial and temporal context, there are infinitely many cartographic ways to represent the same phenomenon. Maps then should be constructed by interactive tools capable of responding to specific needs and requests by scientific and political users. This is in fact the objective of the research project Hypercarte, which produces new forms of representation of social phenomena such as maps of discontinuities, “smoothed map with borders removed”, and others.

What was the motivation behind the study of the spatial diffusion of foreign euro coins in France undertaken by RIATE in 2002?
Coins transported by individuals serve as a unique marker of movements by all of the European population and provide invaluable information about the spread of epidemics, innovations, styles, etc. Above all, the mixing of euro coins is one of the few obvious displays of European integration. Mapping the spread of foreign euros is symbolically important; these images of a purely material integration can help reinforce a mental or emotional sense of integration among European citizens.

The probability of having a euro of foreign origin in one's pocket.


(a) March 2002


(b) June 2002


(c) September 2002

© Grasland C. (University Paris 7), Guerin-Pace F. (INED) Euro Spatial Diffusion Observatory, September 2002



à lire

• Grasland C. 2001. "Des disparités régionales à la mesure de l'Europe", in Atlas de France, vol. Aménagement du territoire, pp. 132-136.
• Grasland C., Guérin-Pace F. 2002. "La circulation des euros, reflet de la mobilité des hommes", in Population & Société, n°384, INED, Paris.


Claude Grasland
Director of RIATE

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