Of the good use of the notion of “territory” for the Cohesion Policy
The growing success in the field of spatial planning and territorial development of the European use - at institutional level of the European Union, and sometimes in the research field - of the notion of “territory” seems to face a double stumbling block: in the first place, that of a conception that hardly can be differentiated from a classic definition of the notion, sending back to a definition of a space where is applied an established political power; secondly, that of an impoverished conception of the notion that often reduces it to a specific spatial scale (most of the time local) and to an approach centred on a functional economic analysis (e.g. local productive system). It so becomes an unreal social entity where the interactions society-space-regulation are identified only by indicators of growth, by narratives of “best practices” or by “success stories”.
From a work of documentary analysis (reports on Cohesion, ESPON reports), we will establish the above idea, then confronting it with the epistemological foundations of the meaning of the concept of territory. We shall then be capable of presenting the notion of territory as an operational tool, which would allow to analyze the spatial processes resulting from games of strengths, of ideas, of mental and material appropriations of the actors. In doing so, the concept of territory could ease the adjustment of the European action, led in the Framework of the Cohesion Policy, to the multidimensional reality of the space.