Journal Article

The European Union and major infrastructure policies: The reforms of the Trans-European Networks Programmes and the implications for spatial planning


The European Union (EU) has been involved in influencing major infrastructure in the fields of transport and energy mainly by means of the Trans-European Networks (TENs) programme begun in the 1990s. Other macro-planning and wider spatial planning exercises, including the European Spatial Development Perspective, made reference to such infrastructure systems, particularly in relation to the need for connectivity and mobility, but normally did not attempt to intervene in an area seen as one of the prerogatives of national states. Much more important have been the wider programmes of liberalization pressed by the EU since the 1980s, but these have had no specific geographical content. A revision of the TENs programmes since 2008 has led to proposals to increase the role of the EU, by drawing up continent wide schemas indicating needs for future investment in many fields of both transport and energy, and introducing new procedures to streamline decision-making by designating projects as of European interest. The initiatives in transport and energy are described here, including the two Regulations currently under discussion within the EU institutions. These include major proposals for cross-European multi-modal transport corridors within an EU core network, and regional schemas for energy drawn up primarily by energy industries and government counterparts. Both are likely to be of real significance for spatial planners throughout the continent, and have major impacts on the shapes of future infrastructure networks. These proposals are analysed, as cases of the rescaling and re-ordering of government, giving more force to the EU in these fields, and reinforcing sectoral- or silo-based decision-making. It is argued that somewhat different outcomes will result in the few areas, such as the Baltic, where long-term macro-regional collaboration has been present, from the rest of Europe, where these sectoral programmes may complicate further the mix of planning impacting on each region, making even more confused the accountability of governance. Suggestions are made for the careful assessment of these schemas by national and regional governments, and for the creation of some spatial planning analytical capability at the EU level, which could examine this type of proposals, with powerful spatial impacts.

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Marshall, Tim

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment\School of the Built Environment


Year of publication: 2014
Date of RADAR deposit: 2016-07-26

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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