Home Link to Mountain areas Link to Islands Link to SPA Link to Coasts Link to Outermost Regions Link to Border areas Link to Inner Peripheries

First stakeholder consultation


The first stakeholder consultation was designed to clarify the views of stakeholders on processes taking place within the respective GEOSPECS areas and on policy priorities. The consultation was preceded by an analysis of relevant academic literature, policy documents and position papers of pertinent organizations. Stakeholders were then asked to provide their views on the challenges and opportunities for the different GEOSPECS areas as well as on needs in terms of policymaking. In many cases, the views of stakeholders confirmed positions identified in the literature review, but in some cases the consultation added new nuances and new paths for research.

For most GEOSPECS areas, the stakeholder consultation was implemented in autumn 2010 by an online survey, backed up by phone interviews where necessary. Several project partners used research conferences to interview participating experts regarding their opinions. Project partner 2 - responsible for Inner Peripheries - decided to conduct face-to-face interviews with experts, as Inner Peripheries are an emerging subject in policy, so far unaddressed in most countries.

Mountain areas

Stakeholders agreed that the most important challenges for mountain areas are:

Meanwhile, the most important opportunities for mountain areas are:

When asked about necessary improvements of EU policy from the point of view of mountain areas, stakeholders underlined that the planning of roads and railways should reflect the characteristics of mountain areas better, but also that "green" innovation is necessary. In the field of environmental policy, more action for the preservation of biodiversity but also more adaptation strategies to climate change were deemed necessary. Specific funding should be provided for the development of renewable energies (particularly hydropower); nevertheless, the exploitation of renewable energy sources must not impinge the goals of biodiversity conservation (several stakeholders perceived a contradiction between these two goals). Within the framework of the CAP, it was pointed out that farmers until now do not receive enough recognition for their contribution to landscape management. LFA payments were welcomed, but noted to vary too much from country to country.

Back to top


Main challenges were perceived to be:

Main opportunities:

When asked about EU policies that should pay more attention to islands, two thirds of respondents named transport policies, and a few mentioned the Common Fisheries Policy, the CAP, Cohesion policy and/or energy policy. The CPMR Islands Commission additionally called for greater flexibility in the implementation of rules and regulations, and pointed out that "all EU financial instruments should recognize that implementing a policy on an island is more expensive than in the neighbouring mainland and public spending should reflect this".

Concerning possible contradictions between policies, primarily the tradeoff between the exploitation of renewable energy sources and the conservation of the environment was named. Some felt that food production was surrounded by too much red tape (particularly animal welfare legislation), which is too inflexible for the special characteristics of islands.

Back to top

Sparsely Populated Areas

The challenges that were given the most emphasis by all respondents are:

Concerning opportunities, the close relationship and trust, i.e. the social capital that the local and regional actors share among them was ranked highest among the development opportunities. Also the unexploited natural resources of global importance were seen as a major development opportunity for SPA. In addition to mines and minerals the possibilities for local energy production (i.e. bio energy, tides -, and also thermal energy in Iceland) were widely mentioned. Another important opportunity relates to the unexploited natural potential of the landscape, especially for tourism purposes.

The stakeholders were also asked to identify the policies that they think are most suitable to respond to the challenges of SPA. In this case, it seems that policies dealing with energy & natural resources (climate action, energy) are central for enabling the future development of SPA. Otherwise a wide span of policies were highlighted: cross-cutting policies, dealing with the impacts of the financial crisis, growth and jobs, better regulation and sustainable development, education & science and technology policies dealing with information society, media, research & innovation and agriculture and fisheries policies were perceived as important ones by stakeholders.

In a meeting with stakeholders from the NSPA network in February 2011, the point was made that questions of gender balance (but also age structure and migration) are crucial in many SPAs and that GEOSPECS should include these issues in its analysis (given that it is frequently the young women who are most prone to move to urban centers, leaving behind an imbalanced population structure in the SPAs). Another remark insisted on the importance of high quality internet access, which may counterbalance the lack of physical access or the loss of some services in SPAs.

Back to top

Border regions


"New" internal EU borders External EU borders Original border areas (within EU15) affected by other geographic specificity

The new internal borders have not yet reached the same "acquis" of cooperation as the old ones: Lack of experience in EU funded project management by the new member states

Access problems - few border crossings (in some cases even lack of basic infrastructure)

Different languages

Different levels of economic development on both sides of border

Still different legal systems in cooperation activities

Different governance structures, different competences/ capacities & different political cultures

Lack of interest for common development strategies from regions and states

In some cases: minorities located across borders

Schengen border regime

Specificity of the Eastern Partnership

Usually peripheral regions with social and economic depression

Remoteness, sparse population, poor accessibility

EGTC not possible

Border-crossing barriers limit free movement and the release of growth potentials

Different cultures meeting at borders

As for opportunities, the AEBR suggests: "All border areas are able to overcome their prior situation by connecting both sides in a long-lasting process of cooperation at all levels. This process, despite of its deepness or intensity, always adds value to any national or regional development strategy. Through Cross-Border Cooperation, resources can be mobilized at European, but also at national level, in a multi-annual basis, that otherwise would never be available". Other stakeholders also mention this point. In addition, the following opportunities were named: development of trade relations, including with emerging markets (particularly in the case of external borders), the exploitation of economies of scale for service provision, diverse natural resources and an intact environment.

Correspondingly, the need for further intensifying cross-border policies was seen in the following fields:

Back to top

Inner Peripheries

As Inner Peripheries (IP) are a new category in EU policymaking, there are no pre-defined groups of stakeholders. The consultation process in this case focused on quality instead of quantity: Three extensive interviews were conducted with experts from Belgium (General Management of Territory Facilities of the Walloon Area), Germany (Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning BBR) and the Netherlands (Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment).

None of the experts offered an official definition of IP; however, some descriptions were advanced:

The perception of the characteristics of and processes in Inner Peripheries seems to differ significantly between Belgium on the one hand and Germany and the Netherlands on the other hand. For the Netherlands, the population decline in IP is one of the main problems (partly due to their location at a border), correlated with a decline of services of general interest. A similar perception prevails in Germany, where poor accessibility / poor transport connections and a lack of jobs are also seen as a problem. In contrast, Belgium notes an increase of population in Inner Peripheries, particularly residential population. People who live in these areas are wealthy, attracted by the low price of land, by low property tax, and the quiet and safe (i.e. less crime) environment of the area. However, the Belgian experts recognize that economic life is fragile in IP, as the people only live there and do not work there; as soon as fuel prices rise significantly, the situation of IP may deteriorate since residents are dependent on their cars. The lack of available local services is also seen as the main obstacles for companies to establish themselves there.

Corresponding to their less positive view of IP, Germany and the Netherlands also see different opportunities for these areas (as compared to Belgium): IP could make use of their often pristine nature and open spaces to promote recreational and touristic activities; they could also be advertised as "low pressure" living areas especially for retired people (but care has to be taken that not too many people are attracted, otherwise the area loses its advantage). Also, the availability of space lends itself to activities such as food production, nature conservation and energy production (including infrastructure facilities such as power lines).

Concerning sectoral policies relevant for Inner Peripheries, the following were deemed most important: agriculture, housing, regional development, energy, transport, education.

Back to top


Challenges for coastal areas:

Opportunities for coastal areas:

Asked about policies which should pay more attention to coastal areas, stakeholders responded transport policies, the Common Fishery Policy, the Common Agriculture Policy, Cohesion policy, nature conservation and the planning of renewable energies. Concerning Spatial planning, it was mentioned that links to coastal hinterlands need to be recognized and integrated into planning in coastal areas, especially those related to inland ports.

In contrast to other geographically specific areas, stakeholders for coastal areas are not convinced that an integrated, European policy towards coasts is necessary: Some point out that coastal areas are too diverse for a European level policy, while others noted that the ICZM and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008) are already very good instruments, they just need to be implemented and adequately financed. However, the need for greater coherence between different measures based at different DGs was underlined (ICZM, MSP, European Fisheries Fund …).

Back to top

Outermost Regions

The following challenges for OR were identified by stakeholders:

It is also pointed out that OR are no homogenous group, not all of these factors apply to all OR: Small market size may be a common challenge, whereas insularity is not true for French Guyana, remoteness less crucial for Madeira and the Canary Islands than for the French DOMs, etc.

When asked for opportunities for OR, some stakeholders mentioned tourism as a key economic driver. Another found that OR have a unique geostrategic, scientific & economic position in the world (access to various oceans, climates, biodiversity environments, human cultures…).

However, several stakeholders find that opportunities are not fully exploited. For example, in its 2008 communication "Outermost regions - an asset for Europe", the EU Commission names the following opportunities for OR:

Representatives of OR indicate that so far no strategy has been proposed to value these assets in the way that the population can benefit from them. This is also true for other notions, such as "active frontier": one stakeholder pointed out that the EU Commission has recognized the opportunity of using OR as "active frontiers" of the EU, but this potential has not been fully explored.

More generally, representatives from the Outermost Regions underlined that the OR have a specific legal status in the EU treaties (resulting from historic ties with certain countries), which is why they already benefit from a distinct integrated policy approach. For this reason, many representatives from OR perceive their regions to be in a unique situation, different from the other GEOSPECS areas.

A lot of derogations specifically for OR are already in place within different EU policies (especially in Regional Policy and the CAP). This was acknowledged by all stakeholders. However, one pointed out that some international commitments made by the EU regarding trade policy contradicted the short-term interest of OR, given that the third countries concerned are close to OR markets and take them as export targets. Another stakeholder claimed compensation for these disadvantages inflicted on ORs by trade policy.

Back to top

Photo This project is part-financed by the EU
The contents of this website does not necessarily reflect the opinion
of the ESPON monitoring committee