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CoE/CEMAT Moscow Declaration on “Future Challenges: Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent in a Changing World” July 9, 2010

Thursday, 25 November 2010
by Maguelonne Déjeant-Pons, CEMAT Executive Secretary, Head of the Cultural Heritage, Landscape and Spatial Planning Division, Council of Europe
The 15th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers Responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning (CoE/CEMAT) was held in Moscow (Russian Federation) on 8-9 July 2010 on the theme “Future Challenges: Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent in a Changing World”. The Conference also celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the CEMAT.

The Ministers of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe discussed and developed new approaches to meet the challenges which European countries now face. The Conference proved instrumental in fostering a reinforced co-operation on territorial matters throughout Europe.

The Ministers adopted the following important texts:

Moscow Declaration on “Future Challenges: Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent in a Changing World”

Resolution No. 1
on “The Contribution of Essential Services to the Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent”

Resolution No. 2
on “The Pan-European Charter of Rural Heritage: for a Sustainable Territorial Development”

These texts are given below:

CEMAT Moscow Declaration
on “Future Challenges: Sustainable Territorial  Development of the European Continent in a Changing World”

adopted by the Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning at the 15th Plenary Session of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning (CEMAT) in Moscow, Russian Federation, on 9 July 2010

We, the Ministers of the Member States of the Council of Europe, attending the 15th Plenary Session of the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning, which also celebrates the 40th anniversary of the CEMAT, in Moscow, Russian Federation, on 8 and 9 July 2010,


- the commitment of the Council of Europe to the promotion of human rights and pluralist democracy, as embodied in various European conventions and charters, and the fact that CEMAT has given priority to promoting the territorial dimension of human rights and democracy, especially through stronger territorial cohesion and democratic approaches based on the increased involvement of regional and local authorities and civil society in territorial development processes;

- the considerable changes which have occurred over the past 40 years in the demands made on territorial development policies, caused by shifting contextual factors, emerging challenges and evolving societal values; the key role played by CEMAT over these four decades in promoting efficient territorial development activities at all levels, including across borders, in order to increase the well-being of European citizens and the quality and attractiveness of the European territory, as well as the need to provide CEMAT, on this memorable occasion, with an increased impetus adapted to the new context;

- the commitment of the Council of Europe to sustainable development, as recognised by the final Declaration of the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government (2005), the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Conference of INGOs, and expressed by the CEMAT, through the “Guiding Principles for the Sustainable Development of the European Continent” (2000) and the related Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member states of the Council of Europe (2002), the Ljubljana Declaration on “The territorial dimension of sustainable development” (2003) and the Lisbon Declaration on “Networks for sustainable spatial development of the European Continent: Bridges over Europe” (2006);

- that in this year of economic and social challenges, the priorities of the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (May-November 2010) focused on achieving greater territorial cohesion are fully in line with the CEMAT commitments towards sustainable territorial development of the European Continent;

Having regard to the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) and the Territorial Agenda of the European Union and its First Action Programme agreed upon by the EU Spatial Development Ministers at their Informal Ministerial Meetings in Potsdam in 1999, in Leipzig and in Ponta Delgada in 2007;

Following the principles and objectives suggested in the work programme of the Committee of Senior Officials for the period 2007-2010, highlighting the theme “Future challenges: sustainable territorial development of the European continent in a changing world”;

Adopt the following Declaration:

1.Milestones in the history of CEMAT

CEMAT was established in 1970 for the purpose of developing transnational cooperation on common territorial development issues such as the growing regional imbalances generated by economic prosperity, the structural move towards a more service-based economy or territorial integration across national borders. Soon, new challenges emerged which had to be added to CEMAT’s agenda, such as increasing unemployment in manufacturing regions, the economic backwardness of European peripheries, the polarisation trends in and around metropolitan areas and recognition of the importance of environmental issues. More recently, major innovations in telecommunication systems and especially the worldwide introduction of the Internet and related communication technologies made possible both the emergence of the knowledge society and the acceleration of globalisation. Business clustering and area-based development then became appropriate strategies.

The most important political event of the post-war period on the European continent took place in 1989-91, right in the middle of the four decades of CEMAT activity, with the fall of the Iron Curtain. The transition period which followed, driven by the introduction of the market economy in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well as in Russia, had a considerable impact on territorial patterns, as regards both cities and rural areas. Territorial integration could now progress on a continental scale, and networks of all kinds have developed over the past two decades throughout the wider Europe. The European continent is again unified, in a context where territorial disparities remain, however, significant.

In the past four decades, the internal organisation of statutory powers within the Council of Europe member countries has changed considerably. The process of the democratisation and the subsequent change of polarisation resulted in the allocation of significant territorial development responsibilities to regions and municipalities in most countries. In central and eastern Europe too, the decentralisation process, which started later, has progressed significantly, generating, as in western Europe, structures of multi-level territorial governance.

Since its foundation in 1970, CEMAT has played an invaluable role in promoting efficient territorial development policies throughout Europe, in line with major changes in the general context:

Activities to raise awareness, exchange good practice and jointly explore future trends have marked the course of its forty years of activity. CEMAT has had an unquestionable impact on the improvement of territorial development legislation, policies, procedures, practices and tools in numerous countries. Its influence has been particularly strong when new groups of countries have joined the Council of Europe, as happened in the case of several countries of southern Europe in the 1970s and of central and eastern Europe in the 1990s.

A particularly valuable and influential achievement of CEMAT has been the joint formulation and political adoption of common forward-looking territorial development doctrines, such as the “European Charter for Regional/Spatial Development” adopted in Torremolinos in 1983 and the “Guiding Principles for the Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent” adopted in Hanover in 2000, on the occasion of CEMAT’s thirtieth anniversary.

CEMAT has advocated the subsidiarity and reciprocity principles with a view to actively involving regions and municipalities in territorial development policies, and also as a means of preserving the unity in diversity bequeathed to Europe by its history and geography.

CEMAT has further demonstrated that well-conceived and efficiently implemented territorial development policies are essential to ensure sustainable development in the long-term, as stipulated by the Rio and Johannesburg Declarations, and to protect and enhance landscapes according to the provisions of the European Landscape Convention.

In the period 2007-2010, with the Russian Federation in the Chair, CEMAT has devoted specific attention, in the context of its international symposia, to following topics: “Accessibility and attractiveness of rural and landlocked areas: sustainable transport and services of general interest” (Andorra, 2007), “Challenges and strategies for metropolises and metropolitan regions in a context of growing globalisation with regard to economic, social, environmental and cultural development” (Saint Petersburg, 2008), “The spatial dimension of human rights: for a new culture of the territory” (Yerevan, 2008), “A comprehensive approach to balanced sustainable spatial development of the European continent” (Kyiv, 2009).

The overarching objective of territorial cohesion, as promoted by the Guiding Principles, should be interpreted primarily as a basic territorial dimension of human rights. It represents a fundamental value of European society that can reconcile European citizens and their daily aspirations in terms of human dignity, equity and security, and good living, working and cultural environments, with the unavoidable transformations in production systems and in the international and interregional division of labour, with changes in natural conditions such as climate change, and with the move towards a more multicultural society. Territorial cohesion is the most comprehensive and ambitious objective which territorial development policies, in conjunction with other public policies, must strive to achieve.

2. Climate change, population ageing and social polarisation call for appropriate and efficient territorial policy responses

New challenges with significant territorial impacts have emerged over the past decade, which were not at all, or not sufficiently, taken into account in the Guiding Principles of the year 2000. They call for urgent policy responses, especially on the part of territorial development policies in conjunction with other public policies.

The acceleration of climate change and the need for a new energy paradigm call for urgent territorial development initiatives

Climate change, hardly noticeable a few decades ago, has been accelerating to the point of becoming one of the most serious global issues. Fossil energy systems, which generate the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, are widely recognised as the main drivers of climate change. This has a growing impact on biological and physical systems and affects basic access to water, food production and other economic sectors as well as the environment. It also causes increasingly frequent natural disasters with social, economic and environmental damaging impacts. Curbing the speed of climate change and limiting the extent of its negative impacts requires significant initiatives in many public policy areas and also presupposes major changes in the functioning of society.

Territorial development policies have crucial tasks to fulfil in this field. With regard to facilitating a change of energy paradigm, they have to contribute to the adaptation of transport systems, to the implementation of energy-efficient measures in the design of buildings and urban settlements, to the good management of mobility needs, to the promotion and use of renewable energy sources, while ensuring environmental sustainability, social equity and to optimisation of the economic benefits to be reaped, in European regions, from these new approaches, ranging from research and development activities to the widespread implementation of new practical solutions tailored to each individual region. Where territorial development measures are concerned, minimizing the negative impacts of climate change requires on the one hand the intensification of preventive measures against potential damage from natural disasters (floods, drought, storms, landslides...) and, on the other hand, the development of structural measures aiming at facilitating the adaptation both of productive systems (agriculture, forestry, tourism) and urban settlements at strengthening the protection of natural resources and biodiversity, where potentially affected by climate change. Territorial development policies have to be significantly improved by integrating mitigation and adaptation measures into local, regional and national development strategies and into the various levels of decision-making.

Developing appropriate territorial policy responses to the new demographic and socio-cultural challenges

Several decades of low fertility rates are now resulting in accelerating population ageing and, in some countries, population decline. These trends will amplify in the future, with a greater intensity in central and eastern Europe as well as in some west European regions. The relative importance of migration resulting in total population change, which is currently significant, still could be expected. These demographic changes, combined with low birth rate and growing social polarisation in European society, will call for significant upgrading of the territorial development policies.

The relative importance of immigration in total population change, which is currently significant, will further increase. These demographic changes, combined with the growing social polarisation in European society, will call for significant improvements in territorial development policies.

With regard to the impact of accelerating population ageing, anticipation of labour shortages in a growing number of European regional labour markets - these improvements must include through the upgrading of qualifications, employment rates, productivity and innovation capacity; the strengthened provision of/and proper access to appropriate services and infrastructures (health care, culture, transport, accommodation facilities) for the elderly; and development of the residential and heritage-based economy in regions with valuable natural and cultural assets, based on the attraction of a growing numbers of retirees.

In regions (mainly remote rural and low density population areas and old industrial districts) affected or threatened by vicious circles of social deprivation generated by the simultaneous effects of depopulation, loss of jobs and closure of services, territorial development policies have to ensure the provision of essential services and promote economic development and social cohesion in order to maintain the vitality of settlements and  prevent further deprivation. In order to facilitate the integration of young people, and especially of women, into the labour market of their home region, curb outmigration trends and make the region more attractive for these groups and enhance their personal prospects, opportunities for higher education, life-long learning and access to skilled jobs have to be significantly increased, in particular through better provision of services and infrastructures also promoting intra-regional mobility, twinning it with the efforts to counteract the process of decline by creating new jobs.

In order to counterbalance the effects of growing social polarisation, especially in cities, which often result in social segregation, growing intolerance, insecurity and even violence, territorial development and urban planning measures, in combination with other public policies and against the background of the Council of Europe’s objective of social cohesion, have to prevent such tensions, ensure social inclusion and alleviate social segregation by rehabilitating and regenerating problem neighbourhoods.

Cities also have an important role in economic recovery because of their added value for innovation.

3. Promoting innovative, sustainable and cohesive territorial development in a context of accelerating globalisation and as a means of responding successfully to economic challenges in the post-crisis period

Gaining increased benefits from the globalisation process through more efficient territorial approaches

The globalisation of economies, which has been the dominant trend since the 1990s, is driven by trade liberalisation and the development of information and communication technologies, which has increased the tradability of goods and services, facilitating the transnational fragmentation of production processes according to the most profitable locations. While a number of European regions significantly benefit from the globalisation process, others are confronted with increasing external competition. In the future, it is likely that the globalisation process will have substantially different characteristics, with competition moving more and more from low-wage production segments to technology-intensive products, including also, increasingly, services and agriculture.

Territorial development policies have the task of contributing to better positioning of the different European regions in the global context. Growth, stagnation and decline not only cause problems and challenges, it also provides an opportunity to stress differences between different regions and gives the change to enlarge the attractiveness of the European continent as a whole. Policies can do this by providing appropriate local responses to global challenges through the promotion of local economic development taking into account the territorial potential and in particular, heritage, local assets and resources, while linking it with sustaining and preservation of such heritage and local identity. In this connection, they have to promote the territorial anchorage of businesses by strengthening their regional links with research and development, training, education, administrative and cultural institutions and civil society. They are required to facilitate the adjustment of labour markets and  enable production systems to move closer to the frontiers of technology, mainly through the upgrading of education and skills in regions. They are also expected to help overcome the still significant fragmentation of the European economic/technological system by facilitating the creation of cooperation networks, and especially clusters, throughout Europe, involving businesses, research and development and education institutions, technology transfer centres...

Innovative, sustainable and cohesive territorial development contributing to overcoming the consequences of the economic crisis

Europe is emerging from the deepest global economic depression of the post-war period. With the sharp decline in world trade and exports, the globalisation process has, for the first time, temporarily slowed down. It is essential that Europe’s global positioning does not worsen as an outcome of the crisis and that Europe’s regions efficiently exploit the potential of the new context to make a quantum leap in terms of competitiveness. Spatial and regional planning should contribute to economic recovery. Furthermore, the crisis and its consequences should also be considered and used as an opportunity for boosting territorial cohesion, especially in promoting place-based strategies which permit more rational and economical use of public resources. It is therefore of primary importance that the capabilities of territorial development policies be fully utilised and this requires a number of significant adjustments.

Territorial development policies should be helpful in reconciling the short-term, often sectoral measures adopted by governments to overcome the crisis with long-term values and principles, such as territorial cohesion and sustainable territorial development. In pursuing the aim of revitalising and consolidating the economy, more emphasis should be given to integrated approaches, the only ones capable of generating synergy effects and preventing long-term inconsistencies, and support should be given to regional and local initiatives aimed at mobilising endogenous resources and territorial potential. For the decades to come the economic strength and competitiveness of the European continent is more and more determined by the skills of people and the strengths of our cities in which knowledge, education, innovation and research find a powerful base.

The debate on climate change is far from being incompatible with the need to revitalise the economy, as significantly curbing greenhouse gas emissions offers considerable opportunities for economic development in European regions in terms of innovation and investment and makes demands on numerous areas of territorial development (energy, transport, construction and renovation of buildings, agriculture and forestry, tourism...). The adoption of new adaptation and mitigation solutions tailored to the local and regional contexts throughout Europe is likely to generate a great many new activities and significant numbers of new jobs, while contributing to improved quality of life and reduced risks related to climate change.

4. The quality and efficiency of territorial governance are key factors in responding successfully to new challenges

Territorial governance is increasingly recognised as being of primary importance in ensuring successful and harmonious territorial development, as was particularly stressed at CEMAT’s 14th Plenary Session in 2007.[1] The present context is even more challenging in this respect, with the need to recover rapidly from the economic crisis and efficiently manage the transition to a more environmentally-friendly energy paradigm.

Considering the increased number of member countries since 1989, with new borders and new administration systems and with higher cross-border permeability within the European Union and the Schengen area than outside, new forms of cooperation have to be developed to permit satisfactory and efficient territorial integration in all parts of the European continent.

As global competitiveness is rooted in the territory, especially in the numerous formal and informal networks of influence and cooperation existing in and between regions, significant European initiatives and impetus for sound, innovative and sustainable territorial development are necessary in the new context.

Territorial development policies should facilitate the transformation, in this new context, of  European regions’ territorial capital into concrete economic, social and environmental added values. This requires innovative territorial governance, in which regional and local authorities define concrete development strategies in cooperation with economic players and civil society,  mobilise and organise institutions and stakeholders to carry out operational projects, including on the basis of public-private partnerships, and ensure the coherence and sustainability of the various initiatives by providing a long-term vision and a development framework. The development of new infrastructures and services and the delivery of essential services are particularly challenging issues, especially in relation to population ageing, social inclusion and the continued vitality of communities and settlements.

With regard to the numerous valuable initiatives of regional and local authorities aimed at promoting the development of territories, reducing their social, environmental and economic vulnerability and counteracting climate change, it should be ensured that their future involvement will not be endangered by insufficient financial resources, as a result of the crisis.

Considering that development in the post-crisis period will necessarily be based on more endogenous approaches, closely associating regional know-how, assets and innovation potential, cooperation and subcontracting networks, local business clusters, voluntary associations and other NGOs, territorial development policies should enable civil society to be more heavily involved in the preparation and implementation of territorial development strategies and projects at the regional and local levels. In this connection regional and local authorities should be encouraged in their functions as facilitators for the setting up of project-related partnerships while ensuring the provision of necessary administrative and material support as well as the necessary links with upper-tier authorities. National policies and state interventions should be as effective as possible to provide transparency and predictability as far as national governmental actions are regarded. This also provides the necessary space for public-private partnership.

Because of their horizontal, cross-thematic character and orientation towards sustainability, territorial development policies are an invaluable tool for ensuring the protection, management and planning of landscapes, according to the provisions of the European Landscape Convention (2000), in a way which reflects the identity and diversity of the population living in the different European regions. Managing landscapes in the spirit of the Convention is an integral part of modern territorial governance.

In order to enable appropriate decisions to be taken in due time, conventional territorial monitoring systems should be complemented, at times of rapid economic and social change related to crises and unexpected events, with more qualitative, expert-based short-term reporting of territorial changes.

In the light of the foregoing, we, the Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning of the Member States of the Council of Europe,

Emphasize that:

The Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning (CEMAT), bringing together European Union and non-European Union member states, is a unique forum for discussion on the future of the European continent and for promoting cooperation and partnerships with regard to new, emerging challenges and to all territorial developments generated by structural changes.

With the aim of promoting sustainable and cohesive territorial development on a pan-European scale, while addressing highly strategic issues of common European interest, CEMAT is currently particularly committed to contributing to the recovery from the economic crisis and to implementing efficient and adequate mitigation and adaptation solutions regarding the challenge of climate change, as spatial development with its integrated and cross-sectoral approach and multi-level governance system can provide an adequate framework and a basis for implementation of adaptation strategies and measures respectful of the European territorial diversity. It also devotes particular attention and significant efforts to the territorial impact of population ageing, migration issues, growing social polarisation and accelerating globalisation.

With a view to promoting innovative territorial governance, making it possible to coordinate different policies at different levels and also efficiently involving the regional and local authorities and civil society, CEMAT is encouraging the formulation of long-term visions permitting comprehensive approaches and preventing undesired territorial effects.

Call on:

- the Member States, the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to consider not only the importance of the work carried out by CEMAT over the past forty years in promoting territorial development on a pan-European level while supporting human rights and democracy, but also its present strategic activities on crucial issues in a rapidly changing and challenging context, and therefore to maintain their support by providing CEMAT with sufficient resources as mentioned in the Annex to the final Declaration of the Third Summit of Heads of States and Governments (2005);

- the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe to provide appropriate support to CEMAT’s policy recommendations in order to facilitate and strengthen their implementation by mobilising wider circles of public authorities and stakeholders of civil society;

- the European Union to counteract the declining trends in the territoriality of European policies and to promote coherence and synergies between policies which have significant territorial impacts, with the aim of strengthening territorial cohesion and sustainability as well as the competitiveness of European regions in a context of growing territorial challenges. In this connection, neighbourhood policies should also be given a greater territorial dimension.

Commit ourselves, within our means and competences, to:

- provide fresh impetus to our cooperation efforts on the occasion of CEMAT’s fortieth anniversary and against the background of a highly challenging context and to give a sharper focus to CEMAT’s activities with the aim of contributing significantly to cohesive and sustainable solutions regarding the territorial development of the European continent;

- pay particular attention, in the territorial development policies of our respective countries, to the new challenges described above and to take all initiatives, both within our respective countries and in the context of cross-border co-operation, enabling territorial development policies to be efficiently combined with efforts to regenerate the European economy in a sustainable way and to provide efficient and adequate mitigation and adaptation solutions to the issues related to climate change;

- mandate the Committee of Senior Officials to adapt the Guiding Principles to the new territorial challenges.


  1. CEMAT Resolution N°2 on “Territorial Governance: empowerment through enhanced coordination”, adopted in Lisbon in 2007.




adopted at the 15th Session of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning (CEMAT), Moscow, Russian Federation, 9 July 2010

The Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning of the Member States of the Council of Europe,

Considering that essential services are indispensable for a decent life in a developed society, and that the demand for those services is increasing rapidly;

Considering that access to essential services is a basic public policy aim and a crucial factor in spatial development policies, helping to reinforce social, economic and territorial cohesion and contributing to proper spatial planning;

Recalling that, under Recommendation Rec(2002)1 of the Committee of Ministers to the member states on the CEMAT “Guiding principles for sustainable spatial development of the European Continent”, “one of the aims of the Council of Europe is to strengthen local and regional democracy in Europe by means of a territorially more balanced development of the European continent”; and that “social cohesion in Europe has to be accompanied by sustainable spatial development policies that bring the social as well as the economic requirements to be met by the territory into line with its ecological and cultural functions”; 

Recalling that, under the Ljubljana Declaration on the territorial dimension of sustainable development (CEMAT(2003)9 Final), “uneven accessibility to essential goods and services” is one of the many factors which are “challenging the sustainability of our common European future”, and that “to manage adequately the major challenges for sustainable spatial development of the European Continent, relevant policies must be further improved, in order to reduce disparities, particularly through a more balanced and effective territorial location of activities, infrastructure and services in order to improve their accessibility”;

Recalling the CEMAT Resolution No 3 on the EU Territorial Agenda and its relation to the CEMAT,  adopted in Lisbon, on 27 October 2006, and  referring to Article (3) of the Territorial Agenda EU which says that  “Through the Territorial Agenda, we will help in terms of territorial solidarity to secure better living conditions and quality of life with equal opportunities, oriented towards regional and local potentials, irrespective of where people live whether in the European core area or in the periphery”; and to Article (8) “we regard it as an essential task and act of solidarity to develop preconditions in all regions to enable equal opportunities for its [EU] citizens and development perspectives for entrepreneurship…”.

Noting the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities adopted in Leipzig, on 24-25 May 2007, in which “The ministers declare:…all dimensions of sustainable development should be taken into account at the same time and with the same weight. These include economic prosperity, social balance and a healthy environment… In the long run, cities cannot fulfil their function as engines of social progress and economic growth…unless we succeed in maintaining the social balance within and among them…”.

Recalling that, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), everyone “is entitled to realisation of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity” (Art. 22) and that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family” (Art. 25);

Recalling the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (United Nations, 1966), in which “the states parties […] recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family” (Art. 11.1), the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Art. 12), and the right to education (Art. 13) and noting that this treaty was ratified by all the member States of the Council of Europe;

Recalling the Declaration adopted at the Johannesburg Summit (2002), in which the signatories affirmed their determination “to speedily increase access to such basic requirements as clean water, sanitation, adequate shelter, energy, health care, food security and the protection of biodiversity”;

Recalling the International Guidelines on Access to Essential Services for All (HSP/GC/22/2/Add.6) adopted by the Governing Council of the United Nations Human settlements programme at its 22nd Session in April 2009;

Recalling Recommendation No. R(2000)3 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to the member states on the “Right to the satisfaction of basic material needs of persons in situations of extreme hardship” (January 2000) and the action taken by states to give effect to the individual, universal and actionable right to satisfaction of basic material needs;

Recalling Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)4 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to the member states on “local and regional public services”;

Recalling Recommendation 235(2008)1 of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on “Services of general interest in rural areas, a key factor in territorial cohesion policies” and the invitation of the Congress to the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Development (CEMAT) to continue its discussions on rural areas;

Having regard to the above-mentioned Recommendation of the Congress to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to invite member States to “elaborate regulatory and financial mechanisms which enable the different tiers of government to offer support, incentives, grants, subsidies or equalisation measures to ensure adequate access to high-quality services of general interest for all”;

Recalling Recommendation 259(2009) of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on “Public Water and Sewer Service for Sustainable Development” and the invitation of the Congress to the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Development (CEMAT) to integrate its recommendation into the present resolution;

Considering the progress made in implementing human rights and, in particular, economic and social rights, and the increasing attention devoted to under-privileged and marginalised groups and ethnic minorities;

that access to essential services is necessary to implement the right to an adequate standard of living as enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and is indispensable for the effectiveness of the human rights provided for in this treaty;

Noting that, although most people in the Council of Europe’s member states already have extensive access to essential services, more progress is still needed to guarantee such access for more individuals, and particularly deprived or marginalised groups;

Recognising that implementing social, economic and territorial cohesion policies involves improving access to essential services wherever such access is still inadequate;

Noting that although there is no single uniform definition of essential services, there is a common understanding of what they are;

  1. Adopt the Declaration on the contribution of essential services to sustainable spatial development of the European continent;
  2. Decide to take account of the Declaration and, within their means and competences, apply its principles in the design and implementation of their spatial development policies, thus contributing to the promotion of social progress and strengthening of the implementation of human rights for the benefit of their own populations;
  3. Decide to identify, in their own countries, the services which should, in their view, be available to everyone if human dignity is to be respected, and to implement, within their means and competences, policies and programmes designed to improve access to essential services and their quality, particularly in rural areas, mountain and ultraperipheric regions, small villages and peripheral urban areas;
  4. Decide to promote sustainable spatial development policies taking into account social policy measures, solidarity policies and geographical and climatic adaptation measures, in order to ensure that the costs of essential services in remote, outlying or sparsely populated areas are compatible with those applied in urban areas or that alternative compensation measures are made  in favour of vulnerable, marginalised or underprivileged population groups in their territory, including ethnic minorities;
  5. Ask the Council of Europe to organise exchanges of experience and comparative analyses on measures adopted in member states with an eye to improving access to essential services in rural and peripheral urban areas, to promote sustainable ecological solutions in sparsely populated areas, and to make such services more accessible to vulnerable, marginalised or under-privileged population groups in their territory, including ethnic minorities.



The Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning of the Member States of the Council of Europe declare the following:

1. Regional/spatial development in a developed society requires the harmonised availability throughout the territory of a set of infrastructures and services of general interest in order to enable populations to enjoy an adequate standard of living and create the conditions for economic and social development of the different regions.

2. Essential services are services to which everyone should have access in order to be able to live decently, have their human rights respected, have an adequate standard of living and live in a healthy environment. Despite the progress made in this area, not all such services are evenly distributed throughout the European continent or equally available to all social categories, even though they play a vital role in guaranteeing economic, social and territorial cohesion in the framework of sustainable spatial development.

3. The territories that may lack essential services are mainly rural areas, under-equipped peripheral urban districts, economically under-developed regions and ultra-peripheral areas where the demand for essential services is less strong or less easy to solve. The absence of essential services in some regions hampers balanced spatial development and is seen as a factor for exclusion, or even as a form of discrimination, thus contributing to depopulation of some regions.  Similarly, charging high prices for such services excludes under-privileged households from such services.

Essential services contribute both to economic and social development and the implementation of human rights requires new measures to facilitate access by all to such services and make their accessibility reasonable to reduce the number of citizens deprived of them in Europe. Such action will involve all levels of government including ministers responsible for spatial/regional development.

The provision of essential services will benefit from a clear distribution of responsibilities between territorial communities, regions and the State and from capacity building and empowerment of such decentralised authorities who are made responsible for overseeing or managing essential services.

4. Essential services are chosen in each country by public authorities to meet the needs of their various population groups in accordance with spatial development objectives. They vary from time to time and from place to place. The following services are often chosen in member states as being essential services under their legal system: water supply and sanitation, energy supply, electricity and gas, telecommunications (including Internet access), postal services, refuse collection and disposal and public transport. This open list could possibly include other social services, it being understood that health and education services should be provided in all cases. Common lists should also be drawn up by mutual agreement between states following similar socio-economic policies and include quality requirements for essential services and measures designed to improve them when needed.

5. This Declaration applies only to essential services which under internal law have to carry out public service missions or which are considered to be services of general interest. Its implementation will vary from one country to the other and may require amending current policies  to increase access to all.

Choice of essential services

6. Each individual state, in consultation with the relevant authorities and civil society, should determine very precisely, in an transparent manner and in accordance with their spatial policies, the essential services which they intend to make available for all throughout their territory.  This choice will be influenced by their level of development, general policy aims, considerations of equity, traditions and culture and, generally, their policies on social, economic and spatial development.  The practical arrangements for establishing the services must comply with the rules applicable as regards the provision of services of general interest. Harmonisation of the lists of essential services between countries with similar economic development would contribute to reducing economic and social disparities.


A. Essential services, spatial development and planning


7. Sustainable spatial development requires the provision of essential services throughout the territory under conditions which enable everyone to have access to them. Such services should be provided as close to the users as possible and equitably distributed through the territory in a non-discriminatory manner, generally in polycentric spatial structures. Measures for the delivery of essential services will need to be adapted to local conditions.

Within the limits of their means and competences and depending on available resources, public authorities should take the action needed to make essential services available to the public, taking account of the needs of present and future generations and of the protection of health and the environment.  Such action is likely to involve several ministries and/or several local and regional authorities according to the country’s legal framework and may be supported by appropriate legal provisions and national strategies elaborated at interministerial level.

Improving access to essential services in regions where they are lacking is a priority in ensuring that everyone can live in his/her own region thus contributing to social, economic and territorial cohesion. It helps to improve regional economic development.

Setting up of essential services

8. Depending on available resources, public authorities should provide or support the availability of these services and should monitor them. They should define the roles and responsibilities of any regional or local bodies responsible for such services. Where they do not directly manage the services, they should retain political responsibility for them.

9. Public authorities should specify, within the limits of their competences, the general rules applicable to essential services (universal access, continuity, inalienability, security, adaptability, effectiveness, affordable charges, transparency, etc) and the level of quality expected of them.

10. Public authorities should adopt and implement measures to guarantee access to essential services in normal situations, and also adopt special provisions for crisis situations.  In some cases, users have to travel in order to have access to such services.  Measures should be taken to facilitate easy and affordable access to these services by public transport when they are not locally available.


11. Decisions on the spatial deployment of essential services and the corresponding operational regulations should take account of specific regional or local conditions, and should contribute to sustainable spatial/regional development in line with adopted policies, plans and guidelines for regional development of urban and rural areas and in accordance with sectoral plans and decentralisation policies.

12. Local or regional authorities close to the users should play a major part, in the context of decentralisation, in establishing, monitoring and ensuring the proper functioning of essential services, in compliance with power-sharing rules. They should cooperate to ensure that essential services operate efficiently on an appropriate scale, in particular between urban municipalities and nearby rural areas.


13. Public authorities may exercise their powers in the field of essential services either directly or, if permitted by law, by delegation.  In these cases, they should have freedom of choice concerning modes of management, and ensure that this choice can be reversed.  If management is delegated, the corresponding decisions should be valid for a limited time and subject to regular review involving users. Delegated services should operate in accordance with rules compatible with the requirements of sustainable spatial development, in a non-discriminatory manner, under the supervision of the public authorities and in a manner accessible to all.

Networked services

14. States should pay particular attention to the development of networked services in order to ensure sustainable spatial development and combat rural depopulation.  They should earmark financial resources for new infrastructures in their territory and make full use of information and communication technologies as a tool to encourage accessible essential services throughout the territory

15. States should apply the principle that “telecommunications networks must be improved and extended to cover the whole area and tariffs must not be prohibitive” (Recommendation Rec(2002)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the “Guiding principles for sustainable spatial development of the European Continent”).  They should stress that “generalised access to Internet must be a priority objective” (Declaration on “Networks for sustainable spatial development of the European continent: Bridges over Europe”, adopted by the Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Development at their European Conference in Lisbon, on 27 October 2006 [CEMAT(2006)14 Final]).

B. Progressive extension of access to essential services

16. Public authorities should take appropriate action to promote the progressive extension of access to essential services under spatial development plans, depending on the financial resources available.

17. The investments required for the extension of access should be the subject of long-term development from the angle of sustainable development and sustainable spatial/regional development.  Subsidies may be provided to take account of the extra costs of essential services in remote, outlying or sparsely populated areas or alternative price compensation measures may be  taken in favour of  vulnerable, marginalised or under-privileged population groups, including ethnic minorities, in accordance with the rules applicable to financial assistance.   

C. Essential services and human rights

Right of access for all

18. In order to combat social inequality and geographical disparities, everyone should be granted the right of access to those services which are essential for living decently in a developed society.

19. Access to essential services may derive from general spatial development policies or from human rights, from obligations incumbent on public authorities or from provisions on economic and social rights enshrined in the constitution or treaties.  The exercise of rights relating to essential services is dependant on complying with the corresponding obligations, especially in terms of protecting natural resources and the environment.

Social and economic cohesion measures

20. The prices paid for essential services are a major factor in ensuring their effective availability particularly in remote areas where they are liable to be higher.

21. Prices should either be determined by the public authorities in respect of public services or be monitored, controlled or approved by them, so as to ensure their sustainability and strengthen social, economic and territorial cohesion.  Where necessary, subsidies and fiscal measures may be used in order to ensure affordability to everyone.

22. The costs of essential services should be apportioned among all users so as to ensure that everyone has access to them under economic conditions acceptable to all. Public authorities should choose the methods to achieve such fair apportionment having due regard to the effects on spatial development of social, economic and territorial cohesion. They may introduce social measures for people in situations of hardship, provide targeted aid, operate social tariffs and adopt solidarity measures based on equalisation among the various users. They may also adopt price compensation measures for those exposed to unusually high prices for essential services.

D. Users’ rights

23. The proper functioning of essential services should be promoted by a mode of management close to the users. Those responsible for essential services should report annually on service performance, investment made, state of infrastructure, incidents and complaints.  Public authorities should regularly monitor any complaints from users about essential services and ascertain the action to be taken.

24. Users of essential services should have rights as users or consumers.  In particular, each user should have access to easily understandable information on essential services, their quality and rates.

25. Public authorities should consult users of both sexes and their associations before taking any major decisions on essential services.  They should envisage setting up and operating advisory boards on essential services.

E. International cooperation

26. International cooperation among member countries could facilitate the availability of essential services to all. Cooperation between local authorities in border areas should be promoted to facilitate access to essential services in these areas. Public authorities of a contracting party cannot be held responsible for disruptions in the provision of essential services which are caused by the lack of implementation of a treaty by another contracting party.





adopted at the 15th Session of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning (CEMAT),  Moscow, Russian Federation, 9 July 2010

The Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning of the member States of the Council of Europe,

that Recommendation Rec. (2002) 1 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to member States on the CEMAT “Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent”, the Ljubljana Declaration on “The territorial dimension of sustainable development” (Council of Europe, 13th CEMAT, 2003) and the Lisbon Declaration on “Networks for sustainable spatial development of the European continent: Bridges over Europe” (Council of Europe, 14th CEMAT, 2006), stress the importance of the enhancement of territories’ endogenous resources;

Considering that these texts emphasise the value of the natural and cultural rural heritage, its protection, its role in the development of the European continent and the participation and mobilisation of communities within the framework of the governance principles;

Considering that implementation of these principles calls for enhancement of rural areas by a consistent spatial development policy and that, with this in view, the rural heritage represents a crucial asset which should be preserved and enhanced;

Pointing out that the Council of Europe has already adopted several conventions, charters and recommendations, general or specialised, dealing with the rural heritage, in particular:

– the European Charter of Architectural Heritage (1975), which deals with traditional villages, the role of heritage in memory and the integrated conservation approach;
– the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage, opened for signature in London on 6 May 1969, and revised in Valletta, on 16 January 1992;
– the Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats, opened for signature in Bern, on 19 September 1979;
– the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe, opened for signature in Grenada, on 3 October 1985;
– Recommendation No. R(94)6 for a sustainable development and use of the countryside;
– the European Landscape Convention, opened for signature in Florence, on 20 October 2000;
– the Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, opened for signature in Faro, on 27 October 2007;

Considering the interest generated in several countries by the “European Rural Heritage Observation Guide – CEMAT”, of which the Ministers responsible for Regional/Spatial Planning took note at the 13th CEMAT Session (13 CEMAT (2003) 4);

Considering that this Charter, which appears as an addendum to the present Resolution, seeks to establish an operational link between the provisions of these documents and to make rural heritage a real asset to its territory, a factor and a driving force in sustainable spatial development, and to play a decisive part in making rural areas more attractive and in the town-country balance;

  1. Adopt this Charter;
  2. Undertake to implement it, within the limits of their resources and responsibilities;
  3. Recommend that the governments of member States, at their various levels and in their various sectors of political action, consider the guidelines formulated below.




The rural heritage is a real asset and resource for territories, a factor and a driving force in sustainable development of the European continent, playing a decisive part in making rural areas more attractive and in the town-country balance.

Rural areas, even the most disadvantaged, have tangible and intangible elements, assets and skills, traditions and practices of recognised societal, cultural, architectural and natural value, a testament to the past and to the present. This heritage contributes to the quality of life of the inhabitants, to the quality of the landscapes and to the attractiveness of areas both to those who live there and to those who visit them.

The countryside and its heritage are particularly vulnerable, although they offer the potential for a new type of development and rural life. The decline of rural areas could cause irreversible damage to the living conditions and the identity of their populations and thus to many aspects of heritage;

Vigilance is essential when faced with the various threats hanging over this rural heritage:

the built and architectural heritage, threatened by changes in housing and lifestyle, the acute challenges thrown up by energy issues, the obsolete nature of former farm buildings, which are nevertheless a typical feature of vernacular architecture;

the natural heritage and the rural landscape, threatened by land use practices, farming and forestry methods and production techniques, the building of housing estates on the edges of towns and villages, the creation of new infrastructure, climate change and damage to the environment, particularly to biodiversity;

the intangible cultural heritage, threatened by a somewhat backward-looking view that places tradition against progress and regards as obsolete the customs and skills of a rural community doomed in decline.

It is for stakeholders and policy-makers to take full account of the guidelines set out below.

1. Knowledge and recognition of the heritage

The European continent has a rich rural heritage, shaped over the years by human activity and made up of an exceptional variety of soil types, reliefs, climates and crops.

This heritage covers areas as varied as history, architecture, archaeology, the arts, culture, in particular oral culture, techniques, skills, including food-processing skills, the environment, and natural and built landscapes.

Heritage value not being self-evident, its recognition must come through a process of growing awareness inherent in the concept of “heritage-formation”.

To place an item, object or skill (or a group of objects and skills) in a context of period, duration and space, and to pass it on to future generations, it is important to turn it into “common property” by giving it “meaning”.

In implementing policies for territories, policy-makers have a role to play in promoting the heritage process through:

– working to make citizens, in particular the young, aware of the value of the rural heritage, and to involve them in the issues related to it;

– encouraging heritage preservation through mechanisms based on negotiations with the keepers and potential users of heritage elements;

– encouraging heritage education initiatives that build on the activities of the stakeholders and organisations concerned, and that are incorporated in school or extra-curricular activities, through the teaching of certain subjects (the arts, history, literature, environmental science, etc) or in the form of awareness-raising activities (heritage classes, “exploration” classes, educational outings, etc.);

– encouraging and assisting the creation of places for the organisation of meetings, events, heritage days and forums for discussion on the heritage;

– facilitating or organising heritage recording, in particular at community level, as well as heritage research, using a combination of documentary sources and local knowledge;

_ developing research and studies directed towards updated knowledge of the rural heritage and its adaptation to contemporary realities;

– providing all rural heritage stakeholders with national and/or regional guides compiled on the basis of the Council of Europe’s “CEMAT European Rural Heritage Observation Guide”, and ensuring their distribution at local, regional, national and European levels.

2. Heritage use

The enduring nature of the heritage, which is an integral part of the heritage concept, requires us to think about how it is used.

Unless treated like a museum display, heritage items are destined to evolve.  Depending on one’s viewpoint, this may involve various types of action: restoration, renovation, rehabilitation, reassignment, etc.

Since the aim is to pass the heritage on to future generations, whilst respecting its function, developing projects for it is the most appropriate way of ensuring a living future for it.

Policy-makers and users will do their best to observe the different phases in the development of a project (preliminary draft, formalisation, familiarisation, follow-up, etc.), in association with each group of potential partners, so as to reinforce and enhance it.

3. The heritage as a driving force for sustainable development

To the extent that the purpose conferred through a particular project meets the expectations of the community or of user groups, a heritage item has the potential to give impetus to cultural and economic development. 

Use for economic purposes requires policy-makers and operators to take a two-pronged approach:

– striking a balance between small-scale production methods, traditional skills and innovation, making it possible to adapt to the modern world while offering alternatives to mass production,

– putting customs to practical use in tourist, craft, local or cultural products.

Legislation has provided a framework for some of these approaches, in particular in the food-processing industry, with the introduction of quality labels, but the range of opportunities is wide and should be extended to meet the high demand for authenticity and quality.  

It is for policy-makers to:

– promote a type of emerging economy based on heritage, by supporting professionals and practitioners in the development of products, in particular by combining different ways of adding value. Rambling as a means of exploring an area and finding out about its skills and local produce, experiences based on the scents and flavours of the countryside, cultural routes (roads and trails, etc) on mutually complementary themes, and places devoted to particular skills are possible ways of doing so;

– use or re-use traditional methods of natural heritage conservation and management by adapting them to meet present-day requirements. Techniques for the preservation, grafting and utilisation of the genetic resources of old species and breeds are possible areas of application.

All these activities create jobs, directly or indirectly.

4. Heritage at the heart of territorial dynamics

Heritage enhancement can transform the image of the rural areas concerned. 

As part of the process of making these areas more attractive and redefining them on the basis of a “living heritage”, it is vital to enlist the support and involvement of the stakeholders and communities concerned.

It is advisable to:

– provide information about the projects as well as to organise public participation;

– place economic initiatives in a wider development context;

– focus on the heritage’s cultural, social and societal dimension.

Culturally speaking, heritage enhancement represents an advantage for territories, communities and individuals.  It helps to preserve cultural diversity and results in more rewarding exchanges.

Socially, heritage binds individuals together and builds a bridge between generations.  In particular, it provides an opportunity to call on older members of the community, who possess knowledge and tend to be more available.

Creating a project strengthens dialogue and cohesion.  In terms of the relationship with society, it contributes to people’s sense of belonging and identity.  It is a vehicle for, and a means of, celebrating community life.

It has been observed that heritage can play a major part in the successful settlement of newcomers in the countryside.  It is important to ensure, however, that the heritage connection does not develop into a nostalgic attachment to rural life, or a form of introverted assertion of identity.

The process of heritage enhancement requires:

- a comprehensive approach within the territory concerned, translated into a project embracing the various facets of local development, in particular the availability of services for the community;

– an internal and external communication policy on heritage features and the activities conducted;

– a strategy for exchanging information with other areas facing similar heritage issues or, better still, for sharing experience and creating networks;

– inclusion in European, national, regional and local development programmes that provide both a methodological framework for project management and financial resources. 

5. The heritage and its trades and professions

Heritage preservation and enhancement are often carried out by associations, using the services of volunteers.  Such persons play a key role, but if the projects and related development processes are to succeed, trained persons must be involved as well.

In order to strike a balance between amateurs and professionals, and between activism and qualified intervention, training needs to be at the forefront of policy-makers’ concerns.

The first step is to:

– list the areas of competence and the disciplines concerned, as well as the professional skills to be adapted and passed on;

– examine heritage-related local development activities;

– compile reference job descriptions;

– develop a common vocabulary;

– target the different groups of stakeholders (policy-makers, operators, heads of associations, administrative bodies, development agents, specialists, mediators, etc).

These observations and assessments can then serve as a basis for developing heritage training and education eg:

– training in the form of trade apprenticeships, combining general training and practical experience with an engineering/design element including innovation; 

– multi-faceted, heritage-related training for professionals in leadership, management, mediation, promotion and marketing;

– training for trainers, in particular those working in the voluntary sector.

Delivering this training and education involves:

– enlisting the support of training institutions, including, of course, vocational training institutions, but also those offering more specific forms of instruction such as mentoring, work-shadowing, etc.

– finding diversified funding, including through sponsorship.

The process of observing activities and increasing the professionalism of those involved, which requires the support of elected representatives, should:

– ensure better qualifications and social recognition;

– facilitate occupational and social integration, especially in the case of young people and women who tend to be more involved in support and co-ordination activities;

– combat the lack of job security that can often be observed in the heritage sector, by enabling professionals to acquire a range of skills.

Such an approach helps to forge a strong social bond between local residents, as well as between different sections of society and between generations.  It will only be fully effective, however, if communities are educated about the heritage in a participatory manner.

Rural communities are the driving force in the development of the areas in which they live, and purveyors of changing societal values representing cultural diversity.

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