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ESPON: Crises show need for 'fairer, more sustainable model'

'Radical change needed' says head of French cohesion agency

(ANSA) - BRUSSELS, JUN 20 - The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have rocked the political agenda and changed it, highlighting the urgent need for radical change in a wide range of issues and strengthening the European Green Deal, according to Yves Le Breton, the head of the French Agency for Territorial Cohesion (ANCT).
    Writing in the soon-to-be-published new edition of TerritoriALL, the semiannual magazine of the ESPON European cooperation programme specialised in regional analysis, Le Breton observed that the two crises show how crucial issues such as the security of energy, food and medicine supplies are, even though they seemed abstract for many citizens up to now.
    These issues, which are at at the top of the priorities of the French presidency of the European Council, all have an important impact on the management of public goods, the most important being the use of land.
    Le Breton wrote that the Green Deal has already proposed a model of development that is more efficient on the energy front, more respectful of biodiversity and seeks to improve the protection of the soil and the territory.
    According to the ANCT chief, the challenge not only lies in the need to "plan more sustainable territories and cities" but also in the need to "protect farm land, monitor risks to energy supplies and reposition the production of goods that are essential and of strategic interest".
    Together these elements strengthen the case for limitations on the use of the territory and for implementation of the Green Deal, Le Breton said.
    "Planning our demands, rationalizing the use of the territory and its resources, is of strategic importance in order to ensure favourable conditions for more autonomous development, as well as to guarantee good quality of life to all European citizens," Le Breton stressed.
    He said that, for this reason, strategic territorial planning is needed that, unlike in the post-war period, is no longer driven by "the imperatives of growth but also, and above all, by the awareness of the local actors that more rational management of one's territorial resources is one of the fundamental conditions" for development that is resilient and sustainable in times of transition and crisis.
    This is a paradigm change that will also lead to "more innovation," he said.
    "Fairer, more sustainable, less energy-devouring urban planning is still the exception that must become the rule," Le Breton argued.
    These new territorial models require better balanced relations between urban and rural areas, explained the ANCT director, who sees the change of gear following the pandemic as an opportunity for rural areas to improve the quality of the services offered.
    The health emergency, which increased the attractiveness of rural areas "could be the spark of a breakthrough" he concluded.


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