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Comments for the 5th Cohesion Report: Investing in Europe´s future

Reflections on chapter 3 'Strengthening cohesion´ based on a number of recent research projects conducted by Nordregio and on the continuing discussion within Nordregio on the concepts of territorial cohesion and territorial governance.

Some conclusions

The spatial integration of cities and towns in the Nordic countries requires pro-active public policies and clearly identified strategies to overcome challenging geographical preconditions. This specific perspective is only partly reflected in European policy documents. The limited size of Nordic towns and cities in other words makes the urban dynamics of these countries totally invisible from a broarder European perspective. Nordic regions are reduced to the rank of dependent peripheries, whose fate is determined by impulses from a presumed 'European core' area.

There is thus a clear need here to re-emphasise the impact and potentials of endogenous dynamics at all levels of the urban hierarchy. Previous debates and analytical findings show that European approaches privilege macrostructures at the high end of the urban hierarchy, rather than concidering towns and cities on the basis of their structuring potential on the territory.

A more explicit focus on the functional profiles of cities and towns and on the potential of, and the inherent problems with, developing pro-active strategies for sustainable, endogenous growth and spatial integration with their hinterland regarding the abovementioned rather generalised types of urban/rural patterns is required for the identification of the relevant candidates from a Nordic perspective. Only then it is possible to address tailor-made cohesion policies to 'urban issues' and to ensure the rational and efficient use of financial instruments.

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Ole Damsgaard