ESPON COMPASS (2016-2018)

Comparative Analysis of Territorial Governance and Spatial Planning Systems in Europe (COMPASS) is an ESPON Applied Research Project, which will provide an authoritative comparative report on territorial governance and spatial planning systems in Europe. The project will substantially improve the knowledge based on territorial governance and spatial planning, and in particular, their role in the formulation and implementation of EU Cohesion Policy.

The ESPON COMPASS team at the kick off in Delft in September 2016.


Nordregio has an important role in the project as a leading Nordic research institute on regional development and urban planning specialised in international comparative and collaborative research. The main tasks for Nordregio are to lead the development of the methodological framework, to provide expertise, knowledge and analysis on spatial planning and territorial governance in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Nordregio will also conduct one of the case studies; contribute with maps and general expertise regarding comparative planning research and EU policies related to territorial governance and spatial planning. The objectives of the ESPON COMPASS  project are:

  1. to describe and explain changes in territorial governance and spatial planning systems and policies across Europe since 2000, and the reasons for these changes with particular reference to EU directives and policies;
  2. to identify good practices for the cross-fertilisation of spatial and territorial development policies with EU Cohesion Policy;
  3. to recommend how national and regional spatial and territorial development policy perspectives can be more effectively reflected in EU Cohesion and other sector policies, and vice versa.

The envisioned outcomes of the ESPON COMPASS project are:

  1. a structured comparative analysis of territorial governance and spatial planning systems in all 28 EU Member States plus the four ESPON Partner States (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein);
  2. a qualitative analysis of the praxis of spatial planning and territorial governance and the relationship, in practice, between strategies and outcomes;
  3. an in-depth analysis of the role of EU Cohesion Policy and other macro-level EU policies in shaping territorial governance and spatial planning systems and their impacts in concrete practice – and the influence of territorial governance and spatial planning on EU sector policies;
  4. four to five case studies of good (best) practices in cross-fertilising EU Cohesion Policy and spatial planning, including at least one case study in a cross-border/transnational context, reflecting experience in insights from a range of European regions;
  5. pan European maps illustrating and analysing the national and regional spatial planning strategies of all 28 EU Member States plus the four ESPON Partner States (where possible);
  6. recommendations of the future role of spatial planning in shaping future Cohesion Policy and how national spatial and territorial development policy perspectives could be better reflected in Cohesion Policy and other macro-level EU policies.

Read more about ESPON COMPASS on the ESPON website.

Researchers