Policy Hub:
The Lisbon Treaty

The Lisbon Treaty       <<BACK

This constituted a significant and controversial reform treaty document signed by the Member States in December 2007 and one which served as a pivotal document for the territorial dimension of EU policies as it established territorial cohesion, alongside economic and social cohesion, as one of the EU's objectives. It did this by the simple expedient of replacing the words ‘economic and social cohesion’ words in the previous text (of the consolidated treaties) by ‘economic, social and territorial cohesion’ in the new legal text. This appeared as prominently as at Art 3 and at various points thereafter and going as far as to reaffirm (its word) that the “promotion of economic, social and territorial cohesion is vital to the full development and enduring success of the Union”

By adding “territorial” in such an overt way, it brought into a play an explicit place-related (or geographic  if preferred) dimension, a point which it amplified by adding a paragraph on places of particular types, namely: “‘Among the regions concerned, particular attention shall be paid to rural areas, areas affected by industrial transition, and regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps such as the northernmost regions with very low population density and island, cross-border and mountain regions.’ In other words this is policy to take account of places (always, but inaccurately conceived of as “regions”, which they may or may not be, but an approach with the unfortunate effect of conflating areas of particular kinds with administrative delineations)

Here one reads of the European Union’s commitment to promote territorial cohesion, at the same time being clear that this is to be regarded as a “shared competence” between the EU and individual member states – a balance which has been pursued in practice by member states focusing upon cohesion within national borders whilst the EU looks more at imbalances across borders.

It is also the Lisbon Treaty that makes allowance for a broadening out of the focus of the three-yearly cycle of reports by the Commission on progress towards achieving all three types of cohesion – the “Cohesion Reports” as they had come to be known.

Last updated: 18 September, 2020