Actions putting the Territorial Agenda into practice

A future for lagging regions

A future for lagging regions: Fostering the implementation of spatial strategies

A future for lagging regionsA European pilot action is currently implemented until 2023 under the title “a future for lagging regions” lead by Germany. Three German regions and three regions from other European member states form a partnership. Multipliers are involved at national and European level. A public final conference will take place on 6 June 2023 online.

The project supports selected pilot regions in securing services of general interest, testing new tools, fostering intermunicipal cooperation and will thus strengthen the implementation of territorial strategies.

Small municipalities, counties and planning associations exchange information across Europe on specific local and regional activities – in the areas of strategy processes, digitisation, mobility and resilience. Through that, a more effective linkage of regional and sectoral planning is tested.

Rationale & link to Territorial Agenda

Europe’s regions are diverse in terms of development conditions and potentials. One of the core priorities of the renewed Territorial Agenda – to strive for more balanced development and more equal living conditions for all regions – is put into practice and translated to the regional and local level through the pilot action on ‘A future for lagging regions’. The pilot action aims to secure services of general interest and strengthen integrated regional development. It contributes to the priority of a ‘Balanced Europe’.

Envisaged activities

The pilot action will include implementation, transfer and upscaling activities.

  1. Implementation activities: Hands-on local and regional actions in the field of services of general interest. Based on existing spatial development concepts, integrated and transferable solutions for the provision of public services will be implemented. This includes:
    • the application of digital tools for health care, supply of essential goods and services, mobility, and local communities,
    • strategy-building in local communities through participative approaches,
    • facilitation and evaluation of inter municipal cooperation, evaluation and improvement of regional governance structures, and
    • evaluation of public strategies aimed at the support of local centres and the provision of public services.
  2. Transfer activities: Regions and communities will participate in a European exchange, offering advice to other regions within and beyond the partnership to set up spatial strategies and implement related measures.
  3. Upscaling activities: Results and findings on local level will be transferred to policies, plans and programmes on all levels. Such activities will provide good examples to raise awareness of the concerns in lagging regions at national and European levels.

Envisaged lessons / results

Answers to the following questions are envisaged:

  • How can measures of spatial strategies be effectively implemented in order to create perspectives for structurally weak regions?
  • How can regional planning measures be effectively incorporated into sectoral planning and concepts in order to sustain the implementation of spatially relevant measures?

Envisaged dissemination

A kick-off event took place in May 2021 and a final event will take place on 6 June 2023. Exchange and consultations with interested regions beyond the partnership will be promoted. Summaries and reports for information of the wider public will be disseminated, and articles and press releases will be drafted. Active participation in conferences at national and European level is foreseen, as well as regular updates on the TA2030 website. The pilot action will also deliver a final report to be published in 2023.

Time planning

Following a preparation phase until November 2020, the pilot action is being implemented in two main phases:

  • Joint work on further refining the pilot action (December 2020 until May 2021), followed by the kick-off event.
  • Implementation of the pilot action (May 2021 – September 2023): Coordinating and supporting the implementation activities in the participating regions, partner meetings and a final event.


German partner regions will be co-funded via national funds for spatial development. Travel and meeting expenses of European partner regions with regards to joint working and sharing of knowledge may be covered as well. European partner regions will contribute with own resources for local activities.


The partnership consists of six European regions:

  • Rostock Planning Region, DE
  • Schleswig-Flensburg District, DE
  • Görlitz District, DE
  • Alentejo CCDR, PT
  • Land Vorarlberg / Walgau Region, AT
  • Region Grand Est, FR

National ministries and agencies responsible for spatial development in the four participating Member States are involved. The European Commission, DG REGIO and ESPON are participating in the pilot action.

Thematic priorities by pilot region

Each region has chosen to work on different thematic priorities.

Lead stakeholder

German Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR) on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Building (BMWSB), Germany
Sina Redlich (

Key messages/ results/ updates:

A public kick off conference has launched the implementation phase of the pilot action in May 2021. More than 300 registered participants from all over Europe and all levels showed a great interest in how the Territorial Agenda will be put into practice. Representatives of the pilot action as well as experts from science, administration and politics discussed the steps to be taken to implement the Agenda.

The six regional partners are now implementing their local activities. Pilot regions in Germany, France, Portugal and Austria develop innovative spatial planning solutions that improve people’s everyday lives in rural regions. For example, in the Görlitz district, challenges of services of general interest such as mobility, supply and accessibility are addressed through a structured dialogue with relevant municipal actors. The Grand Est region works with 11 selected demonstration regions to establish local development clusters.
Find out more about the pilot activities here:

During the second partner meeting, the pilot action’s partnership chose to focus on the topic of strategy development: A dialogue on the experiences made in strategy development (objectives, barriers, experiences) took place between all partners of the pilot action. A publication shows good examples of spatial strategies from the involved partner regions and highlights their success factors to be considered when developing strategies.

Download: New Publication: Strategy building processes in lagging regions | Territorial Agenda 2030 | A future for all places

The third partnership meeting focussed on the digital transition of lagging regions. A publication shows how digital transformation offers opportunities for inter-municipal cooperation and collaboration with civil society and other regional stakeholders. It also presents examples from the involved partner regions of the Pilot Action “A future for lagging regions” on how they tackle digitalisation.

Download: New Publication: Digital transformation in lagging regions

During their fourth partner meeting, the pilot action’s partnership chose to focus on the topic of mobility solutions in lagging regions. Partner regions are currently testing various approaches. A publication presents practical examples from the participating regions in Europe.

Download: New Publication: Mobility solutions in lagging regions

A public final conference will take place on 6 June 2023 online.

Lessons learned so far:

In order to contribute to the translation of the Territorial Agenda 2030 priorities on the ground the pilot action put a particular emphasize on compiling a multi-level partnership with the direct involvement of six local and regional actors with diverse settings that are each supported by their national authorities and European actors. This set-up proofed to be very beneficial for the pilot action.

The regional activities combine the European-strategic level of the Territorial Agenda of the EU with the practical implementation level on site. They help to operationalize the TA’s strategic goals.

There are a number of ongoing initiatives in the partner regions taking place beyond the pilot action that already implement the priorities of the Territorial Agenda. Interreg projects that carry out activities in line with local and regional strategies can also contribute greatly to implementing the TA goals.

Local and sub-regional actors are the experts of their territory. Regional and national strategies and policies should empower local actors and support bottom-up structures. They should also encourage inter-municipal partnerships and lead to integrated working structures. Strategies, policies and programmes should include experimental clauses and allow for innovation to take place at the local and sub-regional level.

Local and sub-regional actors are mostly not familiar with the Territorial Agenda. What is the motivation for those partners to engage? First experience shows that the regional as well as the state level plays an important intermediary role to engage the sub-regional level with the TA. Funding opportunities help to ensure commitment. That way, local measures can be implemented and they receive increased visibility through the “TA label”. Direct communication at eye level between the local and the national / EU level can increase the understanding of the needs of local actors.

The currently running pilot actions have been initiated by national government departments competent in spatial development. Communication efforts should encourage other actors, organisations, networks and associations to come up with their own pilot actions in order to seize the momentum.

Rostock pilot region (Germany)
Copyright: whitemay / iStock by Getty Images

Region Grand Est pilot region
Copyright: Focus_on_Nature / iStock by Getty Images

Schleswig-Flensburg pilot region (Germany)
Copyright: District of Schleswig-Flensburg
18 February 2021 Participation in the ESPON Joint session Pilots LAB TA2030, promoted by PT PRES & ESPON
25 February 2021 First partner meeting
16 March 2021 Participation in the event “Territorial Cooperation Agenda 2030: Bringing Territoriality into Interreg”, promoted by Interact
25 March 2021 Participation in the event “Territorial Agenda 2030: a future for all places, a future for rural areas”, integrated in the ‘Rural Vision Week: Imagining the future of Europe’s and promoted by PT PRES
6 May 2021 Organization of the kick-off event, an online conference, “Putting the Territorial Agenda 2030 into practice”, promoted by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) and the German Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR)
20 October 2021 Participation in the ESPON Policy Lab: Pilot actions’ exchange and learning process
28-29 October 2021 Second Partner Meeting: Strategy Building Processes in Lagging Regions
25-26 April 2022 Third Partner Meeting: Digital Transformation in Lagging Regions
21-23 September 2022 Third Partner Meeting: Mobility solutions in lagging regions
12 October 2022 #EURegionsWeek Workshop: Pilot action “A future for lagging regions”
24 January 2023 Fourth Partner Meeting: Regional Resilience
6 June 2023 Public final conference (online)
Date Main Activities


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