Aims and approach

Territorial Thinkers is an independent platform of experts, highly experienced in European, national, regional and local policy development with a territorial dimension. Territorial Thinkers aim to support on-going policy development processes by presenting arguments, evidence, ideas, options and recommendations to policy makers. Territorial Thinkers are convinced from experience that a clear territorial dimension in policy conception and in programme strategies and implementation releases a new innovative and cooperative dynamism which should be captured and used positively to achieve European policy objectives.


As EU policy developed during the late ‘80s and ‘90s as a result of major new impulses such as the Single Market and increasing environmental consciousness, so too did the realisation that there was a territorial dimension to that policy. Regional policy, trans-European networks and several environmental policies were by nature inherently territorial. In addition, there was a need to ‘territorially coordinate’ increasing European investments and avoid, for example, environmental and industrial or infrastructural investments becoming conflictual in the same area.

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The idea is to bring together the experience and insights of ‘out-of-the-box’ territorial thinkers to discuss important and relevant matters, and present rational and sharp arguments for a stronger territorial dimension of European policy-making.

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KREMER - the Territorial Thinkers' Blog

KREMER is a blog where friends of territorial thinking publish short opinions, ideas, recommendations and optioning thoughts on European, national, regional and local policy development with a territorial dimension. The KREMER blog wants to stimulate debate and promote innovative and cooperative dynamics which can be captured and used positively to achieve European policy objectives.


KREMER refers to Gerard de Kremer, a Flemish cartographer, geographer and cosmographer, better known as Mercator for creating the 1569 world map based on a new projection.


See all KREMER contributions HERE.

December 2019 - Rural truth(s)?

Guest contribution by Kaisa Lähteenmäki-Smith

As Finland contemplates its future development in light of its declining birth-rate, ageing population and low immigration, questions reverberate around future perspectives and aspirations in respect of the ability of public policy to impact these developments. The shrinking workforce and the growing number of retired people provide a potentially significant challenge. To promote a positive message in the circumstances of negative messages being the norm takes courage. Tytti Määttä, Mayor of Kuhmo, a municipality on the Finnish-Russian border, and Finland's most influential spokesperson for rural areas, recently published an excellent column "Vitality to the countryside with a five-point programme". With Tytti’s permission, I will paraphrase and build on her points here (relating to the rural areas) and consider them in the broader perspective of the good life in shrinking regions. I think they provide excellent reminders and positive encouragement and motivation for us all, whether speaking of Finland, or anywhere else.


Territorial Tunes

In short briefing papers the territorial thinkers offer some reflections to stimulate further debate.

TT 1 - How to boost integrated territorial development in future programmes

This Territorial Thinkers' Briefing of October 2018 addresses the proposed EC regulations, the Common Provisions Regulation (CRP), and the two regulations governing ERDF and European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) after 2020. The Territorial Thinkers advocate the strengthening of the strategic, territorial dimension in the proposed regulative framework by providing concrete proposals and recommendations for the current debate on how to release additional development potential, more efficient investment spending and more European integration from territorial strategies, coordination and cooperation in ESIF programmes after 2020.

Download the Territorial Thinkers' Briefing 2018:01.

TT 2 - More territorial cooperation post 2020

This Territorial Thinkers' Briefing makes a contribution to the ongoing debate on Cohesion Policy post 2020. It argues that territorial cooperation is mature to go beyond Interreg and become a priority also in national and regional ESIF programmes. Putting more emphasis on territorial cooperation within functional areas - of various size and characteristics - in all ESIF activities can release additional development potential, more efficient investment spending and more European integration. The brief presents both arguments for more territorial cooperation and concrete proposals how to strengthen territorial cooperation in Cohesion Policy post 2020.

Download the Territorial Thinkers' Briefing 2018:02.

TT 3 - Towards a European Territorial Agenda post 2020

This Territorial Thinkers’ Briefing argues that dealing more explicitly and emphatically with the territorial dimension of EU policies is not an option but a necessity requiring concrete measures and actions. In this light, the revision of the Territorial Agenda 2020 into a post 2020, longer-term strategy on how to respond to this necessity is an important and urgent proposal. This Briefing from Territorial Thinkers aims at supporting this initiative by providing many suggestions and ideas, some almost inevitable, some more ambitious and ‘out of the box’ than others, but all worth reflecting upon.

Download the Territorial Thinkers' Briefing 2018:03.

TT 4 - The EU territory of tomorrow?

The idea of this Territorial Thinkers briefing 4 is to stimulate debate on the ‘EU territory of tomorrow’ ahead of, during and after the elections among the upcoming, new decision makers.

Possible answers to the key questions about the ‘EU territory of tomorrow’ need to be addressed and debated by politicians heading for a seat in the next European Parliament, candidates for the next EU Commission, the current Romanian and upcoming Croatian, Finnish and German EU Presidencies and, importantly, by regions and cities as the actual players implementing an integrated territorial approach.

It is the hope that politicians will take interest in the following more detailed arguments and messages of this TT Briefing 4 and embark in the political challenge of delivering an EU Territorial Reference Framework – a new long-term policy ambition for the EU territory.

Download the Territorial Thinkers' Briefing 2019:04.

TT 5 - The Territorial fragmentation

This Territorial Thinkers briefing 5 explains what ‘territorial fragmentation’ is, why is it a real challenge at the heart of the European project and how EU policies could possibly be adapted to face that challenge.

Given the increasing divisions, diversity and disparities between different types of territories, territorial fragmentation has become a major and complex challenge throughout the whole of Europe. Territorial fragmentation is a challenge at the very heart of today´s challenges (e.g. related to shrinking cities and regions) and needs to be recognised as such if we want to avoid that areas turn away from Europe. Yet, paradoxically, it is a widely unknown, often misunderstood and largely unrecognised issue.

Download the Territorial Thinkers' Briefing 2019:05.

TT 6 - Territorial Inequality: a new priority for Europe

This Territorial Thinkers briefing 6 puts the case for place-sensitive policies and investments, and proposes policy recommendations on what more should be done to support Europe’s aim of better territorial cohesion.

Europe is in the front line of the problem of territorial inequality, as it is a major source of very many citizens turning their backs on Europe if nothing substantial and innovative is done in policy terms to halt and reverse this trend. What is more, the EU needs to adapt itself to ever more global political and economic interdependencies, become a major player promoting a European model for the digital future as well as a key global actor in combating climate change and ensuring a sustainable approach to the environment, etc. These fundamental challenges all have a strong territorial dimension.

Quite radical policy changes and initiatives at the European level are therefore unavoidable, including far more explicit and conscious attention to the territorial dimension, which until now has been generally overlooked by European policy makers. Not doing so will challenge the very aim of a more cohesive Europe.

Download the Territorial Thinkers' Briefing 2019:06.