ESPON Action 1.1.3. Enlargement of European Union and the Wider European Perspective as Regards Its Polycentric Spatial Structure

The European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion (ESPON) is a research programme promoted by the European Union and aims at supporting a cohesive and harmonious development of the European territory. In its first phase (2002-2006), the programme promoted 34 studies carried out by transnational project groups, composed by teams of researchers from at least three different European countries.

The ESPON 1.1.3 project examined the effects of EU enlargement in order to achieve a polycentric development model for Europe. The analysis focused on the creation of a polycentric spatial model with special attention to discontinuities and the potentialities resulting from the integration process, at first, of the new member states (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland) and, at a second moment, of the countries in process of accession (Bulgaria and Romania).

The study also examined the potential conflicts between a polycentric spatial structure and the objectives set by the European Strategy Development Perspective (ESDP), particularly in terms of balance between competitiveness and socio-economic and territorial cohesion.

The study produced several characterization methodologies regarding the level of territorial cohesion and competitiveness in the European Union and suggested a time and space strategy leading to the promotion of competitiveness and cohesion objectives.

Project data

Intervention Area



European Commission




European Policy Evaluation