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Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT)

Moscow , 

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Dear Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman,

It is a great honour for me to open the 15th Session of the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT), which is being held to mark the 40th anniversary of your active
co-operation.

I should like to express my gratitude to the Government of the Russian Federation for their hospitality and the major role played by the Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in preparing this session.

As a forum for considering issues of sustainable spatial development and as a platform for exchanging and disseminating information, CEMAT is the only framework for pan-European co-operation on spatial development policies within which members and
non-members of the European Union can gather on an equal footing. The CEMAT provides a framework for the emergence of national and transnational strategies for sustainable spatial and socio-economic development in Europe.

The CEMAT activities conducted since the first ministerial conference in Bonn in 1970 have developed and strengthened the concept and methods of spatial/regional planning. Several core documents have been adopted, such as the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter (Torremolinos 1983), the European Regional Planning Strategy (Lausanne 1988) and the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European continent incorporated in a Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member States in 2002. The draft Declaration to be adopted during this Moscow Conference offers an overview of the work achieved in the past together with the identification of new challenges.

CEMAT has also been active in promoting on-the-ground initiatives, involving several countries. I could mention, for instance, the Initiative on the Sustainable Spatial Development of the Tisza/Tisa River Basin, involving Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and the Slovak Republic; the CEMAT Model Region programme associating Armenia, Georgia and Germany, or the co-operation in spatial development policy between Germany and the Russian Federation. In addition, investment in research and strategic planning from countries such as Germany, Norway and others contributes to building co-operation between the regions of the European continent. Furthermore, the Council of Europe's Regional Programme in South-East Europe and South Caucasus emphasises the quality standards in local development initiatives.

CEMAT has constantly and enthusiastically promoted territorial integration across national borders through numerous co-operation activities at all levels. It is now widely recognised that national borders should not be obstacles to harmonious and competitive territorial development. It remains however true that a number of national borders do have limited permeability, constraining the efforts to strengthen territorial integration.

There has been progress over the past 40 years in the move towards more comprehensive approaches and awareness about interdependencies between a number of factors influencing territorial change. A good example is the synthesis on the national reports prepared for this 15th Ministerial Conference. It aims at identifying the global evolution of territorial structures and imbalances in recent years, the territorial impacts of emerging and growing challenges and the related driving forces and, finally, the evolution of territorially significant policies. The results of this survey are an essential source of inspiration for the Moscow Declaration, to be adopted during this session.

The CEMAT Guiding Principles for sustainable spatial development of the European continent, as confirmed by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, stress the territorial dimension of human rights and democracy. This is why they contribute to promoting the three main fields of importance to the Council of Europe: human rights, democracy and the rule of law, together with the respect of cultural diversity and the strengthening of social cohesion. Spatial development strategies must encourage and facilitate access to essential services and improvement of the day-to-day living environment, whether in terms of housing, transport, work, culture, leisure or relations within communities. It promotes well-being on the part of each individual through employment and the benefits of economic, social and cultural services.

As the fundamental CEMAT texts point out, spatial planning must also be conducted in such a way as to ensure the participation of the populations concerned. It cannot be implemented without the active involvement of the national, regional and local authorities, civil society and the relevant stakeholders. Drawing on the international conventions and the recommendations adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the aim is to address issues that are primordial in a changing society.

Steep population growth, urbanisation, concentration, competition, regional imbalance, unequal development are the challenges that our societies must recognise and overcome. The solutions and remedies are not exclusively economic. As an instrument in the hands of public authorities spatial planning is closely linked to the search for the common good, and be directed to long-term objectives. The work of CEMAT helps improve governance with an eye to achieving a mode of sustainable spatial development that will prevent - or at least considerably reduce – some aspects of current crises and social difficulties. By improving living conditions and standards, spatial planning is paving the way for a better society, which is one of the main commitments of the Council of Europe.

A major reform is now in progress to strengthen the role of our Organisation in Europe. Our work will have to be more streamlined and visible and respond to the present expectations of member States. The specific contribution of specialised ministerial conferences will be considered in this context.

Without further ado, I declare this 15th CEMAT Session open, voicing the hope that we will live up to our populations' expectations and find the ways and means to give meaning to this emerging "new territorial culture".

Thank you.