Reference : National report: France
Reports : Other
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Human geography & demography
Sustainable Development
National report: France
Evrard, Estelle mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
Blondel, Cyril mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
EU Commission
[en] spatial justice ; local ; territorial governance ; spatial planning ; cohesion policy
[en] In France, spatial injustice is usually described as disadvantages related to place that result in the feeling that the local population is left out or unable to shape the locality’s own future. It contrasts with a strong tradition of “égalité des territoires” (“equality between territories”) which shapes the spatial planning policy.
Two contrasted case studies have been selected for the RELOCAL project in France. Located in peri-urban post-industrial contexts, they both need to reopen the path towards local development. The EPA Alzette-Belval (Lorraine) is a top-down initiative established through an on-site technical implementation, while Euralens is a more bottom-up, autonomous association in the Nord mining basin. Spatial injustices existed in both localities, and there were a number of similarities (e.g. access to and financing of public services, fair and equitable access to decision-making processes).
The national context goes beyond the individual findings for each case, to reflect on their significance in a national context shaped by successive waves of decentralisation and the recent launch of nationally led thematic initiatives to support local development.
We found that Euralens and the EPA Alzette-Belval make a direct contribution to greater spatial justice. The EPA Alzette-Belval specifically targets distributive justice, while Euralens targets procedural justice more. These two actions demonstrate that despite decentralisation, the state remains crucial in France. Like the place-based approach promoted at the EU level, France encourages localities to build up their own initiatives to foster local development, while the state provides timely support through dedicated schemes (e.g. ERBM, ÉcoCité, EPA à la française). In this context, regions facing steep challenges (e.g. economic regeneration following the fall of single industries, asymmetric border exchanges and interdependencies) are overwhelmed by the task of effectively mobilising the national tools at their disposal and initiating local development on their own.
Nationally led instruments therefore need to be adapted to local geographic, political and social specificities in order to be capable of deploying their full impact. It therefore seems important – especially in a unitary country like France – to keep monitoring spatial disparities and social inequalities, have dedicated channels for territories to bring forward their respective problems, and as a consequence to keep redistributive measures that can be mobilised to address the deepest territorial divides.
Too often, potential beneficiaries of EU funding do not apply (i.e. due to the administrative burden, lack of information). Access to EU regional policy should be more open, simpler and based more on impact (including qualitative and quantitative indicators). Open European satellites with dedicated agents in territories facing structural challenges could contribute by enabling these regions and giving “Brussels” a more human and less bureaucratic face.
European Commission - EC
Researchers ; Professionals
H2020 ; 727097 - RELOCAL - Resituating the local in cohesion and territorial development

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