Diminishing borders and conflating spaces: a storyline to promote soft planning scales

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At the latest since the argumentative turn, the crucial importance of language, narratives and discourses in the field of planning and policy-making is widely acknowledged. This can be particularly important for European spatial planning, for which the European Union (EU) does not have any formal competence. Thus, instead of enacting directives or regulations, the EU and its member states release legally non-binding documents, which contain ideas and objectives relevant to planning. In these documents, certain storylines can be identified, for example, regarding sustainability, balanced development and competitiveness. This article argues that there is another storyline, advocating the reduction of borders and the creation of new, soft spaces across Europe, such as city regions, cross-border regions or macro-regions. If picked up by national or sub-national actors, this storyline can play a crucial role in contributing to establish the legitimacy that soft spaces often lack. Based on empirical findings from the city region of Graz in Austria, the article aims to identify the elements of a discourse coalition, i.e. what the EU does to support soft spaces, who the actors reproducing the storyline are and how the storyline supports soft planning in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1008-1027
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Planning Studies
Issue number5
Early online date25 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • soft space
  • European spatial planning
  • discourse analysis
  • governance
  • legitimacy
  • territorial cohesion


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