Understanding Europeanisation from Within: The Interpretation, Implementation and Instrumentalisation of European Spatial Planning in Austria and Finland

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles

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Despite more than two decades of debate about European planning policies, the ways in which the European Union affects urban and regional planning in its member states remain ambiguous. Under the terms Europeanisation, European spatial planning and territorial cohesion, researchers have investigated activities at the European level and, to a lesser degree, their effects in different countries. However, a focus on the legal status of policies and the issue of competences between the EU and its member states often prevents research from picturing the outcomes of European policies accurately. This dissertation thus suggests understanding Europeanisation from within and asks how  domestic actors interpret, implement and instrumentalise European spatial planning. Interpretation here asks which European policies, programmes and documents the domestic actors consider relevant for spatial planning. Implementation and instrumentalisation address the domestic applications of European spatial planning, i.e. how actors respond to European inputs. The dissertation highlights how actors both implement European policies according to European level intentions, and instrumentalise them to support their own policy goals and interests. To answer these questions, this dissertation presents a conceptual framework that understands European spatial planning as a broad and multi-faceted process that includes both intergovernmental and supranational policies, recognises three types of policy intervention (regulatory, remunerative and discursive) and investigates the influences of European spatial planning at different spatial scales. In order to gain a rounded understanding of the outcomes of European policies, special attention is paid to soft spaces and soft planning processes that lie outside the statutory planning systems. Based on expert interviews, this dissertation presents examples of the interpretation, implementation and instrumentalisation of European spatial planning in Austria and Finland. The findings suggest that Europeanisation is an active, spatial, contextual and complex process. Domestic actors and their institutional practices play a crucial role in determining the outcomes of European spatial planning. They can ascribe importance to "soft policies" such as European strategy documents and they can tie policy interventions to planning practice that lie outside the subject area of planning, as happens in the course of EU Cohesion Policy. Moreover, Europeanisation is a spatial process supporting for instance the creation of new soft spaces. The comparison between Austria and Finland suggests further that Europeanisation is highly contextual, as language, education, administrative structures and legal frameworks delineate the scope of action and the self-conception of actors in different national, regional and local contexts.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Mäntysalo, Raine, Supervisor
  • Mattila, Hanna, Advisor
  • Humer, Alois, Advisor
Award date19 Dec 2018
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8267-7
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8268-4
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • european spatial planning
  • spatial develoment
  • soft space
  • urban and regional planning
  • regional development
  • European Union

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