Recensie —


Piet Vollaard

What are the physical consequences of the gradual disappearance of Europe’s internal borders? Will the equality in the fields of economics, legislation and social order find its pendant in a numbingly uniform Euro-space in the twenty-first century? Or will we witness growing resistance to this trend and will the spatial and cultural diversity, still in existence, form the basis for future physical development? Euroscapes, a compilation of six essays on European spatial planning, addresses these questions.

The last of these options, preservation of local cultural and spatial characteristics, is generally considered the most attractive. Similar sentiments surface in discussions about globalisation and the disappearance of local culture. The problem, however, is that 'global' values and achievements (wealth, equality, democracy, free trade) are aspired to generally. It is still a question whether it is possible to support economic and legal development globally and, at the same time, maintain local cultural diversity.

The essays in Euroscapes explore future developments in physical planning on a European scale. The compilers note in their introduction that the writers of the different essays accept the idea that the character of Europe makes spatial and cultural variety the most suitable basis for future physical development. The writers themselves, however, are much less clear about how cultural differences should be safeguarded. The essays, richly illustrated with statistical maps and alternated with photos by Bas Princen, examine current trends and posit tentative predictions about what lies ahead. An atlas of these Euroscapes compiled by Robert Broesi offers, in a series of maps, a clear picture of the complexity and instability of Europe. Complexity and instability are nothing new to Europe, since they have long been part of its history. More than that of other continents, the history of Europe is marked by the redrawing of borders and relocation of population groups, power centres, trading posts and centres of knowledge. Broesi predicts that the speed of change will only increase in the future, which leads him to refer to Europe before 1950 as 'Slow Europe'. 'Slow' seems an inappropriate choice of word to describe a period in which, in the space of forty years, two world wars altered the entire map of the continent, the collective psyche of Europe suffered irrevocable damage, and a number of fundamental cultural changes took place. But to describe the continent's physical development, it is perhaps justified. Increased mobility, change in the nature of production and labour (comparable to the industrial revolution), and free trade between EU member states are today's reality and do influence physical development.

Aspects of these developments and their impact on physical planning are illuminated in the remaining essays. Ivan Nio explores international networks and ethnic districts that result from increasing labour migration. Mathias and Michael Güller / Harm Timmermans shed light on the position of museums devoted to national culture in the new Europe. Angelika Fuchs and Wouter Veldhuis document the 'new colonies', enclaves of well-educated, predominantly northern European urbanites who retreat to the warmer climate of thinly populated and poorer rural regions of Europe. There is an intriguing study by Arjan Harbers entitled Borderscapes. Europe may be becoming more uniform, but significant differences between countries still exist, as border areas illustrate very clearly. These zones are the preferred location of nuclear power stations and other dangerous plants that blot the environment. These are also the zones where differences in wealth, tax rates and legislation become visible, where the economic rivalry between different countries is at its most intense, and where traces of national defences are still visible. All the damaging and often ridiculous situations that arise in border zones make them places where local differences become clearly visible. And therefore it is precisely these border zones that bring the choice between global and local sharply into focus.

The last essay in the series Funscapes by Florian Boer and Christina Dijkstra deals with the huge growth and international character of the leisure sector. Although this is one of the fastest-growing economic activities and its dynamism and physical consequences are enormous, there is no direction or policy in place at a large scale. Given that the leisure sector often puts pressure on rural areas and ends up erasing cultural differences, a European, or at least multilateral physical policy, should apply in the sector. How the leisure industry can generate resources to maintain large nature reserves in a sustainable manner? What opportunities arise from the switch from agriculture to tourism across the European countryside, and how leisure enclaves can be integrated smoothly into spatial policy? Such questions are not national issues and can only be resolved in an international context.

Euroscapes provides no solutions but documents the issues clearly. The crucial question remains – given that planning policy at national level is already so difficult to implement and that uncontrolled development is on the rise – whether -it will ever be possible to agree and implement physical planning policy at European level, or even at a smaller, regional, international scale.