The EU Cohesion Policy debate has included a focus on regions with specific territorial features. The Treaty of Lisbon (2007), being in the process of ratification, mentions already some of these types of regions and territories. It states that “(...) among the regions concerned, particular attention shall be paid to rural areas, areas affected by industrial transition, and regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps such as the northernmost regions with very low population density and islands, cross-border and mountain regions. (...)”.
The Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion (2008), which launches the EU wide debate on Cohesion Policy, highlights as well the specific types of territories and regions. To better understand the strengths and weaknesses, which a specific region possesses, and to develop policies accordingly, comparable and comprehensive evidence and knowledge from a European perspective is thus in high demand for each type of region. Against this backdrop, the Green Paper holds the respective subtitle “Turning territorial diversity into strength”.
Territories with geographic specificities are characterised not only by development challenges, but also by a series of specific assets. Such assets have been identified in numerous localities and regions; knowledge about them has also, to some extent, been compiled at the European level in studies and policy perspectives on territories with geographic specificities such as those mentioned above. However, in spite of the frequent concomitant references to multiple categories of geographic specificities in policy documents, there have been no attempts to construct a transversal discourse on why they are often not fully exploited, and why many areas with geographic specificities are still “lagging”.