Roberto Camagni certainly has made a positive and lasting contribution to shaping ESPON and left his mark on European territorial research. He also played a significant role in promoting a territorial dimension in European cohesion policy.
Roberto joined the ESPON family in its early days and has been an active member and supporter until his last days.
As many others we will certainly miss him, and his death is a great loss for the community, both in personal and professional terms. However, he will be with us even in future, thanks to the great legacy he has left in the field.
Roberto made sure that ESPON and European territorial research advanced in understanding complex developments and befriended macroeconomic modelling. In doing so, he also ensured that the research results do not just confirm general perceptions, but also lead to debate whether widely accepted assumptions actually are true. His response to an EU Commission official questioning a map Roberto presented will stay legendary: “That the results are counterintuitive shows that the model works.”
More precisely Roberto was among the key persons pushing forward the idea of territorial impact assessment and developing approaches to quantify territorial impacts of EU policies. This involved among others his conceptualisation of territorial cohesion, as well as models such as ESPON TEQUILA and later on ESPON TEQUILA SIP.
Like many others also Roberto engaged in defining and operationalising “territorial cohesion”. Unlike many others, he came up with a clear and measurable definition of this fuzzy concept. This definition puts the focus on the concept of territorial capital, bringing together a wide range of potential assets for regional growth, by underlining the economic nature of each of them.
The ESPON TEQUILA methodology is widely recognised as one of the most comprehensive methodologies covering the various dimensions and considering a wide range of components of his territorial cohesion concept. Results are based on quantitative assessments of forecast models performed by external experts and expert judgements collected via interviews. With ESPON TEQUILA SIP this was later on developed into an interactive simulation package. This pioneering work by Roberto and his team largely inspired the work and development of the methodology used for Territorial Impact Assessments today by the European Committee of the Regions and even within the European Commission.
The progress made builds clearly on the thinking and the work he and his team have developed in the context of the macro-econometric regional growth forecasting model Macroeconomic, Sectoral, Social and Territorial (MASST). Referring to the MASST model, another good friend, Andreu Ulied, never got tired of noting, that the modelling by Roberto and his team projected the impacts of the 2008 financial crisis much more accurately than those of many other big players in the field.
As said, apart from being very active and innovative in the research field, Roberto also bridged to the policy arena. Way back he supported the focus on spatial development in the European policy context within the then Committee for Spatial Development (CSD) that elaborated a European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP). Later he followed and participated in debates around the Territorial Agendas that followed.
He was always very active expressing his opinions and views in debates, both with scientific colleagues and with policy makers in ESPON seminars. He also promoted the expanding European evidence at European meetings as well as in the Italian context. As examples of the latter, he was once engaged as special advisor during an Italian EU Presidency, and he was involved in understanding the national relevance of ESPON results looking upon the Italian territory in its European context which resulted in a report informing policy makers and the Italian public.
In hindsight, ESPON would not have been the same without Roberto, and his valuable contributions. As well, his efforts promoting science and evidence with a European territorial dimension in the political context deserves sincere appreciation as well.
Roberto’s intellectual capacity, nice personality and gentle approach to other people will always be remembered. He was a real Italian gentleman that deserves a lot of credit for the work he has done for ESPON and for Europe.
We are sure that his legacy will last for a long time.