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This article is about the practice of territorial governance emerging at the junction of European Union-sanctioned ideals and Romanian development-planning traditions. On the one hand, the European agenda emphasises a smart, inclusive, sustainable model of economic growth. However, the persisting centralised workings of the Romanian state significantly alters the scope of regional interventions. As such, while core cities grew their economies swiftly, peripheral places were left in an unrelenting stagnation. My first aim is to provide a theoretical ground for a practicecentred approach to understanding territorial governance. Second, by drawing on Romania’s regional policy context as an example, I give an insight into how practices of partnership and competition fare in a context of ongoing territorial polarisation. I conclude by emphasising the need for a regional redistributive policy mechanism, one which should enable and assist non-core areas to access capacities for defining and implementing development projects.