Shapefiles of European data are available on the Eurostat website. I have loaded the NUTS_2013_60M_SH Shapefile in R with the command;

europeRG <- readOGR(dsn = patheurope, layer = "NUTS_RG_60M_2013", stringsAsFactors = FALSE)

I have managed to transform the map of Europe to the web mercator projection system used by OpenStreetMap and Google maps (EPSG:3857).

europewmercator <- spTransform(europeRG, CRS("+init=epsg:3857"))

But a 2001 JRC and EuroGeographics document entitled Map projections for Europe recommends using the Lambert Azimuthal Equal Area projection:

[...] Based on the above, it is documented that the projection to be used for statistical mapping in the EU, is the Lambert Azimuthal Equal Area projection. The projection center should be positioned at 9° E and 53° N. [...]

Wikipedia page of the Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection. This site says the epsg code of the "Lambert Azimuthal Equal Area" projection is 9820. Unfortunately EPSG code 9820 is not available on https://epsg.io/?q=9820 or http://spatialreference.org but it is available on http://www.epsg-registry.org/ The issue is that the R function sptransform() doesn't recognise epsg:9820.

# Transform To Lambert Azimuthal Equal Area projection
europeLAEA <- spTransform(europeRG, CRS("+init=epsg:9820"))

Error in spTransform(europeRG, CRS("+init=epsg:9820")) : 
  error in evaluating the argument 'CRSobj' in selecting a method for function 'spTransform': Error in CRS("+init=epsg:9820") : no options found in 'init' file

What proj4string could I use to perform the conversion?

2 Answers 2


9820 is the EPSG code for the laea projection definition. You can find it at https://www.epsg-registry.org/ under retrieve by code. This code numer has nothing to do with the commonly used EPSG codes like 4326 and 3857. These include projection parameters specified for a certain country or region.

For laea centered on Europe, the code is EPSG:3035, with these parameters:

+proj=laea +lat_0=52 +lon_0=10 +x_0=4321000 +y_0=3210000 +ellps=GRS80 +towgs84=0,0,0,0,0,0,0 +units=m +no_defs

As you can see, the center is at 10°E and 52°N, which is not exactly what your source recommends. If you want those, you can build a custom CRS with parameters:

+proj=laea +lat_0=53 +lon_0=9 +x_0=4321000 +y_0=3210000 +ellps=GRS80 +towgs84=0,0,0,0,0,0,0 +units=m +no_defs

The x_0 and y_0 have no effect on the projection, they just shift the coordinates to avoid negative coordinates.

  • 1
    The appendix of Map Projections for Europe does list 10°E and 52°N so I think the 9,53 may be from one of the other chapters, not the "official" definition.
    – mkennedy
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:09
  • I have managed to transform the map to a custom CRS with parameters "+proj=laea +lat_0=53 +lon_0=9". Thank you AndreJ for the explanation of x_0 and y_0 parameters. I had wondered about these 2 parameters in my notes, it's as if you read my mind. Feb 29, 2016 at 15:20
  • @mkennedy that's right, pages 124-125 of the "Map Projections for Europe" report give a description of ETRS-LAEA with "latitude of origin 52° N" and "longitude of origin 10° E". I'm wondering why this is inconsistent with the recommendations p55 of the same report and which projection centre I should use. Feb 29, 2016 at 15:38
  • The difference of one degree is not very significant for a map of whole Europe. You just have to keep it in mind if you have to compare with other statistical map data that might use the other center point.
    – AndreJ
    Feb 29, 2016 at 16:17
  • 1
    @PaulRougieux The chapters are papers presented at a workshop. I believe the annexes are the recommendations that came out of the workshop.
    – mkennedy
    Feb 29, 2016 at 17:22

The EPSG code for LAEA is 3035. Further details available here

  • Thanks the European Environment Agency recommendation you linked-to mentions: "The coordinate reference system (CRS) is ETRS89-LAEA Europe, also known [..] under the identifier: EPSG:3035,[...] centred at 10°E, 52°N.". This helps me choose between the 2 options for a centre (see comments in the question above). Specifying the reference system with an EPSG code would certainly make projection easier. Feb 29, 2016 at 15:58

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