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“Urban Policy is at the top of our agenda – and it will stay there”, says Commissioner Hahn at the Salzburg Global Seminar

(20 May 2014)

“Urban Policy is at the top of our agenda – and it will stay there”, says Commissioner Hahn at the Salzburg Global Seminar

Delivering the annual Jacques Delors lecture on the Future of the European Union as part of the program of the Salzburg Global Seminar session “Mind the Gap! Innovating for Regional Cohesion and Smart Growth,” Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn stressed the importance of urban development policy for the European Commission.

With 75% of the EU’s population living in cities, urban development policy provides a key starting point to tackle many of the EU’s 2020 goals, from climate change to social inequality. “All our European goals can only be successfully achieved if we address the problems that are challenging the cities,” said the Commissioner.

 “If we are talking about reduction of poverty, it's a phenomenon of big cities. If we try to increase employment... most job opportunities are given in cities.”

After Latin America, Europe is the most urbanized continent in the world, but despite this high level of urbanization, unlike Asia and the Americas, and the continent only has two metropolitan areas that are actually larger than 10 million people: London and Paris. Whilst the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) held a meeting of the mayors of the EU’s capital cities last year, DG REGIO is concerned with much more than just Europe’s capitals. Much of its urban policy is directed towards small and medium-sized cities.

These smaller cities can be catalysts for regional development, argued the Commissioner. Developing smaller cities can help stop migration to the (sometimes overstretched and overcrowded) capitals, thus becoming “anchors” for their regions.

In the last policy period of 2007-2013, 40% of DG REGIO’s budget was allocated to cities, with this share expected to rise in the next period of 2014-2020, reflecting its growing importance on the agenda for DG REGIO and the European Commission as a whole.

 "We have changed the focus of the [urban] policy from being focused on the infrastructure investments," Commissioner Hahn explained. "It's now about the promotion of the economy, it's about creating jobs, it's about qualification of people and then it can reduce poverty."

Source: Website of the Salzburg Global Seminar session "Mind the gap! Innovating for Regional Cohesion and Smart Growth"