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Urban Environment

Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment - Interim Communication

On 11 February 2004, the Commission presented a policy document (a Communication) called "Towards a Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment" (COM(2004)60) which set out the Commission's ideas for the Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment (due December 2005).

The Communication outlined the problems and challenges facing Europe's urban areas, focusing on 4 priority themes. These themes, selected in conjunction with stakeholders, are urban environmental management, urban transport, sustainable construction and urban design.  The themes are cross-cutting in nature and have strong links with many environmental issues.  They offer the greatest scope to make progress in improving the quality of the urban environment and have a strong influence on existing environmental obligations such as on air quality. For each theme, the Communication sets out the nature of the challenges, what action has been taken so far at the European level and ideas for what further action should be undertaken to address better the challenges identified. 

The Commission starts with the premise that the knowledge and techniques needed to bring about significant improvements in environmental performance in urban areas are already known.  Whilst there are some gaps in knowledge, the focus of the Strategy should be on achieving clear changes in urban areas rather than calling for further consideration of the issues.  The Commission recognises that towns and cities themselves are best placed to develop the solutions to the problems they face and proposes that the EU's role should be to establish a framework to support them in this task.  For instance, existing environmental obligations establish targets that must be met and the coordinated and integrated approach proposed in the Communication will help Member States and local authorities meet these. For other issues, the Commission proposes that targets should be established at the local level through the adoption of environmental management plans and sustainable urban transport plans for urban areas.

The Commission proposes that the objective of the Thematic Strategy should be to improve the environmental performance and quality of urban areas and to secure a healthy living environment for Europe's urban citizens. The Strategy will reinforce the environment contribution to the sustainable development of urban areas.

The Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment is one of the key actions outlined in the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme. The 7 Thematic Strategies set out in the Programme are a new way of developing environmental policy for complex priority problems that require a broad approach. They are being developed in 2 stages. The first stage is one of widespread consultation and analysis which ends with an interim Communication.  Communication COM(2004)60 is that interim Communication for the Urban Environment Strategy.  A second round of consultation takes place on these initial ideas and they are developed further leading to the Commission's final strategy.  The final Strategy on the urban environment will be presented by the Commission in December 2005.  To learn more about the work undertaken during the first phase of the preparation for the strategy (consultations, working groups, views of stakeholders), please visit this page.

To see the comments received in response to communication COM(2004)60, please see this page.