Cities symbolise the twofold challenge currently facing the European Union: how to improve competitiveness while meeting social and environmental demands.
Europe's cities are its centres of economic activity, innovation and employment, yet they face a number of challenges. The trend to suburbanisation, the concentration of deprivation and unemployment in urban neighbourhoods, increasing congestion – complex problems such as these require integrated answers in transport, housing, and training and employment schemes, which must be tailored to local needs. European regional and cohesion policies address these challenges.
Some €21.1 billion has been earmarked for urban development between 2007 and 2013, representing 6.1% of the total EU cohesion policy budget. Of this, €3.4 billion is targeted at the rehabilitation of industrial sites and contaminated land areas, €9.8 billion for urban and rural regeneration projects, €7 billion for clean urban transport, and €917 million for housing. Other investment in infrastructure in research and innovation, transport, the environment, education, health and culture also have a significant impact in cities.
During the 2007-13 period, European cities will benefit in many ways from cohesion policy instruments, initiatives and tools:
- Urban development issues have been integrated to a large extent in all regional and national programmes supported by Structural and Cohesion Funds.
- Exchange of best practice and networking between urban planners and other local experts is facilitated by the URBACT II programme.
- JESSICA (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas) is a new initiative of the European Commission, in cooperation with the European Investment Bank and the Council of Europe Development Bank. It promotes financial engineering for sustainable investment, economic growth and employment in Europe’s urban areas.
- The Urban Audit provides statistical data and information on living conditions in 357 European cities in the 27 EU Member States and Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. Over 330 indicators of urban life in Europe present findings on demography, housing, health, crime, the labour market, economic activity, income disparity, local administration, civic involvement, educational qualifications, cultural infrastructure and tourism.
- Urban-Rural Linkages
Cities of tomorrow - Challenges, visions, ways forward - (October 2011)
More than two thirds of the European population lives in urban areas. Cities are places where both problems emerge and solutions are found. They are fertile ground for science and technology, for culture and innovation, for individual and collective creativity, and for mitigating the impact of climate change. However, cities are also places where problems such as unemployment, segregation and poverty are concentrated. The ‘Cities of tomorrow’ reflection process will provide inspiration for policymakers and practitioners involved in urban development, whether at local, regional, national or European level.