Inspiring non-EU countries

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    European cities who wish to exchange with a city facing similar challenges in another global region are encouraged to apply for the International Urban Cooperation (IUC) city-to-city cooperation programme on sustainable urban development. The programme aims to foster links between EU cities and those in China, Latin America and the Caribbean, India, Japan, and North America. Through the programme, local leaders will be able to connect and gain new perspectives on pressing sustainable development issues. Submissions for pairings with Chinese cities (Chongqing, Shantou, Zhengzhou, Changchun/Jingyue, Longyan) are now open until 10 April 2017.

    Successful candidates will be paired with a city that faces related challenges, allowing both parties to build cooperation and share knowledge. Representatives from each city will take part in study tours, staff exchange, trainings and seminars, etc. and will develop together a local action plan to drive sustainable urban development in the selected area.

    By joining the IUC city-to-city cooperation, your city will: 

    • LEARN - Get access to new ways of approaching challenges and benefit from a wider pool of good practices to draw upon 
    • SHARE - Help others to solve issues by sharing your own experiences and relaying knowledge
    • EXCHANGE - Open your city to dialogue and partnership with new global peers, and relevant stakeholders (public and private)
    • SHOWCASE - Profile your best practices and achievements internationally
    • IMPLEMENT -Work with new partners to make your vision of sustainable urban development a reality

    What are EU cities committing to? 

    Chosen cities must commit to cooperating intensively with their partner city for at least 12 months, and to share on their progress. Cities also agree to develop a sustainable urban development Local Action Plan on the identified knowledge sharing priority. After this period, cities commit to reporting on their progress and on concrete actions to be carried out in the future. Each city will sign a Partnership Agreement to this effect.

    The Local Action Plans will follow a common methodology, in line with the EU-funded URBACT programme experience and should be developed through an inclusive multi-stakeholder process. Each city will develop its own Local Action Plan. The Local Action Plans must include activities and economically viable pilot projects that are capable of being realised in the short term, thereby opening up market opportunities and encouraging the involvement of EU research and businesses communities.

    Participating cities will become part of a large community of peers and stakeholders engaging on sustainable urban development.

    In order to ensure a successful exchange and roll-out of measures and actions, cities need to commit an adequate amount of time and resources to implement the work. These resources should be sufficient to the ambition of the actions planned. 

    Measures and actions to be implemented will contribute to achieving the objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda, the Urban Agenda for the European Union, the Sendai framework and the Paris Agreement, enhancing quality of life in urban areas.

    For more information, please contact

    To apply for this opportunity for pairing with Chinese Cities (Chongqing, Shantou, Zhengzhou, Changchun/Jingyue, Longyan) , fill in the IUC city-to-city cooperation application form.

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    International Urban Cooperation



    Commissioner Creţu travelled to the important United Nations Habitat III conference, 17-20 October 2016, held in Quito, Ecuador, at which a global New Urban Agenda was adopted. The Agenda sets out guidelines in an effort to promote urban development that is more inclusive, greener, safer and prosperous. It is a cornerstone in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other key reform agendas, in particular the Paris Agreement.

    The conference was also an opportunity to present REGIO's ongoing actions in the field of international cooperation in regional and urban policy. This included a networking event organized by REGIO on "Cities contributing to the New Urban Agenda through International Cooperation" where REGIO was accompanied by partners from UN Habitat and the Inter-American Development Bank, together with representatives of countries that have participated in recent EU-sponsored international cooperation projects: China, Spain and Portugal.  REGIO also played a major role in providing the Commission's stand in the Habitat III exhibition area, which was opened by Commissioner Creţu.   

    Commissioner Creţu put forward three specific EU voluntary commitments to take forward the urban agenda both in the EU and internationally:  

    • 'Delivering the New Urban Agenda through the Urban Agenda for the EU':
    • 'Developing a global, harmonised definition of cities';
    • 'Fostering cooperation between cities in the field of sustainable urban development'.

    The latter includes the concrete initiatives involving REGIO which will help to advance the New Urban Agenda on a global stage: "World Cities II" and the "International Urbanisation Cooperation programme"

    More Information

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International Affairs

In the international relations arena, the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy acts in support of, and in cooperation with the External Relations family of Directorates General (European External action Service EEAS and DEVCO) and with DG TRADE. There is a growing interest in different parts of world in the process of European integration, not just from an institutional point of view but also in terms of the policies that promote European cohesiveness. First and foremost among the latter is European regional policy which seeks to ensure that the benefits of the single market in Europe based on the free movement of goods and services, labour and capital, are as widely spread as possible.

Principal among the features of EU regional policy that are of interest to third countries such as China, Russia and Brazil, as well as to international organisations such as MERCOSUR and ASEAN, are the financial dimension and the geographical targeting of resources between Member States and regions; the geographical and strategic objectives; and the different dimensions of the implementation system. So far as countries in the European Neighbourhood are concerned the EU wishes to promote key concepts of EU regional policy such as open markets, respect for the environment, participative democracy and partnership in the conception and implementation of development policy.

This interest comes at a time when the policy has undergone substantial changes. In effect, EU regional policy today is a means of delivering the Union's policy priorities across its territory. It does so by co-financing integrated, national or regional investment programmes, where the Union's contribution to the programmes is greatest in the least prosperous areas.

Today therefore, EU regional policy is an integral part of economic policy, but with the unique feature that it is delivered with the consent and involvement of the grassroots through a multi-level governance system where each level - European, national, regional and local - has a role to play. The involvement of the grassroots, for example, in devising regional and local strategies and selecting projects creates a sense of ownership of European policy and in that way contributes to territorial integration. It is these features that have inspired interest in large countries with major territorial imbalances that are seeking to combine the pursuit of a more even pattern of growth with governance systems that contribute to transparent public policies and that help to further integration through decentralisation.

As well as projecting notions of inter-regional solidarity and good governance, cooperation in the field of regional policy also provides the opportunity to project other values such as respect for the free market through competition, state aid and public procurement rules, for environmental rules and policies and for equal opportunities and minority rights. These create the framework conditions under which EU financial support is granted and provide positive incentives to achieving high standards in public policy.

Regional Policy Dialogues

The Commission, DG REGIO, has concluded formal agreements on regional policy cooperation with China PDF EN zh, Russia PDF EN EN, Brazil PDF EN EN, and Ukraine PDF EN Ukrainian, Georgia PDF EN, Moldova PDF EN, Chile PDF EN es, Peru PDF EN es, Argentina PDF en es, Japan PDF EN, Mexico PDF EN es, Sistema de Integracion de Centro-America (SICA) PDF EN es, Colombia PDF EN es. These countries are confronted with wide regional disparities as well as major challenges in terms of coordinating the different levels of government, and ensuring that decentralization can be achieved without compromising efficiency.

Brochure : European Regional Policy, an inspiration for Countries outside the EU?

November 2009 - PDF en es fr hy ka mo pt Russian Ukrainian Chinese

Posters: PDF en