Cities and metropolitan areas are the engines of economic development. They are also at the frontline when it comes to tackling obstacles to growth and employment, such as social exclusion and environmental degradation.
The European Union contributes to the sustainable development of urban areas through a range of policies and initiatives which cover many areas of activity. In particular, the EU's Cohesion Policy, through the Structural Funds, plays a key role in underpinning the development and revitalisation of Europe’s towns and cities. And with integrated urban development, an increasingly important priority for the programmes financed across the EU's regions by the Structural Funds, it will continue to do so.
However there is still a need to improve awareness and understanding of these European policies and programmes. Those responsible for managing and implementing urban policies in the regions have an increasing need for information. These are legitimate expectations and I believe it is important for the European Commission to respond. This is why, in 2007, the European Commission's Inter-service Group on “Urban Development” brought forward the first edition of this guide, designed to explain EU initiatives in the field of urban policies.
This updated version is targeted at those working on urban issues in local and regional authorities, elected representatives, and all other stakeholders with an interest in urban development. It identifies initiatives which, under various EU policies, have both direct and indirect implications for the sustainable development of urban areas.
Several other EU programmes, including the "7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development" and the "Competitiveness and Innovation” programme also finance measures promoting the sustainable development of our towns and cities. EU policies equally impact upon culture, youth, health, the environment, urban transport and energy efficiency, urban safety, state aids and services to citizens – to name just a few other policy areas. The guide sheds light on all the programmes and initiatives concerned.
I hope that this revised guide will be useful for all those who are contributing to the attractiveness and competitiveness of European cities and towns. I also hope that stakeholders in urban development – both public and private – will get better acquainted with existing provisions at EU level. The good governance of urban areas requires quality information.
I am convinced that this guide provides a key contribution.
Dirk Ahner, Director General,
Directorate-General for Regional Policy