Inspiring non-EU countries

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    On Friday 27 March 2020, the EU’s International Urban Cooperation programme (IUC) decided to bring together 66 experts from cities in Europe and Asia via video-conference for what is expected to be the first of many, ground-breaking exchanges of views on fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic. Cities represented were Guangzhou (China), Gwangju (South Korea), Jakarta (Indonesia), Mannheim, Stuttgart, Barcelona, Granada, Nice, Rome and Bologna. 

    The discussion focused on the many, varied and highly practical steps cities were taking in an effort to mitigate the health, economic and social impact of the pandemic and promote resilience. For example, Gwangju explained how the city combines with the Korean Centre for Disease Control & Prevention on test results,  quarantined cases, masks stocks, hospital bed availability, etc. Real-time, instant smart phone messages are sent to all new cases, supported by an “all-in-covid-19 mobile application”. Meanwhile, Jakarta has established a regional portal where best practices against Covid-19 from other countries are uploaded. 

    Other measures made possible by IUC were extremely practical, with Granada and Rome receiving, respectively, 50000 and 1000 protective face masks from Changsha City and Liuzhou, respectively. Cities have also been reflecting on how to promote economic recovery for hard-hit business and cultural providers, and their workers, such as the “Cope with COVID” portal in Mannheim, the cancellation of some occupancy taxes on public property and rents for small businesses in Nice and the re-establishment of high frequency public transport in Stuttgart to avoid crowded trains and buses. In Guangzhou, the city is now at the stage of promoting the resumption of business and production. 

    Meanwhile, EU institutions representatives mentioned the new Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, while Eurocities described the new Covid-19 portal to showcase best practices from European cities in regards to Culture, Food, Homelessness, Procurement, Volunteers and Waste Management. 

    Future exchanges will focus on recovery measures, and some participants suggested that this should include “thinking outside the box”, on how our socio-economic model needs to evolve in order to create more socially efficient and cohesive societies.   


    The EU’s International Urban Cooperation programme is financed under the Partnership Instrument for external relations and managed day-to-day by the Foreign Policy Instruments service in the European Commission. The programme supports the realisation of EU policy objectives in areas including climate change and sustainable urban development under two components: city-to-city cooperation on sustainable urban development, covering cities in the EU and in non-EU countries (managed jointly by FPI and REGIO); cooperation on climate change through sustainable energy creating a Global Covenant of Mayors in the image of the European one.

    10 February 2020 – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 

    The European Commission has decided to expand and reinforce its programme on International Urban Cooperation (IUC) for sustainable urban development. At least 148 cities from EU and non-EU countries in America, Asia and Australasia will join cooperation actions that are currently under way between 155 cities around the world.

    This decision was announced by European Commissioner Elisa Ferreira during the 10th World Urban Forum that is taking place this week in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to follow on the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the urban dimension.

    Cities and urban areas are microcosms of the challenges and opportunities we face today: they are hubs of innovation and culture and centres of prosperity and development. At the same time, cities concentrate the challenges of congestion, pollution, social exclusion and the challenge of providing infrastructure from rapidly changing population”, said the Commissioner, on behalf of the European Union and its 27 member States at the opening ceremony of the Forum. “That is why the UN’s new agenda is so important”, she added.

    With this decision the current IUC, which was launched in 2017, will incorporate an inter-regional cooperation on innovation alongside its current urban dimension based on city-to-city cooperation in the field of sustainable urban development.

    The new version of the programme, which will be launched in 2020 under the denomination International Urban and Regional Cooperation (IURC), will extend to cities in the EU, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam. The new target areas of Korea, South-East Asia and Australasia will work with European counterparts on sustainable urban development, while Chinese and Japanese participants will focus on regional innovation.

    Unlike in the city-to-city cooperation of the IUC current model, in the IURC cities will primarily work in thematic clusters focusing on areas based on the UN New Urban Agenda and the Urban Agenda for the EU. Cities who wish to develop a more intensive cooperation with a European partner will also be able to pursue one-to-one city pairings. The nature of cooperation – in clusters and city-pairs – will be outlined in Urban Cooperation Action Plans, which will lay out actions that cities collaboratively identify to take on during the 18-24 months of their cooperation.

    Region-to-region cooperation will follow a similar model of using both thematic clustering and one-on-one pairing. Regional Cooperation Action Plans will act as road maps for cooperation. In this case, however, the focus of work will be on improving and internationalising regional innovation strategies. 

    Background information

    The International Urban Cooperation (IUC) programme run by the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) and the Foreign Policy Instruments Service (FPI), enables cities in different global regions to link up and share solutions to common problems. It is part of a long-term strategy by the European Union to foster sustainable urban development in cooperation with the public and private sectors, as well as representatives of research and innovation, community groups and citizens. Through engaging in the IUC, cities have the chance to share and exchange knowledge with their international counterparts, building a greener, more prosperous future. The IUC programme, financed under the Partnership Instrument of the European Union, is an opportunity for local governments to learn from each other, set ambitious targets, forge lasting partnerships, test new solutions, and boost their city’s international profile. Its activities support the achievement of policy objectives, as well as major international agreements on urban development and climate change, such as the EU Urban Agenda, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris Agreement. 

    For more information, contact us:

    Adrienne Kotler, communications, IUC Coordination Unit,

    Pictures can be downloaded here.


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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 European External Actions Service (EEAS) and the external relations family of Directorates General (DEVCO and 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 economic and social development and territorial cohesion. 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 CARICOM, SACU, MERCOSUR and ASEAN, are issues such as the geographical targeting of resources between Member States and regions; the organization of multi-level governance systems; sustainable urban development policy; cross-border development; regional innovation systems and their implementation. So far as cooperation with countries in the European Neighbourhood are concerned, the EU seeks 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, India PDF EN. 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

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