EU-Japan cooperation on regional policy

The Parties shall enhance the exchange of experiences and good practices in the area of urban policies, in particular to address common challenges in this area, including those arising from demographic dynamics and climate change. The Parties shall also encourage, where appropriate, such exchange of experiences and good practices among their local governments or city authorities.

Article 25 of the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement

Cooperation between Japan and the EU on urban and regional matters started in 2012 and has been strengthening since then. This growing EU-Japan cooperation in the field of regional and urban policy also reflects the broader trends in EU-Japan relations of intensifying dialogue, engagement and cooperation.

In October 2013, DG REGIO and the City Bureau of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) signed a Letter of Intent establishing an urban policy dialogue..

At the 21st EU-Japan Summit (Tokyo, 19 November 2013), Summit leaders welcomed the newly established dialogue on urban development policy and underlined the importance of strengthening cooperation on sustainable and integrated urban practices and policies between Japan and EU.

Recognizing the importance of continuing and expanding this successful cooperation, DG REGIO and the City Bureau and the National Spatial Planning and Regional Policy Bureau of MLIT established last 21 May 2021 a dialogue on the territorial implications of their common economic, social and environmental challenges, especially with regard to urban and regional policies.

The dialogue will address exchange of information and good practices, inter alia, on:

  • Demographic change and competitiveness
  • Environmental sustainability, disaster risk reduction and climate change
  • Regional innovation and smart specialization policies and practices

Letter of intent PDF en

Cooperation projects and initiatives

In 2014-2016, in the framework of the World Cities project, EU and Japanese cities were paired to discuss and collaborate on actions related to topics of mutual interest. The core thematic areas were Compact City Development and Low Carbon Development, both thematic areas were discussed in the light of an ageing and declining population.

Final Report World Cities PDF en

More recently, under the International Urban Cooperation programme (IUC) in Japan in the period 2017-2020, 10 city pairings have worked together and drafted action plans, developed concrete cooperation activities and agreed on pilot project on the areas of smart cities, clean and renewable energy, sustainable mobility and transport, social inclusion and healthy cities, climate change adaptation, nature based solutions, integration of urban-rural circular economy in food-water-energy nexus and sustainable economic development and port regeneration.

For example, Koriyama and Essen are aiming to tackle climate change exploring numerous renewable energy sources (RES) and efficiency solutions, including looking to address one of RES’ greatest challenges: storage. Obuse and the nearby city of Nagano continue to work with Turku on strengthening their cities’ approaches to circular economy exploring sustainable production and consumption processes across a wide spectrum of sectors, with a focus on the urban-rural nexus. Kamakura and Umeå are putting into practice their mutual interest in participatory social innovation. Kamakura citizens and companies join “Kamacon” each month for brainstorming sessions, which have resulted in numerous successful projects. Umeå will adapt this silo-breaking approach to town meetings, or “Umecons”, where local stakeholders will brainstorm creative ideas together and identify solutions to local challenges.

Building on the success of IUC, the second edition of IUC, under the denomination of International Urban and Regional Cooperation (IURC) programme, will scale up and take forward cooperation with Japan during the period 2021-2024, not only by giving to 10 cities on each side to opportunity to exchange experience on sustainable urban development themes central to the green and digital transition but also by extending it to regional cooperation on innovation and smart specialization (including five EU regions and five Japanese prefectures)

A joint study on demographic trends and on the territorial policies needed in response (both in urban and rural areas) to demographic change has been conducted in 2021, including several case studies.