Urban-rural linkages

The EU is working together with countries, regions and other partners to promote urban-rural linkages.

Cohesion policy 2021-2027 continues supporting integrated territorial and local development strategies, and empowering urban authorities and territorial bodies in addressing local challenges while requiring strong local partnerships with relevant stakeholders.
The urban dimension has been strengthened, with at least 8% of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) dedicated to sustainable urban development strategies. In this context in particular, the Commission encourages Member States to have a stronger focus on urban-rural linkages, including functional urban areas,  in their programmes to better respond to the needs and potentials of territories that may not be defined within one administrative boundary only.

A truly integrated approach to development must go beyond intra-city policy coordination and traditional rural issues. Planning and putting plans into practice with surrounding areas, both urban and rural, needs to be considered. The benefits of stronger urban-rural cooperation include e.g. more sustainable land use and planning, better services (public transport, health, education, etc.) and better management of natural resources.

The EU cohesion policy promotes functional area approaches, in particular through its new policy objective `Europe closer to citizens` and the various tools offered for integrated territorial development,  including for sustainable urban development,   and for supporting disadvantaged areas. 

The concept of functional areas is at the heart of cohesion policy territorial development as well as territorial cooperation as it makes it clear that policies cannot be designed separately by each side of the border but jointly on the joint territory that people share in their daily lives.  

Moreover, cities and other territories in the EU are looking for new and innovative approaches to achieve just, green and digital transition, while having limited financial resources. Well-coordinated functional areas can help in all this, as they can achieve higher productivity, ensure more efficient use of resources and better access to quality public services. 

Functional areas pilot project within EU cohesion policy

Urban-rural linkages Recognising that functional area approach that exceeds administrative boundaries requires careful preparation and adequate administrative capacity, the Commission has initiated a project to provide technical support in selected functional areas to enhance cohesion policy implementation.

Past events

Past Studies

RURBAN is supporting the production of two studies:


RURBAN (Partnership for sustainable urban-rural development) is a preparatory action agreed by the European Parliament in 2010 and managed by the European Commission.

It aims to:

  • analyse territorial partnership practices for towns/cities and rural areas
  • achieve better cooperation between different actors in developing and implementing urban-rural initiatives
  • promote territorial multilevel governance
  • assess possible economic and social gains from enhanced rural-urban cooperation
  • identify the potential role of urban-rural partnership for improving regional competitiveness and regional governance
  • see how EU funding through the European Regional Development Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development can best be used to support urban-rural cooperation

Videos about RURBAN:

  • Rural-Urban partnership: key to a prosperous future for Europe EN
  • Rurban - Italy: Pooling the resources of Italy's cities and rural communities EN IT
  • Rurban - Germany: Rural-Urban Partnership in the Metropolitan Region of Nuremberg EN DE
  • Rurban - Finland: Broadband Services for rural areas in Central Finland EN FI

Further information about RURBAN: