Cities are seen as both the source of and solution to today's economic, environmental and social challenges. Europe's urban areas are home to over two-thirds of the EU's population, they account for about 80 % of energy use and generate up to 85 % of Europe's GDP. These urban areas are the engines of the European economy and act as catalysts for creativity and innovation throughout the Union. But they are also places where persistent problems, such as unemployment, segregation and poverty, are at their most severe. Urban policies therefore have wider cross-border significance, which is why urban development is central to the EU's Regional Policy.
Urban dimension of cohesion policy
The 2014-2020 period has put the urban dimension at the very heart of Cohesion Policy. At least 50% of the ERDF resources for this period will be invested in urban areas. This could increase even further, later in the period. Around 10 billion euros from the ERDF will be directly allocated to integrated strategies for sustainable urban development. And about 750 cities will be empowered to implement these integrated strategies for sustainable urban development.
European Commission’s legislative proposal on Cohesion Policy beyond 2020
The New Framework at a glance
Cohesion Policy beyond 2020 will keep on investing in all regions and the European Commission has put forward a simpler and more flexible framework to better reflect the reality on the ground.
There is a focus on five policy objectives around a (1) Smarter, (2) Greener, (3) Connected, and (4) Social Europe, and a new cross-cutting objective (5) to bring Europe closer to citizens by supporting locally developed investment strategies across the EU.
Cohesion Policy will continue to support integrated territorial and local development strategies through various tools and empower urban authorities and territorial bodies in the management of the funds, while requiring strong local partnerships with relevant stakeholders. The urban dimension of Cohesion Policy will be strengthened, with 6% of the European Regional Development Fund dedicated to sustainable urban development strategies. There is also a new European Urban Initiative to support cities to innovate, access knowledge and understand policy, and support networking and capacity building.
What is integrated sustainable urban development?
The various dimensions of urban life – environmental, economic, social and cultural – are interwoven and success in urban development can only be achieved through an integrated approach. Measures concerning physical urban renewal must be combined with those promoting education, economic development, social inclusion and environmental protection. It also calls for strong partnerships between local citizens, civil society, industry and various levels of government.
Such an approach is especially important at this time, given the seriousness of the challenges European cities currently face, ranging from specific demographic changes to the consequences of economic stagnation in terms of job creation and social progress, and to the impact of climate change. The response to these challenges is critical for achieving the smart, sustainable, inclusive society envisaged in the Europe 2020 Strategy.
Objectives for 2014-2020
During the 2014-2020 programming period, European cities will benefit even more from the EU's Regional Policy:
- Urban areas are directly targeted by several of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) investment priorities. This means greater opportunity for sustainable urban mobility, regeneration of deprived communities and improved research and innovation capacity.
- In each EU Member State, a minimum 5 % of the ERDF is earmarked for integrated sustainable urban development; its on-the-ground deployment will be decided and directed by urban authorities.
- EUR 371 million is set aside for innovative actions in the field of Sustainable Urban Development over a seven-year period.
- An urban development network (UDN) is responsible for reviewing on-the-ground deployment of European funds and boosting knowledge-sharing between cities involved in integrated sustainable urban development and in Urban Innovative Actions.
- Cities are encouraged to use Community-Led Local Development (CLLD), which paves the way for local stakeholders, businesses, the public sector and civil society to get more involved in urban neighbourhood regeneration.
- Integrated territorial investments may be used to implement area-based strategies that rely on investments across different fields.
- The URBACT III programme - which acts as a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development – has been financially strengthened and expanded, enabling European cities to work together to develop better solutions to urban challenges.
- The TAIEX REGIO PEER 2 PEER tool is designed to share expertise between bodies that manage funding under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund.
The Urban Agenda for the EU
The Urban Agenda is an integrated and coordinated approach to deal with the urban dimension of EU and national policies and legislation. By focusing on concrete priority themes within dedicated Partnerships, the Urban Agenda seeks to improve the quality of life in urban areas. It is a new working method to ensure maximum utilization of the growth potential of cities and to successfully tackle social challenges and it aims to promote cooperation between Member States, Cities, the European Commission and other stakeholders, in order to stimulate growth, livability and innovation in the cities of Europe. Concretely, Partnerships are set-up around 12 priority themes with European and urban relevance . Within these Partnerships problems will be identified and solutions will be recommended through action plans (these are addressed to the EU, the Member States and the cities). The action plans will contain actions and also examples of good projects to be scaled-up and transferred across the EU. Actions could be a proposal to amend an EU Directive, proposal for the new ESIF, reinforcing cooperation on shared issues, project that worked well and that could be scaled-up/ transferred etc.
The Urban Agenda for the EU should lead to better regulation (more effective, more efficient and implemented at a lower cost), better funding (more adapted to the needs, simpler access, more integrated) and better knowledge (data, good practices/ projects, exchange of experiences).
The website on The EU Urban Agenda enables all stakeholders to contribute to the Urban Agenda as a whole or to the specific Partnerships. You are invited to join this community so you can contribute actively and make your voice heard! Please register so you will be receiving a monthly newsletter and notifications related to your own interest.
Learn more in our brochure Urban agenda for the EU Multi-level governance in action
The EU and Cities
See how the Commission helps cities achieve EU objectives. Learn how cities can gain and share knowledge. Get information on funding and other support.
Cooperation and exchange of experience between cities
URBACT is a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development, which integrates economic, social and environmental dimensions. It enables cities to work together to develop new, pragmatic and sustainable solutions to major urban challenges, reaffirming the key role they play in facing increasingly complex societal changes. So far 7 000 people from 500 cities, in 29 countries, have participated in the URBACT programme.
Urban Development Network (UDN)
The Urban Development Network is made up of more than 500 cities/urban areas across the EU responsible for implementing integrated actions based on Sustainable Urban Development strategies financed by ERDF in the 2014-2020 period.
International Urban Cooperation (IUC)
The European Union is launching a three-year programme to promote international urban cooperation. Europe’s cities want to link up, build and share knowledge and solutions with other cities and regions.
- Research and innovation
- Information and communication technologies
- SME competitiveness
- Low carbon economy
- Urban development
Programmes and Initiatives
- CITIES forum
- Overview of all EU initiatives related to sustainable urban development
- European Commission contributes to sustainable urban development
- One-Stop-Shop for cities
- Urban Data Platform
- Urban Community of Practise
- OECD principles on urban policy
- Future of cities report
- State of Cities Report
- New Urban Agenda adopted at the UN Habitat III conference in 2016
- Urban Agenda for the EU
- Pact of Amsterdam establishing the Urban Agenda for the EU (May 2016)
- Report from the European Commission to the Council on the Urban Agenda for the EU
- Bucharest Declaration