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EU & UK URBAN POLICY - BACKGROUND REPORTS AND CURRENT PROGRAMMES

ERA will be producing a paper on the relationship between the Urban and Regional dimension within the context of the "New Regionalism" and the remit of the English RDAs. The paper should be in draft by November 1998. For further infomation, E.Mail : RICHARD HARRIS-ERA as below.

NEWS RELEASE - 27.05.98

EUROCITIES

The role of cities in tomorrow's stronger and wider Union

Eurocities Round Table Debate on Agenda 2000 (May 1998)

Strategies to prepare the Union for eastward enlargement and the reform of its internal policies must acknowledge the contribution of cities, European mayors argued at the European Parliament in Brussels this week. Meeting on 26 May for a round table debate with EU officials, MEPs, permanent representatives and representatives of the applicant countries to discuss the impact of Agenda 2000 on cities, they called for the development of an integrated European urban policy and the involvement of cities in the early stages of the pre-accession period.

The debate was organised by Eurocities, the association of 82 major European cities. Panel speakers were Carlo Trojan, Secretary-General of the European Commission, François Lamoureux, Deputy Director-General and Catherine Day, Director of the Commission's DG IA, Gerhard Stahl of Ms Wulf-Mathies's cabinet, MEPs Pasqualina Napoletano and Elisabeth Schroedter, Bram Peper, President of Eurocities and Mayor of Rotterdam, Wolfgang Tiefensee, Chair of the Eurocities East-West Committee and Mayor of Leipzig and Ivan Tosics, managing director of the Metropolitan Research Institute representing the city of Budapest.

The moderators, Richard Howitt, MEP, and Rory Watson, European correspondent for the Glasgow Herald and a contributor to European Voice, summarised the urban challenges emerging from the discussion as follows:

1. A stronger Union: the need for a comprehensive approach to urban issues

Urban issues are moving up the EU political agenda. The Commission's communication "Towards an Urban Agenda in the European Union", "Agenda 2000", reports and opinions on urban issues published by the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions, the Commission's forthcoming Action Plan on Sustainable Urban Development, and the Urban Forum to be held in Vienna in November 1998 are tangible signs of that trend.

But urban involvement in the development of the Union should be taken further. European cities and towns are home to 80% of the EU population. They are the engines of growth for regional and national economies. Yet at the same time, cities and urban districts are suffering serious decay as a result of social, economic and environmental problems. High levels of unemployment, poverty, poor living conditions and a lack of safety are generating the social exclusion and segregation which are threatening the social and economic vitality of European society.

What is required is an effective European urban policy to coordinate existing EU policies in areas such as the internal market, transport, the environment, research and technology, and economic and social cohesion, which directly or indirectly affect national urban policies throughout the Union. This integrated focus on urban issues, which are currently dealt with by a variety of European Commission departments, would combine a bottom-up approach, to ensure that cities' specific needs are fully catered for, with a general framework at European level to secure integrated national policies. This would gradually reduce the fragmentation of power between the various levels of government.

The prerequisite for an integrated urban policy is a clear European vision based upon the socio-economic functioning of Europe's urban system. European spatial development planning is needed with the concept of the Functional Urban Region (FUR) as the most accurate territorial indicator for urban policy action), reflecting the interdependence between cities and the surrounding regions.

Subsidiarity, partnership, integration and market and environmental effectiveness should be the guiding principles for Commission action.

Participants' suggestions during the debate included the following: Strategic urban planning should become more explicit under the Structural Funds. In view of the challenges and problems facing European cities, a population coverage of 2%, as proposed in the new framework regulations, is insufficient. Eurocities argues for a minimum coverage of 5%. The urban strand should be extended beyond the new Objective 2 to include Objectives 1 and 3. A clear definition of the urban strand under Objective 2 ("urban areas in difficulty/"areas in industrial decline") is required. In addition, urban needs should be complemented by pilot and innovative measures under article 10 of the European Regional Development Fund or the Community Initiatives, with adequate financial support.

Cities are in the front-line for crime, drugs and illegal immigration. Given the high profile of freedom, security and justice for EU citizens in the Amsterdam treaty, and the potential impact of local action, cities are well placed to contribute to tackling social exclusion and promoting a "people's Europe".

Effective networking between cities across the Union can improve competitiveness. The know-how of cities and towns in Europe can be used to promote international awareness of urban affairs. Exchanges of experience and good practice should be extended, making local government a more powerful force for action.

2. A wider Union: cities and the challenge of enlargement

With the Union facing the challenge of enlargement to the east, the Commission set out proposals in its Agenda 2000 to facilitate the accession of new central and eastern European members. The Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA) places particular emphasis on aligning environmental and transport infrastructure on EU standards, whilst PHARE accession partnerships define a division in priorities between infrastructure and institution building.

There are a number of practical areas where EU cities can make a contribution at both the pre-accession and later membership stages. This entails making them eligible to participate in the negotiation, development and implementation of all relevant programmes and instruments for the pre-accession period. City-to-city cooperation has proved a more sustainable approach than ad hoc recourse to consultants for expertise and technical assistance. With their experience of decentralised local democracy, cities are well placed to participate in the vital area of institution building. And it is cities that can best address issues such as good urban governance, social integration and sustainable development, and implement the resulting policies.

Participants' suggestions during debate included the following:

Cities and city networks should be involved in national programmes and initiatives within specific frameworks such as the accession partnerships and the Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession. They should be active partners in PHARE/INTERREG programmes focusing on the needs of local authorities in the applicant countries and providing for the sustainability and transferability of expertise, exchanges of local staff, secondments, etc. In addition, city-to-city cooperation should be strengthened, and programmes such as ECOS/Ouverture further developed. Cities have a key role to play in the transfer of know-how and best practice. It is at local level that the implementation of the acquis communautaire by qualified personnel can best be ensured, well beyond the accession period.

Conclusions

To conclude the debate, Eurocities mayors called for:

1.a comprehensive and integrated European urban policy, under a single interlocutor at the European level with responsibility for all urban policy matters; 2.a shift of attention and financial resources towards Europe's priorities for the 21st century, to include population coverage of at least 5% for urban areas within the proposal for the new Structural Fund regulation; 3.an urban strand not only within the new Objective 2 but also within Objectives 1 and 3, with the mainstreaming of urban issues complemented by sustainable urban policy action as part of the pilot and innovative measures or the Community Initiatives, with adequate financial support; 4.the substantial involvement of cities in the pre-accession period in order to ensure that the needs of the central and eastern European cities are effectively addressed within a balanced process of integration in readiness for EU enlargement; 5.the full participation of cities in the negotiation, development and implementation of all relevant programmes/instruments for the pre-accession period, to ensure a comprehensive approach;

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For further information, contact Claudia Ritter, Director of Information & Communication, at the Eurocities Secretariat, Tel: +32.2.552.08.88, Fax: +32.2.52.08.89, e-mail: c.ritter@eurocities.be


URBAN POLICY

EUROCITIES HOME PAGE: Includes Statement on Agenda 2000
DETR UK GOV -ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT, REGIONS: Includes Regeneration and New Urban Initiative Papers
DG16 EUROPEAN COMMISSION - REGIONAL POLICY AND COHESION: Information on EU Urban Initiatives

EU & UK URBAN POLICY - LINKS

EUROREGION'S MONTHLY UPDATE: ERA HOME PAGE

RICHARD HARRIS

harrisera@hotmail.com
EUROPEAN REGIONAL AFFIARS