isabelmoranvidal By / February 13, 2014

From urban-rural linkages to urban-rural relationships in the EU

Urban and rural areas are increasingly integrated. In OECD countries, 80% of the rural population lives close to cities. Current…

© Sergey Nivens / Fotolia
From urban-rural linkages to urban-rural relationships in the EU
© Sergey Nivens / Fotolia

Urban and rural areas are increasingly integrated. In OECD countries, 80% of the rural population lives close to cities. Current and common challenges such as climate change, efficient use of natural resources (water, land), equal access to public services or demographic changes just to name a few, can be tackled more easily if cooperation exists between urban, peri-urban and rural areas. This cooperation could only be of mutual benefit, managing functional linkages for economic development (ex. labour markets, natural resources) and improvement in quality of life. The importance of linkages between urban, rural and their surrounding areas has been explored in the European Union (EU) for some time now. Firstly with the Territorial agenda of the European Union and its update. Later through Europe 2020, in which urban-rural partnerships may contribute to reach the Europe 2020 goals. And more recently with the preparatory action RURBAN agreed by the EP in 2010.

The EU can play a role of external motivator, providing money, ideas and studies; combining growth and balancing policy; boosting territorial cohesion and overcoming the division between European funding devoted to regional and agricultural policy. In this sense, the new Cohesion Policy Regulation 2014-2020 presents specific tools  as a try to overhaul the problem:  Integrated Territorial Investmentor Community-Led Local Development (CLLD being an example of know-how transfer from rural areas to urban areas) for instance.


Rural-Urban Partnerships: an Integrated Approach to Economic Development / OECD, 24 October 2013, 323 p.

This report provides a framework to understand the changing relationships between urban and rural areas. It reflects the characteristics of rural-urban partnerships and the factors that can hinder as well as enable rural-urban co-operation. It includes 9 EU case studies.

Partnership for sustainable rural-urban development: existing evidences / Judith Artmann et al. Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development, 2012, 86 p.

Urban. Rural. Europe: Strengthening Partnerships: Discussion Paper / MORO Project, 2012, 5 p.

Prepared on the basis of the meeting of experts from the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development and the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development which took place in Berlin on 28 March 2012 as part of the MORO research project

Rural-urban regions and peri-urbanisation in Europe: towards a European policy to sustain urban-rural futures: executive summary / Plurel, December 2010, 4 p.

The document sustains that EU can promote an integrated rural-urban development by targeting its policies and funding towards peri-urban areas and gives possible options to follow.


Urban-to-Rural Population Growth Linkages: Evidence from OECD TL3 Regions / P. Veneri and V. Ruiz , OECD Regional Development Working Papers, 2013/03, 20 p.

The objective of this paper is to better understand how the population growth rates of rural regions are affected by their closeness to urban regions and by the economic performance of the latter.

The Dynamics of Peri-Urbanization / Joe Ravetz, Christian Fertner, and Thomas Sick Nielsen. In: Peri-urban futures: scenarios and model for land use change in Europe,  K. Nilsson et al., Springer, 2013, X, 453 p.

Peri-Urban open space: how multi-functional land use can bring multiple benefits: topic paper / PURPLE – Peri-Urban regions platform, 2013, 7 p.

Urban-rural relationships in the new century: clarifying and updating the intervention logic / Andrew Copus,  2012, 15 p.

This paper seeks to clarify the rationale for policy which aims to stimulate growth by strengthening urban-rural linkages.

Connecting Urban and Rural: Final report of the Sustainable Urban Fringes (SURF) Project / Interreg IVB North Sea Region project SURF, 2012, 72 p.

This report sets out a series of local, regional and European policy recommendations that seek to make positive changes to the urban fringe, recognizing how they can add value to the quality of life in urban and rural areas.

Urban-rural relationships in metropolitan areas of influence: best practice examples of metropolitan-rural cooperation / METREX -The network of European Metropolitan Regions and Areas, 2011, 68 p.

Best practices compiled by areas of mutual interest and cooperation.

Place Orientation And Rural-Urban Interdependence / Emery N. Castle, JunJie Wu, and Bruce A. Weber. In:  Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, vol.33, n°2, 2011. pp.179-204. EconLit with Full Text. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

This article presents empirical evidence on the decentralizing economic activities that proceed from the city to the countryside; and the unequal per capita economic rewards between rural and urban people over time, proposes an integrated framework of rural-urban space, discusses the historic interdependence of rural and urban places from the perspective of the integrated framework, and looks at the implications for research and public policy.

Peri-urbanisation in Europe: towards European Policies to sustain urban-rural futures: synthesis report / Annette Piorr, Joe Ravetz, Ivan Tosics, Plurel, December 2010, 148 p.

Regional Development Policies in OECD Countries / OECD, November 2010

In this report, OECD put t he focus is on the spatial and fiscal inter-dependence of urban areas and their neighbouring rural regions, especially on how to control urban growth in the process of urban sprawl. See Annex C: Urban-rural Linkages: In View of Controlling Urban Sprawl

OECD Regional Typology / Directorate for Public Governance and Territorial Development, 22 February 2010.

Regions of OECD member countries have been classified into Predominantly Urban, Intermediate and Predominantly Rural to take into account geographical differences among them.

Urban-Rural Differences in Quality of Life across the European Union / Mark Shucksmith, et al. In: Regional studies , 2009, v. 43, n. 10, p. 1275-1290

This paper analyses the European Quality of Life Survey 2003 to explore urban–rural differences in income, deprivation, and other life domains. The main conclusion is that the richest countries in the European Union show little evidence of significant urban–rural differences, whereas in the poorer countries of the east and south, rural areas have a much lower level of perceived welfare and quality of life.  

Urban-Rural Flows and the Meaning of Borders : Functional and Symbolic Integration in Norwegian City-Regions / Knut Hidle, Arild Aurvåg Farsund and Hans Kjetil Lysgård. In: European Urban and Regional Studies, vol.16, n°4, 2009, pp.409-421

This article focuses on political and everyday interplay and integration between city and hinterland, investigating borders and boundaries in such interplay. Five Norwegian city-regions act as case studies.

Polycentric urban development and rural-urban partnership: thematic study of INTERREG and ESPON activities / ESPON, INTERACT, 2007, 120 p.

This report presents a first review of the work carried out by INTERREG and ESPON projects addressing polycentric urban development and rural-urban partnership. See Chapter 3, Urban-rural relationships.

Stakeholder views

Associations views
Cross-Border Urban and Rural Integrated Areas – Challenges and Chances: Final declaration / Annual Conference of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), Liège, 8 November 2013, 3 p.

Cooperation at several levels contributes to cohesion and to development of cross-border regions and helps to cope with challenges in the framework of implementation of the Europe2020 Strategy. AEBR stresses that still the full potential of cross-border cooperation in integrated areas is not used: in the fields of health care, innovation, research and development, infrastructure, public services, as well as for achieving a “critical mass” for common investments and for avoidance of investment errors or environmental protection and networking of protected areas of nature and landscape. Thus, AEBR proposes six actions to achieve this.

Urban-rural partnership: CEMR survey on integrated territorial development / Council of European Municipalities and Regions, June 2013, 12 p.

The purpose of the survey, carried out by CEMR is to take stock of the practices and models of urban-rural cooperation. It could serve as a source of inspiration for better guidance and policy making at the EU level, addressing the issue of cohesion policy instruments in support of territorial urban-rural partnerships.

Rurality and regional development: Unlocking our territories’ economic and social potential: political report / AER – Assembly of European Regions, May 2013, 24 p.

This report emphasis that the territorial approach to the future operational programmes for 2014-2020, based on community-led local development and Integrated Territorial Investments, must take into account the balance between urban and rural territories. To achieve this, there is a need for new more qualitative and more spatially restricted indicators, in order to better appreciate local potentials and requirements.

Territorial Cohesion and Competitiveness through urban-rural cooperation and metropolitan governance / EUROCITIES and METREX, September 2012, 4 p.

EUROCITIES and METREX has joined forces to promote the case for urban-rural cooperation and metropolitan governance. The statement argues for greater recognition of the potential of functional areas and urban-rural partnerships to support the delivery of Europe 2020 objectives for smart, sustainable and inclusive development in the EU. It is based on the experience of our networks and the growing evidence from European cities and regions. The statement outlines how urban-rural partnerships can and do work in practice and suggests how to strengthen those partnerships with initiatives both at national and EU level.

EU Institutions’ views

European Parliament

European Parliament resolution on optimising the role of territorial development in cohesion policy, A7-0421/2012, 15 January 2013

European Parliament resolution on European Urban Agenda and its Future in Cohesion Policy, P7_TA(2011)0284, 23 June 2011

European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on the follow-up of the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter: Towards a European Action Programme for Spatial Development and Territorial Cohesion P6_TA(2008)0069, 21 February 2008

European Commission

Urban-Rural linkages / European Commission. DG Regional Policy.

European Union promotes cooperation between urban, rural and their surrounding areas, in order to make a better use of land, natural resources and public services.

Committee of the Regions

Urban-rural partnership and governance / Rapporteur: Romeo Stavarache, COTER-V/039, CDR 2994/2013, 08/10/2013

European Economic and Social Committee

Metropolitan Areas and City Regions in Europe 2020 (own-initiative opinion), ECO/299, Rapporteur: Mr van Iersel21/09/2011

In the EESC’s view, metropolitan developments should effectively help remove polarisation between rural areas and cities.


Résultats du Mos 2012 : la ville se construit majoritairement en recyclage / Institut d’Amenagement et d’Urbanisme – Île-de-France, . Note rapide Territoires n° 636, Decembre 2013, 6 p.

Pour la première fois depuis trente ans, le développement urbain se fait majoritairement en recyclage urbain en Île-de-France.

Eurostat regional yearbook 2013 / Eurostat, October 2013, 284 p.

A special focus chapters included in this edition on European cities (p.200-2016) and on Rural development ( p.237-262).

Urban-rural typology update: integration of NUTS 2010 and the latest population grid / Eurostat, Statistics in focus, n°16, 2013.

Degree of urbanisation / Eurostat

Remote rural regions: how proximity to a city influences the performance of rural regions / Regional Focus, n°1, 2008, 8 p.

This short paper describes the characteristics of remote rural regions and how remoteness can be defined and measured. This new approach combines a new classification of remoteness, based on driving time to the closest city, with the OECD classification of regions into predominantly urban, intermediate and predominantly rural regions.

EU programmes and projects

URMA – Urban-rural partnerships in metropolitan areas

SURF – Sustainable Urban Fringes Project

PLUREL – Peri-urban Land Use Relationships

RURBANCE – Rural Urban Governance


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