Members' Research Service By / September 1, 2015

The EU Urban Agenda

Written by Sorina Silvia Ionescu Cities play a central role in the development and competitiveness of European regions. More than 70%…

JackF / Fotolia
Written by Sorina Silvia Ionescu
view of Barcelona in cloudy day
JackF / Fotolia

Cities play a central role in the development and competitiveness of European regions. More than 70% of Europeans live in urban areas, and cities are the focal point of economic growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. Recognising the importance of urban issues and the challenges cities increasingly face, a debate on an urban agenda of the European Union has started with the European Commission’s communication ‘Towards an urban agenda in the European Union’ in 1997. Since then, several European Commission’s communications, Council’s conclusions and statements followed, leading to the emergence of a common European “acquis urbain”. Through the introduction of the urban dimension into the programming period 2007-2013 and the new instruments intended to increase the role of cities in programming and implementation of cohesion policy 2014-2020, the urban agenda was enhanced within the cohesion policy.

This Keysource provides a selection of relevant documents on urban agenda of the European Union.


Developing an EU Urban Agenda / EPRS briefing by Christiaan Van Lierop, posted on 09 July 2015, 6 p.
This briefing provides background information on the EU Urban Agenda, the stage of the debate of its key features and the position of the European Parliament and other stakeholders in the process.


The Urban Dimension in Cohesion Policy – Past developments and future prospects / Rob Atkinson,Rob. In: ESTiF-European Structural and Investment Funds Journal, no 1, 2015, pp. 21-31
“This article suggests that the in the new period of cohesion policy there is the potential for a greater emphasis on the ‘urban dimension’. However, much depends on the negotiations between the European Commission and the Member States. Equally important is how Member States interpret guidance from the Commission (notably the Common Strategic Framework) and utilise specific new instruments (e.g. integrated sustainable urban development; Integrated Territorial Investment) and embed these within Partnership Agreements and then the ways in which managing authorities develop and implement Operational Programmes” (source: the article).

Territorial Dynamics in Europe: Evidence for a European Urban Agenda / ESPON, Territorial Observation No. 13, November 2014, 26 p.
ESPON has developed a wealth of knowledge and evidence relating to the territorial dimension of the European urban fabric. The purpose of this Territorial Observation is to gather together some of the key messages from a selection of ESPON projects that have dealt with different aspects of urban development and on the role of cities in territorial development.

The Role of Cities in Cohesion Policy / Hamza, Christine et al, Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies, 2014, 118 p.
Abstract: Urban regions are an important factor in regional development. During the 2007-2013 programming period, the main input provided by cities and urban areas was at project level. For the 2014-2020 programming period, Cohesion policy enhances the role of urban areas. Nevertheless, in practice the role of cities still seems similar in scale. As the programming phase is almost completed, there is now limited scope for further influence on the design of the new programmes. The next opportunity to involve cities will be as part of partnerships during the programming period.

Urban development in the EU: 50 projects supported by the European Regional Development Fund during the 2007-13 period / DG Regional and Urban Policy , March 2013, 68 p.
This study is not an evaluation of the urban dimension in cohesion policy, but a report on the state of the art on how selected cities dealt with local urban policies funded under the ERDF between 2007 and 2013. The most important message is that all good practices had some level of integration of policies. However most practices are only good in parts – this is why the cases have been classified into thematic areas according to their main achievements. The balanced distribution of cases into eight thematic area shows that cities are committed to tackling all the challenges pertinent to the cohesive future of European cities. The ERDF has on one hand inspired local practices by insisting on the principle of a sustainable and integrated approach, and on the other hand it has financially sustained the implementation of the projects. (Source: Study)

European Institutions views

European Parliament

Urban dimension of EU policies, 2014/2213(INI) – procedure file in the Legislative Observatory

European urban agenda and its future in Cohesion Policy, 2010/2158(INI)- procedure file in the Legislative Observatory

Urban development: guidelines for a urban agenda in the Union, 1997/2097(COS) – procedure file in the Legislative Observatory

Council of the European Union

Riga Declaration , Informal Meeting of EU Ministers responsible for Cohesion policy and for Territorial Cohesion and Urban Matters, Riga, 9-10 June 2015

Toledo Declaration , Final declaration of Informal ministerial meeting on urban development, Toledo, 22 June 2010

Marseille Statement , Final statement by ministers in charge of urban development, 24-26 November 2008

Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities , 24 May 2007

Bristol Accord , Conclusions of Bristol Ministerial Informal Meeting on Sustainable Communities in Europe, Bristol, December 2005

Rotterdam Urban Acquis, Ministerial Meeting Urban Policy “Cities empower Europe” , Conclusions Dutch Presidency, Rotterdam, 2004

Lille action Programme , adopted at the Informal Meeting of Ministers dealing with urban affairs in Lille, November 2000

The European Commission

Results of the Public Consultation on the Key Features of an EU Urban Agenda / European Commission, SWD(2015) 109 final/2, 27 May 2015, 39 p.

The Urban Dimension of EU Policies – Key features of an EU Urban Agenda, COM(2014) 490 final , 18 July 2014

“CITIES – Cities of Tomorrow: Investing in Europe”, Brussels 17-18 February 2014

Issues paper and Annex , Forum Summary report , Report (2011)

Stakeholders views

The urban dimension of EU policies – key features of an EU urban agenda / EUROCITIES response to the European Commission’s public consultation, 26 September 2014, 12 p.
In this document, Eurocities considers that a successful urban agenda should: respect subsidiarity by developing a framework for better policy coordination and involvement of cities in policy and programme development, rather than creating new legislation for cities; involving the cities as partners in decisions at member state level on investment priorities, strategic policy development and programming related to Europe 2020 and the structural funds; maintain an urban dialogue by hosting regular informal Council meetings on urban policy, and biennial urban summits at EU level gathering all government levels and urban stakeholders; better coordinate EU policies with an urban dimension by appointing an urban envoy in the Commission to join up policies and different government levels; and strengthen the involvement of cities in EU policy development through genuine collaboration and partnership, rather than consultations.

Answer to the Public Consultation on an EU Urban Agenda / EnergyCities, September 2014, 4 p.
Energy Cities considers that the EU urban agenda should not limit itself to some urban challenges. Energy Cities suggests that the EU urban agenda defines a new way of governance through which local authorities can voluntarily contribute to EU objectives, such as it is the case in the framework of the Covenant of Mayors for energy and climate objectives. This new governance should be backed-up by a concrete strategy, process and procedures that would ensure a better coordination between sectoral policies at all levels (i.e. local, national and European) and at all stages of the policymaking and implementation.

A new governance model for the EU Urban Agenda: Taking inspiration from the Covenant of Mayors: position paper / Energy-Cities, March 2014, 7 p.
Energy Cities considers that the EU Urban Agenda should aim at defining a new way of governance through which local authorities would be able to contribute to EU strategies. This new vision of governance should be backed up by a practical strategy, process and procedures.

Further reading

Sustainable Urban Development / Keysources by Sorina Ionescu, posted on 17 February 2014

Cities and demography / Keysources by Sorina Ionescu, posted on 13 February 2014

Urban mobility / Keysources by Maria Isabel Moran Vidal, posted on 12 February 2014

European Union’s Cities – a typology / Keysources by Sorina Ionescu, posted on 10 February 2014

From urban-rural linkages to urban-rural relationships in the EU / Keysources by Maria Isabel Moran Vidal, posted on 07 February 2014

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