Corina Crețu, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy outlines how Europe should be exploiting urban areas to their full potential
An important responsibility was bestowed upon me when I came into office as Commissioner for Regional Policy: to lead this policy into the next decade and to exploit its full potential in order to create jobs and sustainable growth. It is a fact: Europe’s cities are the engines of European growth, providing jobs and services, and serving as hubs for creativity and innovation. The urban dimension of our Policy has therefore been significantly reinforced for 2014-2020.
The importance of the thematic was already reflected in the explicit inclusion, in 2012, of urban policy in the responsibilities of the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission. This change was made in recognition of the importance of cities as key actors for the development of regions across Europe.
In the new programming period, over €80bn from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), half of its 2014-2020 envelope, will be spent in urban areas. In each EU member state, according to our new Regulations, a minimum 5% of the ERDF will be invested in integrated sustainable urban development and directly managed by urban authorities, at least for the selection of operations. This will allow cities to build on positive synergies between policy fields. Furthermore, €330m will fund innovative actions in the field of sustainable urban development over this 7 year period.
Overall, Cohesion Policy resources will be strategically targeted at enhancing the integrated approach to urban development, to increase the efficiency of our investments, at strengthening the role of cities in European urban policy, to better deliver on the EU goals of growth and jobs, and at increasing the level of innovation in urban policymaking, to tackle the challenges that will grow in importance in future years. An urban development network set by the Commission will review the on-the-ground deployment of European funds and support the exchange of experience between cities involved in urban innovative actions and in integrated sustainable urban development. I want to stress the paramount importance of an integrated approach to sustainable urban development: urban development is about the social, economic and physical transformation of cities. It means that everything from the advantages of economic activity, innovation, education and culture to the challenges of urban sprawl, poverty, migration, congestion and beyond, are dealt with cohesively.
Integrated problems need integrated solutions. And solutions must be sustainable so that any urban development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Of course for EU investments to have a maximum impact on the ground, cities and regions need to address all issues hampering the good use of the funds, especially in the field of administrative capacity. One of the priorities of my mandate is precisely to help Member States improve the way they manage and invest EU funds, by fostering the exchanges of best practices in the field of administrative capacity building and public procurement and by simplifying the access to the European Structural and Investments Funds.
Now, as you know, the Commission and the 28 Member States have agreed to bring forward an ambitious EU Urban Agenda in the coming years, which will be about enabling cities to fully contribute to our shared priorities and deliver concrete benefits for our citizens. We will pay particular attention to exploiting synergies and complementarities with other EU policies, starting with the other European Structural and Investment Funds, to make the most of the combined effect of all EU funds.
Shaping the EU Urban Agenda will give us the occasion to reflect on the urban dimension of the post-2020 Cohesion Policy, and I am looking forward to the fruitful discussions we will have on the matter with all the national, regional and local stakeholders involved in the shared management of Cohesion Policy funds.
Commissioner for Regional Policy