How to improve the participation of small, medium and peripheral cities in the definition and more effective implementation of European Urban Policy? Why should a polycentrism be at the centre of Urban Policy and Cohesion Policy? How to move from an urban life to a more humane life?

A new EURE report addresses these questions with the aim of increasing awareness of policy makers and governments. Addressed to European, National, Regional and Local authorities, the report "To improve the participation of small, medium and peripheral cities in the definition
of the European Urban Policy" follows a previous one which provides an analysis of the use of ERDF funds allocated for the development of urban policies in 10 thematic areas.

Based on an analysis of the situation, this new Opinion Report contains 10 Policy Recommendations that could be taken into consideration by the targeted authorities in the preparations of the programming period 2021-2027 of European funding.

Bigger vs. smaller cities in European funding

Europe is a polycentric urban territory, with different levels of polycentrism. The urban territory in Europe is organized as follows:

  • Metropolitan Regions or Metropolis, which functionally constitute FUAs;
  • Cities with 50,000 or more inhabitants, which constitute, or may be, FUAs within a Region;
  • Smaller cities with 10-20,000 inhabitants, which are centres of attraction for 2 or more smaller urban/rural centres.

In a recent study published by the European ESPON program, around 1,600 potential FUAs with a minimum of 20,000 inhabitants were identified in Europe.

The next programming period for European funds should provide an opportunity to advance the incorporation and financing of the Functional Urban Areas (FUAs) concept, with special attention given to metropolitan areas, polycentrism of smaller nuclei and rural urban transition spaces.

Generally speaking, at the EU level only major European FUAs and FUAs in cities with 50,000 or more inhabitants are currently eligible for the ERDF. Here we ask – why? Smaller cities have the same problems, even if on a different scale, and have lesser technical and financial resources. For these reasons, FUAs of 20,000 or more inhabitants should be more supported.

The European resources available for urban policy in the period 2021 – 2027 will be at least 18 billion EUR, an increase of 8 billion compared to the period 2014-2020. On top of that, 564 million EUR will be available under the New Urban Initiative.

10 Policy Recommendations

To improve the presence of the small and medium sized cities in the definition of the European Urban Policy and their participation in funds allocated by the future equivalent Article 7 of the ERDF Regulation the EURE partners recommend to:

  1. Promote an effective participation of small, medium and peripheral cities in the EU urban policy to strengthen policentrism, as well as an adequate definition of these cities, depending on the territory in which they are located;
  2. Empower public and social participation of the local administration in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of urban strategies and, in general, urban policy;
  3. Sustainable and integrated urban development requires taking into account in a progressive way functional urban areas and polycentric urban systems;
  4. Promote a greater commitment of Member States in political and financial decentralization to the local administration;
  5. Give greater relevance to strategic planning in the preparation of the programme instruments for the implementation of urban policy and public investment in general;
  6. Promote the territorial and thematic grouping of cities and entities for the joint development of sustainable urban development policies through integrated territorial strategies;
  7. Urban functional areas for sustainable urban development can and should overflow administrative demarcations, configuring around different urban functions, polycentric territorial systems and greater territorial interrelationships;
  8. Empower the capacity building for decentralized authorities and simplification of ERDF management and ensure that ERDF resources allocated to urban policies are increased;
  9. Circular Economy should be mainstreamed into European Urban Policy for small, medium and peripheral cities;
  10. Cities, as they have done during the health pandemic, should play a crucial role in post-COVID socio-economic reconstruction.

Discover the EURE recommendations in detail here!