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Procedure : 2008/2130(INI)
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PV 24/03/2009 - 3
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Tuesday, 24 March 2009 - Strasbourg
Urban dimension of cohesion policy

European Parliament resolution of 24 March 2009 on the urban dimension of cohesion policy in the new programming period (2008/2130(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Articles 158 and 159 of the EC Treaty,

–   having regard to the First Action Programme for the Implementation of the Territorial Agenda of the European Union ('the First Action Programme'), adopted at the Informal Council of Ministers responsible for spatial planning and development held in Ponta Delgada (Azores) on 23-24 November 2007,

–   having regard to the Territorial Agenda of the EU - Towards a More Competitive and Sustainable Europe of Diverse Regions ('the Territorial Agenda') and the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities ('the Leipzig Charter'), which were both adopted at the Informal Council of Ministers responsible for spatial planning and urban development held in Leipzig on 24-25 May 2007,

–   having regard to the "Bristol Accord" adopted at the Informal Council of Ministers on sustainable communities held in Bristol on 6-7 December 2005,

–   having regard to the "Urban acquis" adopted at the Informal Council of Ministers responsible for territorial cohesion, held in Rotterdam on 29 November 2004,

–   having regard to the New Charter of Athens 2003, proclaimed at the European Council of Town Planners in Lisbon on 20 November 2003 and its vision for the future of European cities,

–   having regard to the "Lille Action Programme" adopted at the Informal Council of Ministers responsible for urban affairs held in Lille on 3 November 2000,

–   having regard to the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP), adopted at the Informal Council of Ministers responsible for spatial planning held in Potsdam on 11 May 1999,

–   having regard to the Charter of European Cities and Towns towards Sustainability as approved at the European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns in Aalborg, Denmark on 27 May 1994,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 6 October 2008 entitled "Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion: Turning territorial diversity into strength" (COM(2008)0616),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 19 June 2008 entitled "Fifth progress report on economic and social cohesion: Growing regions, growing Europe" (COM(2008)0371),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 14 May 2008 entitled "The results of the negotiations concerning cohesion policy strategies and programmes for the programming period 2007-2013" (COM(2008)0301),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 30 May 2007 entitled "Fourth Report on Economic and Social Cohesion" (COM(2007)0273),

–   having regard to the Guide from the Commission on "The urban dimension in Community policies for the period 2007 – 2013" adopted on 24 May 2007,

–   having regard to the Working Paper of the Commission on "The territorial and urban dimension in the national strategic reference frameworks and operational programmes (2007 – 2013): A first assessment" from May 2007,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 13 July 2006 entitled "Cohesion Policy and cities: the urban contribution to growth and jobs in the regions" (COM(2006)0385),

–   having regard to the Council Decision 2006/702/EC of 6 October 2006 on Community Strategic Guidelines on Cohesion(1),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 5 July 2005 entitled "Cohesion Policy in Support of Growth and Jobs: Community Strategic Guidelines, 2007-2013" (COM(2005)0299),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 14 June 2002 entitled "The programming of the Structural Funds 2000-2006: an initial assessment of the Urban Initiative" (COM(2002)0308),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 6 May 1997 entitled "Towards an urban agenda in the European Union" (COM(1997)0197),

–   having regard to the results of the European Spatial Planning Observatory Network (ESPON) 2006 Programme and the adopted ESPON 2013 Programme,

–   having regard to the results of the Urban Pilot Projects (1989-1999), Community initiative URBAN I (1994-1999) and URBAN II (2000-2006),

–   having regard to the information from the database of the Urban Audit that provides statistics with 330 indicators on 358 European cities,

–   having regard to its 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(2),

–   having regard to its resolution of 10 May 2007 on housing and regional policy(3),

–   having regard to its resolution of 13 October 2005 on the urban dimension in the context of enlargement(4),

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A6-0031/2009),

A.   whereas it is recognised that whilst urban issues fall under the responsibility of national, regional, and local authorities, urban areas nevertheless play a key role in the effective implementation of the Lisbon and Gothenburg Strategies and are therefore viewed as a high priority in cohesion policy, for which the EU institutions have a responsibility,

B.   whereas the EU's objectives as set out in the Leipzig Charter are to ensure an integrated approach to urban development policy implementation in order to create high quality urban spaces, to modernise transport, energy, public utilities and information networks, and to encourage life-long learning, education and innovation particularly in deprived inner cities and areas,

C.   whereas both the drawing up of a flexible, adaptable and dynamic 'check list' for the implementation of the Leipzig Charter, as a basic condition for accounting for the variety of needs of diverse European cities and towns, as already launched under the French Presidency, and the further drawing up of integrated urban development plans by each Member State may constitute a useful additional basis for shedding light on the various situations and consequently undertaking clearly targeted initiatives,

D.   whereas a distinction needs to be made between cities and urban areas,

E.   whereas although 80 % of the 492 million EU inhabitants live in cities, the European Union being characterised by its polycentric development, there are however some significant differences between Member States regarding the population distribution in urban, suburban and rural areas and also problems related to the rather scarce representation of the urban population's interests and needs in the Structural Funds' operational programmes,

F.   whereas urban areas are responsible for generating 70 to 80 % of the EU's GDP and cities are recognised as centres of innovation and drivers of regional, national and EU development,

G.   whereas, however, cities are also responsible for over 75% of world energy consumption and produce 80% of greenhouse gases as a result of energy production, traffic, industry and heating,

H.   whereas the trend towards urbanisation is compounded by internal migration towards capital cities and other metropolises, and whereas the resulting population growth causes an immense burden on the growing cities, which have to deal with increased needs in terms of waste management, the provision of housing, education and employment opportunities, and whereas this growing tendency towards urbanisation poses an enormous challenge to rural areas, which have to deal with the loss of human capital, the labour force, consumers and students,

I.   whereas the recent unprecedented enlargement of the EU has resulted in an exceptional increase in regional disparities and the addition of a large number of cities suffering from urban decay,

J.   whereas despite the fact that there are diverse political, institutional and constitutional arrangements in the Member States, EU urban areas are facing common challenges and also have common opportunities to address them, which underlines the need for detailed statistical data on the one hand and on the other hand for mutual cooperation and exchange of good practices, in order for European cities to be able to face worldwide competition,

K.   whereas EU spatial development faces the challenges of economic restructuring, strong fluctuations in the labour market, inaccessible and congested public transport, limited useable territory exacerbated by urban sprawl, a declining and ageing population, the depopulation of rural areas and small towns and cities in favour of large urban centres, social exclusion, high and rising crime rates, "ghetto-isation" of certain city districts, low household income, a worsening of the quality of life in deprived areas, insufficient numbers of parks and recreation areas, environmental pollution, water, waste and residue management control and the need for secure energy supplies and efficient energy use,

L.   whereas coordinated governance using new electronic technologies and in particular e-governance with all relevant stakeholders could significantly reduce existing problems and might lead to urban expansion being addressed in an integrated manner in cooperation with and taking account of suburban areas bordering rural regions and in line with modern approaches to urban planning, such as smart growth, new spatial planning and intelligent urbanism,

M.   whereas urban development activities are particularly favourable as regards the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly in the services sector, and cohesion policy has become increasingly oriented towards promoting the competitive advantage of cities,

N.   whereas SMEs, and in particular small and micro enterprises, craftsmen and traders, are vital to maintaining activity in urban centres and maintaining a balance in city districts, and whereas urban policies on transport, business activities, property transactions and the increasing cost of housing, or conversely a lack of balanced policy-making in these areas, have often led to both the disappearance of economic activities and personal service occupations becoming increasingly rare,

O.   whereas the partnership between urban and rural areas still needs to be strengthened, since urban areas have an important role to play in the harmonious and integrated development of their peripheries, in order to achieve territorial cohesion and balanced regional development,

1.  Stresses the importance of sustainable urban development and the contribution of urban areas to regional development, and calls on the Commission regularly to evaluate, measure, benchmark and discuss the impact of EU policies on the economic, and social situation, particularly issues relating to education and culture, and the health, transport, environmental and security situation in urban areas;

2.  Regrets that Member States are encouraged but not obliged to promote sustainable urban development as a strategic priority; consequently, expresses concern that the urban dimension is inadequately taken into account by some Member States in the implementation of cohesion policy and calls on the Commission and Member States in cooperation with regional and local authorities to analyse and evaluate the impact of mainstreaming the URBAN Initiative and regularly to monitor and examine the effects of the implementation of EU funds in urban areas;

3.  Highlights the positive experience of the URBAN Community initiative concerning partnership, the integrated approach and the bottom-up principle, which contributed significantly to the effectiveness and "accuracy of fit" of the projects supported; calls for these achievements in the urban dimension of structural funding to be taken into account and for similar mechanisms to be introduced into the mainstream funding available for sustainable urban development, thereby enabling a larger number of cities to benefit from these achievements;

4.  Expresses the view that it would be inappropriate and even problematic to adopt a common definition of "urban areas" and of the term "urban" in general, as it is difficult to bring under the same umbrella the diversity of situations in Member States and regions, and hence takes the view that any obligatory definition and designation of urban areas should be left to Member States in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity based on European common indicators;

5.  Calls on the Member States to take all necessary measures to support their capital cities and other metropolises in their efforts to deal with the challenges arising from urbanisation and the resulting population increase, in areas of waste management, housing, employment and education; at a more general level, considers that demographic fluctuations generate challenges for both urban and rural areas related to the labour market and additionally to the fields of education and retraining of former workers affected by unemployment, and also related to the depopulation of rural areas;

6.  Considers, in this context, and given that it is evident that the various constitutional arrangements of the Member States are not, by their very nature, compatible with a harmonising approach, despite the efficiency of the various levels of governance, that it would be useful for Member States to define, through a process of public consultation, on a case-by-case basis, the urban dimension, as they perceive it, in order to strengthen internal harmonisation and improve interaction with the Commission;

7.  Points out that the Member States have the possibility of delegating to the cities the management of Structural Funds geared to the implementation of measures aimed at achieving sustainable urban development; considers that sub-delegation presents a double added value: on the one hand it would be much more efficient for regional and European growth that cities take responsibility from planning to the implementation of action taken, while responding to strictly local challenges and on the other hand, it would represent a major tool for improving the administrative capacity of local management; regrets, however, the fact that the possibility of sub-delegation, possibly by means of global grants to municipal authorities within the operational programmes financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has so far not been fully utilised and is convinced that a clear role for urban areas as intermediary structures should be envisaged and encouraged in the context of the multi-level governance approach in the next programming period, and is of the opinion that the urban dimension and sub-delegation in regional policy should be mandatory; nonetheless, sub-delegation must not be allowed to lead to the fragmentation of regional policy, and therefore the method used for sub-delegation must be carefully defined;

8.  Highlights the importance of an integrated approach to urban planning; proposes that any public urban development support should be based on integrated urban development plans; calls for the integrated approach to be made a binding condition, as soon as possible but no later than the next programming period, for granting and implementing Structural Funds and also for receiving loans from the European Investment Bank; calls on the Commission to draw up guidelines comprising recommendations and examples of good practice concerning integrated urban development plans and to encourage also the exchange of best practices between national, regional and local authorities;

9.  Urges the Member States to prioritise, within their national strategic reference frameworks and operational programmes, funding for projects which implement sustainable urban management plans;

10.  Recommends that sustainable urban management plans include at least some of the following elements: a waste management plan, noise maps and action plans, local air pollution and environmental programmes, forecasts for population growth, requests for new areas for development, reclamation of abandoned sites and buildings, regeneration of neighbourhoods in decline and de-industrialised areas, availability and accessibility of public services, urban structure and the proportion of green areas, facilities for people with disabilities, upgrading the cultural, historical and natural heritage, estimating water and energy requirements and efficient use of water and energy, availability of public transport, effective traffic management, integration of vulnerable groups (migrants, minorities, people with few qualifications, people with disabilities, women, etc.), availability of decent housing at affordable prices, and plans to combat crime;

11.  Believes that only if sufficient resources are available for sustainable urban development will it be efficient to draw up integrated urban development plans and consequently recommends that available resources be concentrated on specific actions; proposes a minimum level of structural fund expenditure, which must be determined, per inhabitant of the urban area, per programming period, in such a way that setting aside that amount will not constitute an unrealistic burden for the regions;

12.  Identifies an urgent need to reinforce the administrative capacity of both vertical and horizontal urban governance and draws to the attention of the Member States the pressing need to adopt an integrated approach in implementing urban development policy (which deals with questions fundamentally linked to the daily life of citizens, such as transport services, public services, quality of life, employment and local economic activities, security, etc.) by involving in this effort national governments together with regional and local authorities and all other relevant public and private stakeholders, on the basis of the partnership principle;

13.  Recognises the difficulty for urban authorities in reconciling the domains of the European Social Fund (ESF) funding whilst pursuing economic and social development and ERDF funding whilst planning physical infrastructure investments; believes that the "one programme, one fund" principle should be reviewed and that local and regional authorities should make better use of the synergies of ERDF and ESF funding and reinforce integrated funding; in the long term, invites the Commission to study the possibility of merging the two funds, if this could ensure the simplification of procedures;

14.  Supports the idea of the principle of revolving JESSICA funds and its potential for economic growth in urban areas and also believes that in the next programming period, regional policy needs to take advantage of using, to a greater extent, financial engineering mechanisms such as revolving funds, offering favourable loans, rather than relying solely on grants, as is the case at present;

15.  Notes the urban development potential of the private sector and believes that the use of Public Private Partnerships should be systematically envisaged and encouraged for the establishment of innovative financing schemes and projects in order to tackle the major economic and social problems of urban areas, notably for the construction of infrastructure and for housing; emphasises that this requires a clear, transparent code of conduct, particularly regarding the activities of public authorities, which have to take, according to the subsidiarity principle, the strategic decisions on the choice of service provision methods, drawing up specifications, and also on maintaining a certain degree of control;

16.  Highlights the implementation and administrative aspects of the urban dimension and calls for further efforts in order to simplify the implementation rules of cohesion policy and the overall reduction of excessive bureaucracy as regards the management and control of the funds and individual projects;

17.  Notes that apart from cohesion policy, there are other Community policies that also provide financial support to urban areas and thus calls on the Commission to develop and propose greater coordination of the policies involved that would bring together all EU resources allocated to urban areas to secure in practice the implementation of the integrated approach, whilst always taking cohesion policy into account;

18.  Believes that the governance structures in place in the Member States are still ill adapted to encouraging horizontal cooperation and strongly urges the Commission to promote the principle of a cross-sectoral management structure;

19.  Calls for existing financial, human and organisational resources to be used more efficiently in order to create and strengthen the networks established by towns and cities in the field of sustainable urban development, as they play an important part in territorial cooperation; in that context, stresses the need for infrastructure which helps maintain particular characteristics (e.g. historical), modernisation (e.g. innovation poles), economic growth (e.g. SMEs) and seasonal activities and calls on the Commission to strengthen the position of urban areas in the Regions for Economic Change Initiative;

20.  Notes that appropriate implementation of regional development policy and a sustainable territorial development strategy require a balance between policies that concern urban, suburban and rural areas and consequently affect the development of real regional cohesion, and reiterates the fact that rural development policy has a significant spatial impact and that there is insufficient integration of urban and rural development policies; underlines the need for real synergy between these policies culminating in real development potential and the promotion of attractiveness and competitiveness areas; calls on the Member States and regions to use the urban-rural partnership instrument in order to achieve the goal of balanced spatial development;

21.  Calls on the Commission to further develop and regularly update the Urban Audit and at the same time provide information on the situation on the 'urban - rural divide' for all Member States in order to have a clear picture of the situation and to identify the specific needs for balanced urban and rural development;

22.  Recommends that the Commission and Member States establish an EU High Level Group on Urban Development and apply the open method of coordination to urban development policy at EU level;

23.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ L 291, 21.10.2006, p. 11.
(2) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0069.
(3) OJ C 76 E, 27.3.2008, p 124.
(4) OJ C 233 E, 28.9.2006, p. 127.

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