Cohesion Policy challenges in the post-2020 reform

Excerpt from the European Parliament Briefing on “Challenges for EU cohesion policy Issues in the forthcoming post-2020 reform:”

Cities, towns and suburbs are home to more than 70% of the EU’s population, and constitute major hubs of economic growth. Bridging the rural-urban divide is also a point of concern for various cohesion policy-makers. Certain EU policy targets, such as the Europe 2020 ones for smart, green and inclusive growth, rely heavily on the involvement of urban areas in implementing them.

The 2014-2020 programming period has put the urban dimension at the heart of cohesion policy. At least 50% of the ERDF resources for this period will be invested in urban areas. Various policy innovations in this programming period also highlight the important role of urban areas for the EU. For instance, Article 7 of the ERDF Regulation provides that at least 5% of ERDF resources allocated at national level under the investment for jobs and growth goal must be earmarked for integrated actions for sustainable urban development.

However, as there is no legal basis for urban policy in the EU Treaties, discussions on urban development at EU level have primarily taken place within the framework of intergovernmental cooperation. Still, not all EU Member States are enthusiastic about the development of an EU Urban Agenda, as they believe that urban policy should primarily be handled at the national level (for instance, the UK).

The Parliament has been a frontrunner for developing a strong EU Urban Agenda. Its Urban Intergroup has been an active agent in the promotion of urban issues in European affairs and in suggesting policy initiatives at EU level. In addition, Parliament adopted an own-initiative resolution on the urban dimension of EU policies in 2015. Amongst other issues, the resolution stresses that the EU Urban Agenda should involve the local level more closely at all stages of the policy cycle, and ensure the feasibility of relevant EU policy initiatives at local level.

The core objective of the future EU Urban Agenda would be to improve the implementation of EU and national policies on the ground, by involving cities in the design and implementation of urban-related policies as a way of making them more effective, efficient and inexpensive. Momentum has been gathering for the implementation of such an agenda. The first pilot partnerships between the Commission, Member States, cities and stakeholders are being prepared as the key delivery mechanism for integrating cities into EU policy-making. The partnerships have to prepare and implement an action plan with concrete actions at EU, national and local level. The Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy also announced the first call for the Urban Innovative Actions initiative. Furthermore, the EU Urban Agenda has been a particular priority for the Dutch EU Presidency in 2016. An agreement between the Member States on its main elements is envisaged, leading to the conclusion of the Amsterdam Pact on the EU Urban Agenda in May 2016.

Source: Challenges for EU cohesion policy Issues in the forthcoming post-2020 reform. European Parliament Briefing. May 2016.