Some 70% of EU citizens live in urban areas. In addition, most EU policies have some impact, direct or indirect, on cities. What happens in the large urban areas is also crucial for the achievement of the EU 2020 aims of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. What is new is the recognition of the need for better integration of EU and other investments.
The briefing note succinctly explains the path travelled to reach the current ambitions for an Urban Agenda, It tales in the Leipzig Charter (2007), the Toldeo Declaration (2010) and the Territorial Agenda (2011). Then the European Commission ran its Cities of Tomorrow forums in 2014.
The Commission's view is that an Urban Agenda should have 3 priority areas - smart, green and inclusive cities. The current phase of Cohesion Funds introduced new mechanisms to deliver better integration of spending - the Integrated Territorial Investments and the Community-Led Local Developments. However, early signs are that these are only accounting for about 10% of spend: sectoral blinkers are still being worn. The Commission wants to see better coordination and get better value for money. It also hopes that the Urban Agenda will lead to more benchmarking between cities and help to harmonise data collection and use of research as a support to urban policy making.
Belgium and The Netherlands have been driving the case for an Urban Agenda. The UK view is that any such Agenda should have a very tight focus, and be driven by the Member States, not the Commission. However, some smaller countries fear that this could mean they lose out, as claims on funding would be dominated by the metropolitan centres.