Online event on the urban dimension of cohesion policy 2021-2027
The last online seminar organised by the URBAN Intergroup on Friday 26 February was dedicated to the Urban dimension of cohesion policy 2021-2027. In her welcoming speech, Fabienne Keller, Vice-President of the URBAN Intergroup, underlined that the European Parliament played a central role in fighting for the urban dimension of cohesion policy.
Jan Olbrycht, President of the URBAN Intergroup, recalled that MEPs were struggling for years to get the urban dimension of different EU policies recognised, as urban issues are cross-sectorial. He stressed that “urban” is only one of the numerous dimensions of European policies.
The core of the seminar was shaped around the presentation given by a representative of the European Commission on the Urban dimension in the legal framework of cohesion policy for 2021-2027. In the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR), this dimension is mentioned explicitly at the level of 3 specific objectives (protection of nature, biodiversity, and green infrastructure, including in urban areas; urban mobility as well as security in urban areas).
The 5th policy objective, “A Europe closer to citizens”, has been specifically mentioned as it refers to sustainable and integrated development of all types of territories and local initiatives.
In the urban context, its aim can be to benefit from agglomeration economies and positive spill-overs towards wider functional urban areas and rural areas close to cities or to address negative effects of concentration (such as traffic congestion, pollution, urban sprawl, affordable housing, poverty etc). The CPR put emphasis as well on the partnership principle and multi-level governance: it specifies that each Member State shall organise and implement a comprehensive partnership in accordance with its institutional and legal framework and include among others regional, local, urban and other public authorities. Moreover, different tools and requirements for integrated territorial development have been explained. Cohesion funds can support integrated territorial and local development in forms of Integrated Territorial Investments (ITI) when territorial strategy receives funding from multiple priorities or even programmes, funds or policy objectives; Community-led local development (CLLD), which is a specific delivery method to enhance the participatory approach; or finally other nationally developed tools for territorial strategies.
In the context of the Regulation on the European Regional Development Fund and on the Cohesion Fund (ERDF/CF), it has been stressed that at least 8% of the ERDF resources at national level shall be allocated to sustainable urban development (The European Parliament was fighting for 10%, while the initial Commission proposal was 6%. The 8% is the compromise achieved during negotiations). However, it is important to mention that with this 8%, the urban dimension is the only one earmarked within the cohesion policy. The ERDF shall also support the European Urban Initiative to address fragmentation and diversity of support and tools offered to cities under cohesion policy. With the budget allocation of €400 mln, two strands of the European Urban Initiative will be implemented: support of Innovative Actions and support of capacity and knowledge building, territorial impact assessments, policy development and communication. The European Urban Initiative may also support inter-governmental cooperation on urban matters including the Urban Agenda for the EU.
Moreover, the European Social Fund + for 2021-2027 will contribute to territorial and local development strategies taking into account the specificities of among others urban and rural areas in view of tackling the socioeconomic inequalities in cities and regions.
Last but not least, the Urbact Programme is part of the Interregional cooperation within Interreg regulation. Urbact will continue its aim: exchange of experiences, innovative approaches and capacity building in relation to the identification, transfer and capitalisation of urban good practices on integrated and sustainable urban development, taking into account the linkages between urban and rural areas.
After the Commission presentation, MEPs who negotiated those regulations shared their views: Andrey Novakov and Constanze Krehl, co-rapporteur of the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) and REACT-EU and Krzysztof Hetman, shadow rapporteur on the European Regional Development Fund and on the Cohesion Fund. During a vivid discussion, participants raised different questions on concrete support for the Urban Agenda for the EU, concrete approaches to build successful ITIs and CLLDs, relation between urban and rural areas, potential of metropolitan areas and many others.
In the conclusion remarks, Younous Omarjee, Chair of the REGI committee and Andreas Schieder, Vice-President of the URBAN Intergroup, undermined that the EC presentation was very reach in details and helpful to understand the urban dimension in the new cohesion policy. Taking into account a very good legal framework for 2021-2027, it is necessary to monitor the implementation of the cohesion policy on the ground and its impact on urban areas. Moreover, the attention should be focused as well in the coming weeks and months on the designing process of the Recover Plans and then on their implementation in Member States.