[Expert Colloquium] EU Strategy 2020: Impact on Urban Planning

[Expert Colloquium] EU Strategy 2020: Impact on Urban Planning

Date(s): 06/02/2015
Time: 12:30 pm - 3:20 pm

Room1123, 11/F, Academic & Administration Building, Hong Kong Baptist University, 15 Baptist University Road, Kowloon Tong

Language: English

Admission: Personal Registration Required

Event Partner(s): This event is organized in cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Department of Government and International Studeis, Hong Kong Baptist University.

- Prof. Dr. Gerd Schwandner, former Mayor of City of Oldenburg
- Prof. H. Werner Hess, Deputy Director, EUAP
- Weronika Cycak, Research Assistant, EUAP


Prof. Dr. Gerd Schwandner 

This expert colloquium is a continuation of the seminar on 3 February 2015.

Event Description:

Cities are considered to be key players in European Union modernization strategies. Actions in European urban areas are expected to contribute significantly to the implementation of the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy, which highlights priorities and targets of the move towards smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

eu2020The EU therefore encourages cities to act in accordance with European policy guidelines, for example by providing support from European Structural and Investment Funds to finance programmes under the general EU Cohesion Policy.

There are a bewildering variety of tools and financial instruments on many levels to support urban projects and cooperation in a seemingly top-down process of governance. But their effective coordination is often a challenging task.

On the other hand, effective urban development in Europe also has a bottom-up dimension. How cities perceive EU policy guidelines in view of their local interests and actions and how they see their role in EU decision-making processes is of equal importance. It is therefore worth to look at the utility and the implementation of EU programmes in practice. Are they appealing and do they correspond to local needs? Is the EU capable of adjusting its policies according to local/regional situations? Are EU ‘instruments’ in fact easily accessible for cities (especially smaller ones)? These are some of the questions that will be discussed.

Event Summary:

Since the 1990s, European Union policies have increasingly focused on supporting the development of urban regions. For the outside observer, however, the connection between grand strategic objectives of the EU and concrete measures on the level of municipalities is not easily comprehended.

This colloquium discussed the processes whereby the EU’s ‘Strategy 2020’, its cohesion policy and the regional policy frameworks are ‘filtered’ through the Union’s institutions and Directorates to ultimately lead to tangible support for specific urban development projects. Particular emphasis was placed on the work of the ‘Committee of the Regions’ (CoR). The CoR is a consultative body whose whole has been greatly enhanced by the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon. It can be considered as a main driving force behind a common European urban policy perspective. The EU today has a ‘Acquis Urbain’, i.e. a general consensus about the direction city development across all member states should take. It has been specified in a number of ‘Declarations’ and ‘Charters’, which are themselves the outcome of EU-wide conferences involving Union bodies and relevant European associations of cities themselves. Largely through CoR, policy implementation is then monitored continuously. Urban development in Europe is therefore a prime example for ‘multi-level governance’, whereby each city/region develops its own ‘place-based’ development strategy, while a network of institutions and debating configurations watches over the general adherence to EU strategic goals.

Currently, the EU’s ‘Strategy 2020’ defines these objectives in seven areas: (1) the Digital Agenda, (2) support for start-up companies and SMEs, (3) the ‘Innovation Union’, (4) job creation, (5) internal migration of skilled labour (‘Youth on the Move’, (6) policies of social inclusion and poverty reduction and (7) preference for renewable energies and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. These objectives largely determine co-funding programmes as offered by the various Directorates General of the EU, either via member states and regional bodies or directly to municipalities.

The colloquium discussed these processes but was also critically aware of studies (and practical experience at city level), which show that EU funds so far have not been absorbed fully by European cities themselves. Reasons cited were over-complex bureaucratic application procedures, a lack of administrative capacity in some member states / urban regions, a mismatch between EU-formulated funding programme offers and specific city needs and a built-in tension between rigid ‘top down’ policy monitoring and ‘bottom-up’ urban initiatives, which would require far more flexibility than the Directorates General normally allow.


Click to download the presentation content:

EU Strategy 2020 – Impact on Urban Planning (By Prof. Dr. Gerd Schwandner)

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