In a communication adopted on Tuesday, the commission spells out how a coordinated and coherent response to cope with the increasing number of urban problems can be formulated.
Regional policies commissioner Monika Wulf-Mathies said:
'As concern with urban development is rising, the moment is right for launching a wide debate on the future of European towns and cities and on the contribution of policies at European level. EU policies in fields such as the environment, transport, employment, social inclusion, Research, Technology et Development (RTD) and, of course, regional policy, have already an important impact on towns and cities.
The paper emphasises that cities and towns are the motors of economic growth, competitiveness and employment; their relative strengths and weaknesses reflect directly on the regional disparities at European level. At the same time, there is an increasing number of problems within European cities ranging from unemployment, environmental damage and congestion, poverty and exclusion, poor housing, crime and drug abuse.
The commission stresses the need for an integrated response to address these challenges. Such integration requires a better co-ordination of actions at local, regional, national and also European level, that, at present, seem to operate in a fragmented manner. Coherent programming will enable cities to tackle their problems and exploit their opportunities more effectively.
The paper also points out how the structural funds can be used for measures coping with urban problems: Targeting pockets of high unemployment in the inner cities and in densely populated urban peripheries for example or improving infastructure and public transport systems to render the peripheral regions more accessible.
The commission's paper is to contribute to the discussion later this month in the 'Summit of Regions and Cities' organised by the Committee of the Regions.
It will also be examined at the Informal Ministerial Meeting on Regional Policy and Spatial planning that will be held in Noordwijk in June. The commission's intention is to bring the outcome of such a wide debate to an 'Urban Forum' that may be organised in 1998.