Eurocommissaris: 'naast regio's moeten ook steden aanspraak kunnen maken op structuurfondsen' (en)

Met dank overgenomen van EUobserver (EUOBSERVER) i, gepubliceerd op donderdag 16 september 2010, 9:15.

EUOBSERVER i / BRUSSELS - A certain percentage of the EU i 's structural funds should be earmarked for urban policies, as cities host 70 percent of the bloc's population and account for most of its GDP, according to regional policy commissioner Johannes Hahn i .

"We should have a certain percentage of the money dedicated to urban affairs," Mr Hahn told MEPs on Tuesday (14 September) during a hearing aimed at raising the profile of cities in the allocation of funding for poorer regions.

With a budget of €347 billion in 2007-2013, the EU's regional pot is currently funding a whole range of projects aimed at helping poorer regions to catch up with the wealthier ones. Projects range from highways and clean water plants to training for bureaucrats and grants for small and medium enterprises.

According to Eurocities, a network of 140 European cities from 30 countries, only ten percent of the current funding is specially devoted to urban issues.

Mr Hahn, while pointing out that it is hard to come up with a precise estimate since some of the regional projects also have urban components, admitted there was room for improvement.

"One of the lessons we have learned during the current [financial] period is that regional policy money should also be spent in the cities. There was only one or two cities, for instance Rotterdam, where the government together with regional authorities decided to have an own operational programme for a city. This is a very positive example, but an exception," he said.

He noted that urban funding will be subject to intense negotiations during the talks on the upcoming seven-year budget, which is set to kick in 2014.

As a former city counsellor of Vienna, Mr Hahn said he had a particular sympathy for the matter and would be a strong advocate of urban issues.

Not all policies should be directed from Brussels, he added, giving the example of clean buses or schools - which are best decided at a local level.

Some of the thinking on how to "close the gap" between regions and cities in terms of access to funding will flow into the report on the future of the cohesion policy, due beginning of November.

The European Parliament i has also stepped up efforts on this matter and established a cross-border group on urban issues.

Cohesion policy is about development, not simply redistribution. Europe's thriving cities are the ticket to the EU's global competitiveness," Polish MEP Jan Olbrycht, chair of this intergroup said.

Referring to the experience of Brussels, Evelyne Huytebroeck, regional minister for urban renewal of the Belgian capital stressed the need for subsidies.

"The ‘sustainable city' will not be built without major investments in [city] neighbourhoods. This is another reason why an ambitious urban dimension of cohesion policy is needed," she argued.

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