Informal meeting of Ministers for Regional Development and ministers for Urban Policy - The need to bolster the regional cohesion of Europe at the heart of discussions

Met dank overgenomen van Luxemburgs voorzitterschap Europese Unie 2e helft 2015 (EU2015LU) i, gepubliceerd op vrijdag 27 november 2015.

The Minister for Sustainable Development and Infrastructure, François Bausch, chaired the informal meetings of EU Ministers for Regional Planning and Urban Policy in Luxembourg on 26 and 27 November 2015, in the context of the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU. The regional cohesion of Europe was a crucial point of discussion at the meetings.

It means finding solutions to the very unequal development of European regions and cities over the past decades - a trend which has grown with the economic and financial crises, as François Bausch explained during the press conference that followed the meetings on 27 November 2015. In his view, one of the more glaring consequences of the loss of EU cohesion is the unequal response to the migration crises.

Regional development

Corina Cretu i, François Bausch and Markku Markkula in Luxembourg on 27 November 2015

On 27 November, Ministers competent in urban policy matters discussed strategies to promote small and medium-sized cities as poles of attraction and service supply centres, in general and in a cross-border context. "We are calling for poly-centric development so as to ensure good living and working conditions for all European citizens", explained François Bausch. He explained that a significant part of the European population lives in small and medium size cities. And referring to the Grand Region, he further emphasised the need to explore the development potential in cross-border regions, which should be activated for the benefit of all of Europe.

In this context François Bausch stressed that it is essential that the EU discusses the improvement in regional cohesion, not only "on a theoretical basis", but by providing concrete examples.

Finally, the Ministers focused on the urban dimension of the current refugees crisis, while towns would play an essential role in the short, medium and long terms, in the reception and accommodation of asylum seekers and in the integration of recognised refugees. They concentrated on the type of assistance which towns would need in order to solve problems regarding the urban scale of the refugees crisis, such as accommodation, skills training, (tackling) poverty and integration. François Bausch indicated that this point will be the subject of more in-depth discussions under the Netherlands Presidency of the EU.

On this subject, Corina Creţu called on Member States to look into how they could combine the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with a view to addressing the consequences of the refugees crisis. She said that the EU is willing to accept "flexible use" of the ERDF. "The Commission is ready to support Member States in the search for solutions ", she also said. Markku Markkula for his part stressed the importance of focusing on how to best use structural and regional development funds and how to fast-track their use.

Last, the Ministers were informed on the progress on the EU's Urban Programme which, according to François Bausch and Corina Cretu, should be adopted under the Netherlands Presidency.

"We've launched four pilot projects to develop solutions to serious problems that cities have to cope with: urban poverty, housing, air quality, and the inclusion of migrants and refugees. I hope that by the Summer of 2016, I'll be able to present concrete projects linked to these themes", the Commissioner added.

For more information

On this topic