ESPON METRO | The role and future perspectives of Cohesion Policy in the planning of Metropolitan Areas and Cities


Despite their importance in the development of the European territory, Metropolitan Areas and Cities are not the primary actors in the design of programmes and strategies to implement Cohesion Policy. The experience with the 2007-2013 programming period, showed that cities and urban areas were involved at the project level as beneficiaries. In the 2014-2020 programming period, Cohesion Policy has enhanced their role through acknowledging the importance of cities and towns in specific investment priorities; nevertheless, the role of cities and their influence on the design of the programmes seems to be limited.

This ESPON targeted analysis shall support Metropolitan Areas and Cities in the effort to enhance their role in the decision making process related to the post-2020 programming period, also implementing the Pact of Amsterdam, establishing the Urban Agenda for the EU, and the renewed Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities.

ESPON METRO shall analyse and compare the role of Cohesion Policy in the process of planning and implementation of metropolitan policies, addressing experiences and practices as well as their territorial impact in the nine stakeholder territories. The research aims at providing evidence on how Metropolitan Areas can contribute to achieve specific objectives of Cohesion Policy through their policies, giving advice on how Cohesion Policy should take them into account.

Finally, ESPON METRO should take into consideration the new context of the COVID-19 pandemic and how the Cohesion Policy has responded and adapted to it. Being at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, Metropolitan Areas have been called to mitigate as far as possible the impact of the virus on their territories. The need of better coordination among all levels of governance is even more evident that before.

Policy questions

  1. What are the most efficient governance models of Cohesion policy funds in metropolitan areas?
    • What is the metropolitan institutional framework and the interrelations with Cohesion Policy;
    • What are the metropolitan policies and competences related to Cohesion Policy?
    • How metropolitan areas approach the implementation of Cohesion Policy (plans, programmes, investments, projects, multilevel governance and place-based approach to ensure the investments meet the needs on the ground, etc.)?
    • How metropolitan areas and related stakeholders are involved in the process of elaboration, management and evaluation of operational programmes?
  2. What is the added value of applying Cohesion Policy to metropolitan policies?
    • relevant indicators to achieve sustainable development at city and metropolitan level;
    • achieved results measured in terms of territorial impact;
    • most suitable implementation instruments (ITI, agreements, grants, etc.).

Main outcomes

(1) An overview of the role of the METRO stakeholders in Cohesion Policy.

(2) Stakeholders case studies, addressing the relevant existing challenges and providing information at least on:

  • role of the ESPON METRO stakeholders in national, regional programmes, partnership agreements,
  • level of participation in OP development,
  • financial implication and types of instruments used in the implementation of Cohesion Policy and in which policy areas,
  • interrelation between Cohesion Policy goals and planning and implementation of metropolitan goals in term of territorial impacts of Cohesion Policy,

as well as recommendations on

  • how to better implement Cohesion Policy at metropolitan level;
  • how Cohesion Policy should integrate a metropolitan dimension;
  • how to continue addressing metropolitan cooperation within EU funding.

(3) Advice for the implementation of post-2020 Cohesion Policy goals in the stakeholders Metropolitan Areas and Cities as well as advice for their integration in the decision making process.

(4) Policy Briefs focusing on:

  • Role of metropolitan areas in the implementation of Cohesion Policy;
  • Added value of Cohesion Policy in planning and implementation of metropolitan policies;
  • Role of Cohesion policy in the creation of metropolitan governance structures or cooperation practices.


  • Metropolitan City of Turin (lead stakeholder), IT
  • Barcelona Metropolitan Area, ES
  • Brno City Municipality, CZ
  • Brussels-Capital Region, BE
  • Lisbon Metropolitan Area, PT
  • Métropole de Lyon, FR
  • Metropolitan Area of Gdańsk-Gdynia-Sopot, PL
  • Municipality of Florence, IT
  • Riga City Council, LV
  • EUROCITIES (observer), BE
  • METROPOLIS (observer), FR


  • Politecnico di Torino (lead contractor), IT
  • Barcelona Institute of Regional and Metropolitan Studies, ES
  • Charles University, CZ
  • Demaziere, FR
  • Institute for Development, PL
  • Université Libre de Bruxelles, BE
  • University of Florence, IT
  • University of Latvia, LV
  • University of Lisbon IGOT, PT


€ 221.520,00


October 2020 - October 2021


  • Inception delivery: 9 November 2020
  • Interim delivery: 9 April 2021
  • Final delivery: 11 October 2021
  • (Optional) Outreach activities: February 2022



ESPON METRO Inception Report.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 1.47MB

ESPON METRO_Inception Report_Annex1.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 4.88MB