ESPON Workshop

“Territorial Evidence for an Urban Agenda”


Brussels, 25 November 2014

Timing: 10h00 – 16h00


In Europe, 70% of citizens live in urban areas, a figure which is expected to rise to 80% by 2050. The importance of Europe’s cities has led to increasing interest in strengthening the European Union’s urban development objectives. In 2011, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the bolstering of the urban dimension of EU policies. Under the Lithuanian Presidency, Member States indicated their interest in building a new EU Urban Agenda and have committed to support this process during forthcoming presidencies.

In February 2014, the Committee of the Regions also published a Draft Opinion proposing an EU-level Urban Agenda which would support the recognition of the importance of towns and cities in achieving European policy objectives. This followed the ‘Cities of Tomorrow’ forum organised by the European Commission to discuss how the urban dimension of EU policymaking can be strengthened and how cities key role in implementing policies at all governance levels can be better taken into account. The achievement of a political declaration on European cities will be a key objective of the Dutch Presidency in 2016.

A key policy message emerging from these initiatives is that the social, economic and environmental opportunities and challenges facing European cities such, as intra-EU migration, urban poverty and the role of small and medium sized cities, cannot be seen as independent of the larger territorial and spatial context in which urban development takes place. Following the logic of an integrated approach, cities can no longer be defined solely by their administrative boundaries but sit within larger functional areas and a broader territorial reality.

The ESPON programme has developed a wealth of knowledge and evidence relating to the territorial dimension of the European urban system. This knowledge includes applied research and targeted analysis on urban agglomerations; territorial cooperation and governance; the role of cities in territorial development; cross-border metropolitan regions and city networks; secondary growth poles in various territorial contexts; and the functional role of small and medium sized towns.

Aim and structure

This workshop intended to present and discuss what ESPON territorial evidence can add to the gathering, combining and exchanging knowledge to inform the debate on progressing EU urban development policies, including integrated, coherent and holistic approaches across sectors, governance levels and territories.

Key questions for the day included:

  • What are the main territorial trends and challenges facing European cities?
  • What baseline territorial evidence do we need to address these trends and challenges?
  • What priorities should be set in addressing these challenges? How can these priorities be tailored for differing territorial contexts?
  • How can Europe’s polycentric urban structure be harnessed as an asset in the global economy?
  • How can territorial evidence help in shaping a new action orientated Urban Agenda?
  • How can the Urban Agenda be linked to the Territorial Agenda 2020 and the proposed European Vision for 2050?

Evidence was presented from a number of ESPON projects with an urban focus. This was supported by an ESPON Territorial Observation No.13 which was available before the workshop.


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Broad conclusions from the day

  • The goal of a European Agenda should be to create the conditions for European cities to flourish. This requires and integrated and coordinated approach, smarter regulation and cross-sectoral cooperation, including a territorial perspective, and with cities to the forefront of building the political commitment for this agenda. The framework for action should be based around flexibility and subsidiarity.
  • Cities have a major role to play in the achievement of the Europe 2020 strategy. Accordingly, there is a need to support cities’ capacity for transition and structural change to ensure viable urban economies and sustainable development of urban areas. This requires a better understanding of urban development contexts in the conception and implementation of policies.
  • Progress on core urban policy issues, including access to services, sustainable development and functional geographies, must be linked with improved territorial analysis to bring added value, including better indicators and territorial impact assessments.
  • Europe’s polycentric network of smaller cities and absence of megacities is a critical asset which uniquely helps differentiate Europe in the face of increasing global competition. An Urban Agenda should therefore not only focus on larger cities but also on second tier cities and small and medium sized towns. Place-based policies aimed at decentralising governance responsibilities and deconcentrating investment can offer ‘win-win’ outcomes, enhancing economic development and employment opportunities while contributing to cohesion policy.
  • Cities have a major role to play in greening the European economy through, for example, innovative planning instruments related to transport, land-use and service provision. Financial support, such as the 5% ERDF funding which must be allocated for integrated actions in support of sustainable urban development, together with city networks, knowledge sharing and cooperative initiatives can help boost the green economy transition.

Further information

Please find below the programme of the workshop and the presentations made.

Contact the ESPON Coordination Unit ([email protected]) should you need further information.


This Workshop is organised within the framework of the

ESPON 2014 Capitalisation Strategy / Actions related to European Seminars and Workshops



  • Acrobat Document | 304KB

Practical information

  • Acrobat Document | 240KB

List of Participants

  • Acrobat Document | 218KB

Alexandros Karavounis

  • Acrobat Document | 5.09MB

Bernice den Brok

  • Acrobat Document | 783KB

Christian Svanfeldt

  • Acrobat Document | 770KB

Andreu Ulied

  • Acrobat Document | 3.04MB

Carlos Tapia

  • Acrobat Document | 3.47MB

Loris Servillo

  • Acrobat Document | 3.55MB

Michael Parkinson

  • Acrobat Document | 1.83MB