Informal ministerial meetings on Territorial Cohesion and Urban Policy

Communiqué – Publié le

On the occasion of the informal ministerial meetings on Territorial Cohesion and Urban Policy which took place on November 26th and 27th, ministers discussed how to keep a balance in the development opportunities on the European Territory. 

In the first place, ministers agreed that the European integration is actually under pressure. Europe is losing cohesion in many fields. One of the most apparent consequences is the uneven response to the migration crisis. The lack of cohesion hits some countries more than others and at the regional level effects are multiplying. The financial and economic crisis has reinforced this tendency. Decreasing territorial cohesion leads to a lack of opportunities for economic activities and makes people dissatisfied with their personal situation. More severe consequences are outmigration and depopulation, concentration of economic activities, congestion and pollution.

“We would like to employ territorial scenarios to better understand what kind of territorial challenges we will face in the future and what we can already do today to avoid them”, stated Minister François Bausch. “Maps and territorial visions can say more than a thousand words. Sector policies are often not aware that their decisions have a territorial impact. We must visualize these impacts to stay in touch with sector policies and demonstrate that territorial cohesion matters”.

Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu said: "We need to have a new vision of how Europe should grow; first, every citizen should enjoy a good quality of life wherever he or she decides to live in the EU. To this end we need to identify the obstacles that cross-border regions face in order to work together on overcoming them. Then, I believe EU policies and investments should further take into account the diversity of urban areas across the EU. This is why our discussions focused on how to boost growth and job creation in every regions and cities of Europe, addressing specific challenges and defining common goals."

With more than one-third of the EU population living on borders, President of the European Committee of the Regions Markku Markkula remarked, “From migration to economic growth to the urban agenda, we have shared challenges that transcend borders. But strengthening cross-border cooperation needs simpler EU laws to attract further investment. Regional and local authorities can support this process by working to harmonize administrative procedures. Member states need to also show more political will in this field and redouble efforts to expand the EU legal tool - European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation”.

On the other hand, ministers stated that Europe is growing together. Ministers stated and discussed remaining gaps at the border because of different technical standards such as for transport systems or diverging rules and laws for hospitals or fire brigades which prevent the use such services in full by citizens across the border. For a small country like the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg the management and cooperation across-borders play an important role and as a founding member of the European Union, the spirit of cooperation has always been a core issue. Legal instrument to overcome these gaps were discussed.

Regarding the Urban Policy, ministers looked at small and medium sized cities in Europe and so as to promote a polycentric development in order to ensure good living and working conditions for the citizens all over Europe. As the Greater Region proves, there is a lot of under-used development potential still hiding in cross-border regions which should be activated to the benefit of all Europe.

Furthermore the question of the urban dimension of the refugee situation was discussed. Refugees are focussing on cities as point of arrival and vice-versa cities are often responsible for providing housing, and ensuring subsistence not only in the short term like an emergency situation, but also in the mid and long term as a structural issue with wide-ranging and long-term repercussions for almost all policy areas. Finally, ministers informed about the progress on the European Union Urban Agenda which will be agreed under the Dutch Presidency.

Communiqué par le ministère du Développement durable et des Infrastructures, la Commission européenne et  la Présidence du Comité des Régions