Functional Areas in the EU: from Cohesion Policy to Practice
On March 17th, the 5th edition of the Cities Forum, organized by DG REGIO, hosted the session titled “Functional Areas in the EU – from Cohesion Policy to Practice”, developed under the “Functional Areas in the EU” project. The session aimed to discuss the challenges of development across administrative boundaries and to showcase the positive impacts that functional area approaches have on urban development outcomes. The session covered topics such as Cohesion Policy support for functional areas in the 2021-2027 programming period, insights, challenges and lessons learned, shared by relevant stakeholders such as representatives of DG REGIO, ESPON, World Bank and practitioners from four functional areas: Brno, Krakow, West Athens, and West Ialomița. Participants were encouraged to consider how to incorporate these approaches in the planning for the 2021-2027 programming period and beyond.
The session was moderated by Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu, Senior Urban Development Specialist, World Bank, who provided the audience with a concise overview of the event and introduced the speakers. The first intervention was from Marek Teplansky, Head of Unit Inclusive Growth, Urban and Territorial Development at DG REGIO, European Commission, highlighting the significance of functional area approaches within the current Cohesion Policy framework, particularly through Policy Objective 5 – A Europe closer to citizens. The speaker encouraged participants to place a stronger emphasis on functional area approaches in their work, enabling them to more effectively tackle cross-jurisdictional challenges and improve citizens’ quality of life.
Wiktor Szydarowski, Director, ESPON EGTC, presented the conclusions and policy recommendations derived from various recent ESPON projects dedicated to functional areas. For instance, he highlighted the ESPON METRO project, which analyzed the role and future perspectives of Cohesion Policy in the planning of metropolitan areas and cities and provided targeted analyses and insights into metropolitan governance in the EU. He also discussed the ESPON MISTA (Metropolitan Industrial Strategies & Economic Sprawl) analysis focused on comprehending deindustrialization and re-industrialization processes in large urban areas, and ESPON FUORE, a web tool that furnishes numerous estimated demographic and socio-economic time series indicators for various functional areas across Europe (further information can be found in the presentation below).
Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu, Senior Urban Development Specialist, World Bank, delivered a presentation on the “Functional Areas in the EU” pilot project. He highlighted that the project received strong interest from applicants in its early stages, and will bring together the practical instruments and the knowledge base created through the project into a toolkit. Furthermore, he provided the audience with examples of good practice and tools to establish robust functional areas. These resources are readily accessible on the official website of the project, https://functionalareas.eu/. Another highlight of the event was the “Thoughts from FAs in the EU” video, filled with insights from representatives of various functional areas across Europe (click to view the video).
The session concluded with a panel discussion featuring Sona Raszkova, Specialist in International Cooperation at the Brno Metropolitan Area (Czech Republic), Iulian Mareș, representative of West Ialomița Functional Area (Romania), Moskos Diamantopoulos, the General Director of West Athens Development Association (Greece), and Julita Ewert-Stawowy, the Deputy Director of Kraków Metropolis Association (Poland). The speakers discussed the significance of functional area approaches for various types of cities, as well as the methods by which capacity building and financial support can help functional areas enhance planning processes and overcome current challenges. The entire discussion can be viewed in the live stream that can be also found below(panel discussion begins at 36:56).