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Thematic strategy on the urban environment

The EU sets out cooperation measures and guidelines aimed at improving the urban environment. The measures essentially concern the exchange of experience and the circulation of information at the most appropriate levels in order to ensure that legislation is implemented effectively and that best practices are promoted within local authorities.


Communication from the Commission of 11 January 2006 on a thematic strategy on the urban environment [COM(2005) 718 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The EU sets out cooperation measures and guidelines aimed at the Member States and the local authorities in order to enable them to improve urban environmental management in Europe.

The aim of this strategy is to improve the quality of the urban environment by making cities more attractive and healthier places in which to live, work and invest, and by reducing their adverse environmental impact.

The main measures proposed in the strategy are as follows:

  • publication of guidelines for the integration of environmental issues into urban policies. The guidelines will be based on best practice and expert advice. Integrated environmental management will make it possible to improve planning and avoid conflicts between the different measures;
  • publication of guidelines for sustainable urban transport plans. The guidelines will be based on best practice and expert advice. Effective transport planning should embrace both passengers and goods and promote safe and efficient use of less polluting, high-quality modes;
  • support for the exchange of best practices, e.g. through the networking of information, the development of demonstration projects funded by LIFE+, and the establishment of a network of national focal points;
  • broadening the range of information for local authorities via the Internet and of training on urban management issues for people working in regional and local government;
  • drawing on the Community support programmes in the context of cohesion policy or research.

The cross-cutting nature of urban management issues means that any strategy for improving the urban environment needs to be coordinated with the other environmental policies concerned. including climate change policy (sustainable construction to improve energy efficiency, urban transport plans, etc.), protection of nature and biodiversity (reducing urban sprawl, converting industrial wastelands, etc.), quality of life and health (reducing air pollution and noise, etc.), sustainable use of natural resources and prevention and recycling of waste.


Four out five Europeans live in urban areas. They share the same problems: poor air quality, high levels of traffic and congestion, very high levels of ambient noise, poor-quality built environment, derelict land, greenhouse gas emissions, urban sprawl, and waste and sewage disposal.

These are highly complex problems, and the causes are inter-related, which is why an integrated approach is needed. Given the wide variety of urban areas and existing obligations, which call for tailor-made solutions, together with the difficulties encountered in setting common urban environmental standards, guidelines and coordination measures are more appropriate instruments than legislation. This strategy is therefore based on subsidiarity, giving priority to local initiatives while promoting cooperation between the different levels of decision-making (Community, national and local) and interweaving the various strands of urban management.

The urban environment strategy is one of the seven thematic strategies mentioned in the Sixth Environment Action Programme.


Commission Communication of 11 February 2004 "Towards a thematic strategy on the urban environment" [COM(2004) 60 final - Official Journal C 98, 23.04.2004]. By means of a European strategy for the urban environment, the EU intends to reinforce the contribution of environmental policy to the sustainable development of urban areas, notably by focusing measures around four themes: urban management, transport, construction and urban design.

Decision No 1411/2001/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on a Community framework for cooperation to promote sustainable urban development [Official Journal L 191 of 13.07.2001].

See also

Further information can be found on the European Commission's website devoted to the Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment

Last updated: 23.02.2006