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To lay down Commission guidelines on the economic and social regeneration of cities and neighbourhoods in crisis in order to promote sustainable urban development.

2) ACT

Commission Communication of 28 April 2000 to the Member States laying down guidelines for a Community initiative concerning economic and social regeneration of cities and of neighbourhoods in crisis in order to promote sustainable urban development Urban II [C(2000) 1100 - Official Journal C 141 of 19.05.2000].


Almost 80 % of the European Community's citizens today live in cities. As centres of cultural, political, social and economic exchange and development, towns and cities play a crucial role in Europe. Accordingly, urban issues are at the heart of the Community's policies. This can be clearly seen in the Commission's guidelines on the programming of mainstream Structural Fund assistance (Objective 1, Objective 2, Objective 3)

The Urban Community Initiative, first launched in 1994, encourages urban areas and neighbourhoods in crisis to design innovative, integrated urban development measures. The fruits of these measures are now beginning to be seen in the areas concerned: the quality of life is improving and local stakeholders agree on the importance of the integrated Urban approach. Thus, during the 1994-99 programming period, the Urban Community Initiative provided funding for 118 urban areas, amounting to EUR 900 million and directly benefiting 3.2 million people.

Between 1989 and 1999, the innovative actions of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) encouraged urban development and experimentation with new forms of economic, social and environmental development, with encouraging results. EUR 164 million funded 59 urban pilot projects (UPP).

Encouraged by these positive experiences, the Commission decided to continue this approach. Broadly speaking, it wished to see greater account taken of urban issues in all the Community's policies. In particular, it introduced Urban II, the new Community initiative for sustainable urban development, in the general regulation on the Structural Funds.

Urban II is jointly financed by the Commission and the Member States. For 2000-06, the Community's contribution to the initiative amounts to EUR 730 million, exclusively from the ERDF, for a total investment of EUR 1.6 billion, covering a population of some 2.2 million. Community financing can fund up to 75 % of the total eligible cost in urban areas covered by Objective 1 and 50 % elsewhere.


The Urban II Community initiative offers added value to mainstream programmes. It is important to stress the innovative nature of the operations involved, which start life as demonstrative, flagship actions before gradually being incorporated into the mainstream programmes.

The objectives of the new Community initiative are:

  • to formulate and implement innovative strategies for sustainable economic and social regeneration of small and medium-sized towns and cites or of distressed urban neighbourhoods in larger cities;
  • to enhance and exchange knowledge and experience in relation to sustainable urban regeneration and development in the areas concerned.

In order to fulfil these objectives, the urban regeneration strategies must adhere to the following principles:

  • sufficient critical mass of population and associated support structures to facilitate the formulation and implementation of innovative urban development programmes;
  • strong local partnership to define challenges, strategy and priorities, allocate resources and monitor and evaluate the strategy. Partnerships are wide and include economic and social partners, non-governmental organisations and residents' groupings;
  • an integrated territorial approach linked to development strategies for the wider urban area or region;
  • integration of the economic, social and environmental, security and transport aspects, including equality of access to education and training opportunities;
  • promotion of equal opportunities between men and women;
  • complementarity with the main forms of assistance under the Structural Funds and other Community initiatives (Interreg III, Leader+, Equal).

Eligible areas

Urban II is providing support for 70 urban areas. The population in each area should be around 20 000 people, but may be as few as 10 000 in some cases.

To be eligible, each city, town or urban neighbourhood must be a coherent geographical or socio-economic entity. These areas are in a situation of urban crisis or in need of economic and social regeneration. Located either within or outside areas eligible for support under Objectives 1 and 2 of the Structural Funds, they must meet at least three of the following conditions:

  • a low level of economic activity and a specific need for conversion due to local economic and social difficulties;
  • a high level of long-term unemployment, poverty and exclusion;
  • a low level of education, significant skills deficiencies and high drop-out-rates from school;
  • a high number of immigrants, ethnic and minority groups, or refugees;
  • a high level of criminality and delinquency;
  • precarious demographic trends;
  • a particularly degraded environment.

On the basis of indicative financial allocations, and an indicative number of urban areas per Member State and a minimum level of expenditure (EUR 500 per inhabitant), the Member States identify the urban areas wishing to participate in Urban II. Each area selected defines a development strategy which it works out in a Community Initiative Programme (CIP). This document becomes the basis for negotiating financial assistance from the Commission and serves to implement the innovative urban development strategy on the ground.

Priority activities

The strategies develop high impact operations which must maximise the visibility of the selected areas both within Member States and at Community level. They also show commitment to organisational change in urban governance by means of increased delegation of powers and participation by all stakeholders. Strategies also have the following priorities:

  • mixed use redevelopment of brownfield sites: protection and restoration of buildings and public spaces, reclamation of derelict sites and contaminated land; preservation and enhancement of historic, cultural and environmental heritage; creation of lasting jobs; integration of local communities and ethnic minorities; reintegration of excluded persons; improved security and prevention of delinquency; improved street lighting, closed circuit TV surveillance; reduced pressures on greenfield sites.The ERDF cannot finance housing. However, the CIPs can still help, with support from national and/or local authorities for housing improvement when housing is part of the urban crisis;
  • entrepreneurship, employment pacts and local employment initiatives: support and services for small and medium-sized enterprises, commerce, cooperatives and mutual associations; creation of business centres, technology transfer facilities; training for new technologies; encouraging entrepreneurship; environmental protection; provision of cultural, leisure and sports amenities; nursery and crèche facilities; alternative care facilities and other services namely for elderly people and children; promotion of equal opportunities between men and women;
  • the development of an anti-exclusion and anti-discrimination strategy through actions furthering equal opportunities and targeting notably women, immigrants and refugees: counselling, training schemes and language training oriented to the specific needs of minorities and disadvantaged and marginalised people; mobile units for employment and training advice; improved health services and drug rehabilitation centres; investment in education and health facilities;
  • development of more effective, economically efficient and environmentally friendly integrated public transport systems: safer, more integrated and more intelligent public transport; public transport links to concentrations of activity and jobs; telematic services for travel information, reservation and payment; clean and energy-efficient vehicles; provision for cycling and walking; training for transport staff;
  • environmental measures: minimising and treatment of waste, total recycling, selective collecting and treatment; air quality analysis; efficient water management; noise reduction; reduction in consumption of fossil fuels through use of renewable energy sources; training in environmental management and protection;
  • development of the potential of information society technologies targeting small and medium-sized enterprises and citizens: better access to services of public interest, education, culture and other telematic neighbourhood services; training and installation of facilities to allow teleworking; information systems for the management of human resources and health services; assistance to adapt to the labour market; supporting local authorities for the transfer of know-how and technology;
  • promoting the notion of "urban governance": studies and expertise on the reorganisation and improvement of public services; design and introduction of new urban management structures; introduction of indicators for evaluating the sustainability of local management; information campaigns and improved access to information for citizens; measures to involve citizens in the political decision-making process; exchanges of experiences and good practice; development of the European Union database on good practice in urban management.

Exchanging experience and good practice with regard to urban development and the economic and social regeneration of urban areas is a key component of the Urban II Community Initiative. This exchange of information will be facilitated by developing methods for quantification and appropriate performance indicators, which could be inspired by the Urban Audit. A maximum amount of EUR 15 million is earmarked for developing networks to this end. Other technical assistance measures can be planned at the initiative of the Commission or the Member States. The funds committed for exchange of experience and good practice and technical assistance may amount to no more than 2 % of the total ERDF contribution.

Community Initiative programmes

The local authorities of the eligible areas, where necessary in collaboration with the regional and national authorities, draw up a Community Initiative programme (CIP) to implement an innovative urban development strategy. Each programme concerns a coherent geographical and socio-economic urban area. In some cases, it may even concern several urban areas, each of which covers at least 10 000 hectares and belongs to the same territorial context.

All the general rules laid down in the general Regulation on the Structural Funds apply to CIPs. Their content is similar to that of the single programming documents (SPDs) and includes:

  • an ex ante evaluation analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the area concerned;
  • a description of the programming process and the arrangements made to consult the partners;
  • a statement of the strategy and priorities for the development of the urban area in accordance with the general Community guidelines;
  • a summary description of the measures planned to implement the priorities and required to prepare, monitor and evaluate the CIP;
  • an indicative financing plan for each priority and each year;
  • the provisions for implementing the CIP: the authorities and structures set up (managing authority, monitoring committee and, where applicable, paying authority and steering committee); arrangements for managing the CIP (calls for proposals, selection of operations); arrangements for financial control, monitoring, checks and evaluation.

The selected authorities must present their Community Initiative programmes to the Commission within six months following the publication of the Communication. Within three months of the approval of the programmes, a programming complement must be sent to the Commission, unless the Member State opts to apply for a global Community grant.

Monitoring, implementation and evaluation of interventions

The managing authority is responsible for organising the preparation of decisions to be taken by the monitoring committee and, where the steering committee. In particular, it accepts, considers and gives a preliminary assessment of operations proposed for financing or coordinates such tasks.

The monitoring committee, which meets at least once each year, is made up of representatives of the local, and possibly also the national and regional, authorities, the economic and social partners and non-governmental organisations. The committee is responsible, in particular, for monitoring and evaluating the programme and making changes to it.

For more information, please see the specific page dedicated to the Urban II Community Initiative on the Internet site of the Directorate-General for Regional Policy.

4) implementing measures

Initially, the Commission had planned to support some 50 urban areas, but in the end 70 were selected. For more information, please see the press releases covering the approvals of all the programmes.

5) follow-up work

Commission Communication of 14.06.2002 to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on "The programming of the Structural Funds 2000-2006: An initial assessment of the Urban Initiative" [COM(2002)308 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Urban issues are assuming increasing political importance in the European Union. The Urban approach teaches a number of lessons for the future of European policy: an integrated approach, focusing on relatively small areas, with some flexibility in the selection of areas according to national requirements and priorities, with simplified and flexible administration and local partnership.

Last updated: 18.07.2005