In October 2011, the European Commission published a far-reaching and quite visionary report called Cities of Tomorrow – Challenges, visions, ways forward (European Commission, DG Regional Policy 2011). The economic and financial crisis had clearly intensified many urban problems and exposed the limits of existing policies. In particular, the limits of sectoral policies in seeking to preserve the polycentric, balanced, socially inclusive and culturally sensitive European model of urban development had become clear. An integrated, cross-sectoral and territorial approach, based on two decades of European experience on urban policy distilled into the urban acquis, was called for. In this context, the aim of the report was to examine the possible impact of a series of major trends on different types of European cities in the coming years. The report identifies four main threats to the European urban development model, as the diagram below shows: demographic decline, threats to economic development and competitiveness, growing social polarisation and the depletion of natural resources. These threats are global rather than urban and they are serious enough to put in question whether Europe will be able to maintain its relatively balanced and socially inclusive urban structure in the face of the megacities of the East and Latin America and the more ‘disposable’ cities of the USA. In response to the threats, Cities of Tomorrow presents an attractive vision of the opportunities and potential of European cities. It also insists on the crucial role that cities themselves can play in finding solutions and thereby contributing to the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy. However, the Cities of Tomorrow report leaves open most of the questions about what cities can do to put their potential into practice. This is the task taken up by six ‘workstreams’ launched by URBACT at the beginning of 2012. Each workstream deals with a theme which corresponds with one of the threats identified by Cities of Tomorrow and, over the period of a year, has brought together evidence from URBACT projects but also from a wide range of stakeholders from all around Europe.
URBACT II Capitalisation: Cities of Tomorrow, Action Today - Key messages
Physical Urban Development
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