European Week of Regions and Cities
7-10 OCTOBER 2019 Brussels

Connecting rural and urban areas: the way forward to territorial cohesion

The debate will showcase how local and regional authorities implement smart solutions to connect rural and urban areas through integrated governance and territorial planning, based on broad partnerships and using innovative tools. These strategies enable integrated, smart communities to flourish that actively harness the potential synergies of such territories for the benefit of all citizens, regardless of where they live (no citizen left behind). The workshop will end with a discussion on how the EU could integrate these lessons into the new cohesion policy. Lunch will be provided. 

Territorial development (regional, urban, rural)
Smart urban-rural communities

Session summary

The debate, organised by the Barcelona Provincial Council, brought together speakers from European regions and cities to present their local and regional innovative strategies to connect rural and urban areas. 

Mr Castellano, keynote speaker from DG AGRI, opened the panel discussion by stating that rural areas in Europe are no longer dependent on urban territories. Instead, he argued that rural is becoming a contributor to economic development for cities and regions. Such rural growth potential for urban areas should be included in EU macro and sectorial policies, as recognised in the Cork Declaration 2.0 of 2016. In the same way that rural development as a sectorial policy benefits everyone, other specific policies should have a positive impact on rural areas. 

The opening was followed by short presentations by each speaker about EU-funded initiatives aiming at connecting rural and urban areas: in the region of Wielkopolska two major projects have been put in place to improve rural-urban cooperation: the Poznan Metropolitan Railway and the Wielkopolska Broadband Network. The railway improves transport within the functional area of Poznan and the broadband reaches most of the municipalities in the region, including places with no telecommunication infrastructure. 

The Greater Copenhagen initiative comes as a bridge allowing political cooperation between 2 countries, 3 regions and 79 municipalities. Urban and rural actors from this new partnership collaborate on transnational projects in the food sector, tourism, digitalisation, traffic infrastructure, research and international branding to mobilise synergies from urban and rural areas. Four years after its creation, Greater Copenhagen is now getting concrete results and expecting to expand across the highlands. 

Complementary to Greater Copenhagen, the MalmöLund region gathers 11 municipalities in southwestern Skåne, in southern Sweden. While there is almost no agriculture production in Malmö, small actors within the partnership share resources in education, housing regulation, infrastructure, practical cooperation in industrial sectors, business and information. MalmöLund has been turned into a political platform and network of strategic and practical cooperation, making the region the most liveable place in Sweden. 

Finally, the representative from the Agricultural Area of the Barcelona Provincial Council showed how a new methodology for urban planners, land managers and policy makers manages to incorporate the food dimension in the preservation and management of so-called agro-urban ecosystems. Strategies both in the metropolitan and the rural non-metropolitan areas, such as their initiative “BCN Smart Rural”, have been designed to increase ties between territories.   

The workshop began with theory policy topics and gradually moved towards practical examples. A wide range of best practices, hard and soft interventions from EU regions and cities to integrate urban and rural areas were presented to the audience, which showed great interest in the way municipalities work together to achieve common goals.  

Take away message

The debate showcased how local and regional authorities implement smart solutions to connect rural and urban areas through integrated governance and territorial planning.Several strategies from EU regions and cities were presented. Such strategies enable integrated and smart communities that actively harness the potential of their territories to flourish, for the benefit of all citizens, regardless of the area they live in. The workshop ended with a discussion on how the EU could integrate these lessons into the new Cohesion Policy.


Additional information

Anette Prilow: “Securing political commitment for investing in the common good across borders is key to delivering tangible results to citizens in both urban and rural areas.” 

Ola Yndeheim: “To succeed you need to have all politicians onboard, regardless political party, a common agenda and strategy, debated and decided jointly, a neutral administrative function to manage and coordinate and an open platform for every party to have easy access to.”

Anna Hadynska: “EU funding allows regional authorities to significantly improve rural-urban connectivity.”

Sonia Callau: “Do we choose urban without rural or urban with rural? We go for the second model even though the natural trend aims for the first one.”

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