The Latvian Presidency of the EU has been pushing the case that towns have an important role to play in territorial cohesion. Key questions are what are the development ppotentials of towns and how can these best be realised? To this end, the ESPON programme has produced a commentary highlighting the main types of urban areas and towns across Europe.
ESPON identifies three main categories. These are:
- High dnsity urban clusters with more than 50,000 residents;
- Small and medium sized towns (5-50,000); and
- Very small towns with lss than 5,000 residents.
Most EU citizens still live in the latter two categories. The articles presses the case for active cooperation between towns, rather than local competition between them. This is the way to balcned and polycentric development, say the authors. But to work, territorial cooperation needs to be embedded caross a range of policy areas.
Main types of cooperation are listed:
- Cooperation among neighbouring towns on a specific matter such as sharing public services (e.g. rubbish collection, hospitals, schools) to create economies of scale and a critical mass to operate public services more efficiently.
- Collaboration of neighbouring towns, potentially including a larger city, with the aim of joining forces to explore comparative strengths and achieve better territorial development for all parties involved. As with the cooperation among neighbouring towns mentioned above, such a cooperation approach can be limited to particular themes, for instance to provide better transport services or create synergies between enterprises in the region.
- Cooperation among towns following an administrative reform creating larger geographical entities, such as combining several municipalities into one. This can then have profound influence on specific forms of interaction, such as provision of services.
The ESPON 2013 Programme is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, the EU Member States and the Partner States Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The ESPON 2020 programme will be launched in Jurmala early in June.