Urenio Watch Watch: Cities

The State of European Cities Report, 2016

This report, jointly produced by the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission and UN-Habitat, highlights how the unique characteristics of European cities can support the EU priorities of jobs & growth, migration and climate action. Cities boost innovation, embrace people from different backgrounds and reduce our impact on the planet. Cities that operate at the metropolitan scale and have sufficient autonomy and resources can better exploit these urban advantages.

Goals of the report

As cities have important investment needs, EU Cohesion Policy will provide more than EUR 100 billion for projects on innovation in SMEs, social integration, low-carbon mobility and energy efficiency in the period 2014-2020. Therefore, among the basic goals of this report are:

  1. Help Urban Agenda for the EU by focussing on the topics of the partnerships (air quality, housing, migration, poverty),
  2. Support the New Urban Agenda by testing a new global, people-based definition of cities,
  3. Encourage cities learn from each other, through the comparation of cities’ performance and the examples of good practices for policies that have worked within Europe and globally.

Main Findings

Chapter 1: European cities in a global context

  • European cities are double the density of North-American cities, but half the density to Asian ones.
  • European cities have a high enough density to provide efficient public transport.
  • An EU-OECD voluntary commitment is being prepared for Habitat III to test a global, people-based definition of cities.

Chapter 2: Demographic change

  • Population growth in cities is higher, especially due to migration. But the speed of urbanisation has slowed down since the 1960s and 1970s.
  • In the 1990s, 40% of cities lost population. In the 2000s it dropped to 30%.
  • Working age population moves to cities looking for education and jobs, while 65+ move out.
  • Capital cities tend to have highest population growth, share of working-age population and of foreign-born population.
Total population change by metro region, 2002-2012. Source: Eurostat

Chapter 3: Urban economic development

  • Cities boost productivity:
    • More tertiary educated & more innovation
    • More high-growth firms
    • Higher employment rates
    • Better accessibility and connectivity
  • Low-income cities are catching up, but losing jobs
  • Medium- and high-income cities lag behind
  • Very-high-income cities maintain their lead

Chapter 4: The inclusive city

  • Europe 2020 strategy measured by degree of urbanisation:
    • 10% or less of early school leavers 18-24,
    • 40% or more of tertiary educated 30-34,
    • 75% or more employed 20-64,
    • 20 million less people in povery or social exclusion.
  • Crisis has helped progress to education targets but reduced employment and increased povery.
  • Employment rates of city residents born outside the EU are considerably lower.
  • Housing in cities is expensive, small and crowded.
Employment rate in the cities by country of birth, 2014. Source: Eurostat.

Chapter 5: Making urban mobility greener and safer

  • Low-carbon modes more popular in cities, but more can be done to make these attractive:
    • Make walking and cycling safe and convenient
    • Improve speed and frequency of public transport
    • Charge more for parking a car in the city centre
  •  To reach the EU GHG emission targets, car use may need to be reduced. Several cities have succeeded to reduce car use.
  • Traffic safety is high in most EU cities, but it can still be improved in several cities

Chapter 6: Resource-efficient cities

  • Cities compared to rural areas need:
    • Four times less land,
    • Ten times less local road
  •  Large cities and Mediterranean cities use less land per inhabitant
  • Most EU cities with a growing population have a slower increase in land use than in population
  • This efficiency can deteriorate or improve over time depending on national and local policies

Chapter 7: Urban environment and climate change

  • To reduce air pollution many cities need to act, but so do higher levels of government.
  • More mayors aim to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to climate change: Covenant of Mayors
  • Cities are experimenting green and blue infrastructure and other nature-based solutions

Chapter 8: Urban Governance

  • Successful cities have:
    • sufficient autonomy,
    • sufficient funding and
    • govern at the functional (i.e. metropolitan) level
  • Autonomy and funding have increased, but the crisis has reduced local public investment
  • Corruption and inefficient public services continue to plague in several cities
Public investment by local governments per country, 1995-2015. Source: Eurostat.