In the spotlight: Mr.Peter Berkowitz

In the spotlight…Mr. Peter Berkowitz, Head of the Unit Policy Conception of the Regional Policy Directorate General. The future of Cohesion Policy is an important dossier for coming years.

What are important elements of discussion for cities in the debate about the future of Cohesion Policy?

"Cities are motors for economic development in Europe. They are places of innovation, of education, entrepreneurship and business. They are places where new things get started. Cities have a large potential to contribute to the goals of EU2020. Therefore policies at European level need to have an Urban Dimension: we have to help to overcome the market failures that underlie urban unemployment and social exclusion. We have to bring forward new, smart and sustainable investments that help urban areas to achieve their full potential. And we have to promote the exchange of experience and best practice.

Over the last 20 years, we have developed a common European methodology of sustainable urban development. It has three main aspects:

  • First, urban development is not just about physical rehabilitation or the construction of buildings, it is also about social inclusion, employment opportunities, about education and culture, about mobility and connections. The best way to address all these factors is by way of an integrated approach.
  • Secondly, local empowerment is essential. Urban development does not work as a top-down approach. Citizens need to be put in a position in which they can take responsibility – in which they feel responsible for their city, their neighbourhood, their street.
  • Thirdly, urban development needs to respect local and regional contexts, strengths and weaknesses. For each activity, we need to identify the smallest meaningful democratic entity. While social inclusion measures to tackle pockets of poverty may be best addressed through smaller-scale neighbourhood interventions, questions relating to clean urban transport or service provision may be solved better at city or city-regional level or by a group of cities.

For the future, we want to build on this method and strengthen the Urban Dimension of Cohesion Policy. Thematically, we should focus support for urban development on the EU2020 objectives of smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth, for example by promoting low-carbon strategies for urban areas, improving the urban environment, promoting sustainable urban mobility and regenerating deprived urban neighbourhoods."

How do you view the “Urban Dimension”  in the Cohesion Period to come?

“The Commission proposes the following elements for the Urban Dimension in the regulations on Cohesion Policy after 2013:

  • There should be a strong focus on urban development in strategic documents and, consequently, in the Common Strategic Framework, in the Development and Investment Partnership Contracts and in all relevant programmes.
  • Urban development should be fostered through integrated investment strategies, allowing for a more strategic and holistic approach.
  • Financial resources for urban development should be clearly identified in the programmes. At least 5% of the resources of the European Regional Development Fund should be invested in sustainable urban development through integrated strategies.
  • Around 0.2% of the resources of the European Regional Development Fund should be invested in innovative urban actions like pilot projects or experimental initiatives which are of European interest.
  • A more functional approach should allow for interventions at the right scale. Urban interventions for urban rehabilitation should be possible in areas of deprivation as well as in urban agglomerations for city-regional aspects and metropolitan growth.
  • The Commission should play an important role in promoting urban policies through networking activities. In addition, a European urban development platform should be established for conducting direct dialogue with selected cities.”

How would you optimise the role of cities within Cohesion Policy?

"Multilevel governance and partnership should be improved in the future. Cities are important partners in delivering the EU2020 objectives. They should be involved in the design of the programmes and also in the implementation process.

It is important that we keep enough flexibility for cities and regions to support tailor-made solutions which meet local needs. At the same time, it is also important to foster the common European principles of integrated and sustainable urban development – the European “Acquis urbain”, which is essential for a more strategic approach towards the development of European cities and regions. This will also strengthen the role of cities in Cohesion Policy."