Pilot project: functional areas in the EU – Regional Policy

The European Commission and the World Bank have launched a pilot project to improve functional area approaches in the EU. The project “Functional areas in the EU, crossing administrative borders for green transition and sustainable development” aims to strengthen the capacity of participants to plan and finance investments and services across jurisdictional borders for green transition and sustainable development.

Twelve functional areas from seven EU countries have been selected to receive technical support under this project, namely Brno metropolitan area (Czech Republic), Zagreb urban agglomeration (Croatia), West Athens (Greece), Lake Balaton region (Hungary), Kalisko-Ostrowska agglomeration, Krakow metropolis (Poland), Krakow Valley functional area Jiu and Jiu Agglomeration, Caraș-Timiș Functional Area, Cluj Metropolitan Area, Oradea Metropolitan Area, West Ialomița Functional Area (Romania) and Trencin Functional Area (Slovakia). This group contains both more mature and nascent functional areas, as well as urban and non-urban functional areas which were selected from a pool of fifty functional areas from eight Member States who applied to be part of the project.

These functional areas will receive technical support over the coming year to develop and implement an action plan to address their key intergovernmental development challenges. In addition, the project will promote knowledge exchange and disseminate results and feasible solutions to other interested functional areas in the EU.

What is the role of the project?

The project assumes that development rarely follows administrative boundaries and, in most cases, development efforts require cross-jurisdictional cooperation. As such, the project targets both urban and non-urban functional areas, with the aim of:

  1. support to address key development challenges;
  2. support for the preparation and implementation of the cohesion policy 2021-2027;
  3. disseminate key lessons learned, as well as tools and approaches developed under the project to other functional areas;
  4. develop a toolkit that other FAs can use to strengthen their functional area approaches.
  5. organize knowledge exchange events in order to transfer the results and workable solutions to other interested functional areas in the EU.

Why are functional area approaches important for regional development?

We move from one locality to another for our daily life because we often live elsewhere than where we work. We also use public services which are often organized for more than one local administration. Moreover, cities and territories in the EU are looking for new and innovative approaches to achieve a just, green and digital transition, while having limited financial resources. Well-coordinated functional areas can contribute to this, as they can achieve higher productivity, ensure more efficient use of resources and better access to quality public services.

EU Cohesion Policy promotes functional area approaches, notably through its new strategic objective “Europe closer to citizens” and the various tools offered for integrated territorial development, including sustainable urban development and support for disadvantaged areas.

With this project, the Commission encourages Member States to place more emphasis on functional areas in their programs in order to better respond to the needs and potentials of territories which may not be defined by a clear administrative boundary.

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