Urban problems are back on the political agenda and several policy documents, such as the New Urban Agenda as well as the Pact of Amsterdam (EU Urban Agenda), call for national urban policies as one of the key measures to implement the goals defined in these documents. It’s not difficult in this respect to figure out why UN Habitat has been investing on trying to define National Urban Policies: in fact, without significant help in terms of financing but also without appropriate policy knowledge and legal instruments, supported by national governments, cities will hardly be able to implement the goals of the internationally signed urban agenda adopted in Quito in 2016 or the Pact of Amsterdam.
Given the current relevance of the topic, it’s indeed surprising that there is no comprehensive and comparative work on the trajectories of single national urban policies in Europe. National urban policies do exist in different forms and their scope and variation is very high (from the French politique de la ville to the German Städtebauförderung, the former Dutch VINEX, the British „New Deal for Communities“ (2001-2010) or the more recent Urban Renaissance. Other States do not have explicit urban policies, but consistently implement EU-measures (such as URBAN II and cohesion policies). It’s also remarkable that some member states used to have explicit national urban regeneration programmes but abolished them for different reasons (the UK being a case in point). These changes call for explanation. The EURA working group on National Urban Policies seeks answer the following questions in a comparative perspective: what are instruments, goals, etc. of national urban policies? What are the political struggles? Can we observe convergence or divergence? Was a specific type of National Urban Policy a temporary phenomenon of the post-war Keynesian welfare state? And what comes next? What kind of national urban policy emerges in more and more decentralized settings? Or is it an obsolete model?
The group met for first time at the EURA conference in Tilburg in June 2018. More to follow soon.
Valeria Fedeli / Karsten Zimmermann