European Cities play a key role for economic recovery, Interview with Andrea Cozzolino

Segolene Pruvot

By Segolene Pruvot, on February 5th, 2013

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For the first time in recent years, the European Parliament is calling for more attention to be given to the urban centres in the next financial period, guaranteeing adequate investments and the new approach already in the planning stage at National and regional level.

Simone d’Antonio for Cittalia-ANCI, URBACT National Dissemination Point for Italy, interviewed the Member of the European Parliament Andrea Cozzolino, who presented to the Committee on Regional Development a report on urban re-development as contribution to economic growth in the framework of the European Union Cohesion Policy approved on 15th January in Strasbourg.

Simone d’Antonio: Why is this report so politically important, above all, at a moment when negotiations over the next EU financial programme are taking place?

Andrea Cozzolino: Attention to the urban question is strong because the EU is looking for sectors in which to invest public and private resources to restart growth mechanisms. From this point of view, the urban infrastructure is certainly fertile territory ready to offer positive conditions for growths and new jobs. Cities attract not only public but also private investments: if we start urban regeneration programs to produce better and more environmentally friendly buildings, we open an enormous field not only for new buildings but also to achieve true urban regeneration programmes. From a macroeconomic point of view, if we need to identify areas to invest resources in, there is no doubt that the urban network represents the most interesting launchpad that there is in Europe.

Simone d’Antonio: To achieve these investments, there is however a need for adequate economic resources

Andrea Cozzolino: Sure. The other aspect that I consider fundamental is the new concept of territorial dimension, which is not linked anymore only to regions and Nation states but to the traditional European urban network, the biggest infrastructure existing in Europe. We have already worked on this topic but we try now to make it more concrete. For that purpose, the new rules of the Cohesion policy provide for at least 5% of the next round of structural funds to be invested in the urban requalification. We identified cities as possible net benificiaries of resources but also as managing authorities. The objective is to have not only regional operative plans but also municipal operative plans.

Simone d’Antonio: In the report, you identify the need to improve the coordination in the use of funds, a topic which also concerns the coordination between cities and regions. This remains a particularly sensitive matter in Italy. Starting from your past experiences both as a local administrator and a regional one in a sensitive situation such as Campania Region, where can we start to improve this coordination?   

Andrea Cozzolino: It would be possibile to identify a network of cities to work on. I think that setting up a European, national and regional plan for the regeneration of cities in Southern Italy, as well as in Southern Europe, is a priority in the next planning round. In Italy there are many good examples offered by the metropolitan areas of Naples, Palermo, Catania, Bari and Reggio Calabria that would need similar plans to make cities more efficient and safer. There could be many programmes and financial tools to allow substantial investments in urban areas: an important contribution could come from the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (Deposit and Loan Bank, mainly owned by the Ministry of Finance) that can issue its own bonds capable of producing a wide range of resources for regeneration programmes in the cities of Southern Italy.

Simone d’Antonio: Discussions are taking place in Italy with the Ministry for Cohesion to include cities and their representatives in partnership agreements aimed at improving the use of European funds, above all in Southern Italy. How can we continue this type of work in the near future?

Andrea Cozzolino: One of the latest measures to be made available by Minister Fabrizio Barca will be the strategic plan for European Union resources in the period 2014-2020 and it will be mainly up to him to take this opportunity. The next Italian government will have the responsability of making this a strategic element in the planning of EU resources.  From this point we can start a season of modernization of the country, as happened with the Fanfani plan  in the 50’s involving the massive construction of new social housing. We need to regenerate this building stock and to change the face of our cities, turning this into a great strategic opportunity, for example reducing land use or carrying out a demolition and reconstruction programme able to regenerate entire areas of cities, making them more sustainable and secure especially considering seismic and flood risks.

Simone d’Antonio: And at European level?

Andrea Cozzolino: There are many fields in which we can give battle in Europe. For example, I insisted with the European Commission that the next project bonds and measures addressed to the financial markets have to include urban topics and not only big infrastructure project such as transport.  I expressed to Commissioner Johannes Hahn my support to the opening of experimentation of project bonds to cities as well, through calls proposed by the European Investment Bank. This means that other important resources will be collected and used for good purposes. In that way, we will open a new season of growth, sustainable at economic and social level, able to regenerate cities without devastating them. We need to be more European about this, above all in Southern Italy, so as not to lose this great opportunity.

by Simone d’Antonio

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