Seminar "The essential aspects of the EU Urban agenda: challenges and gains for Latvia"

State regional development agency in the project ESPON On the road organized a seminar „The essential aspects of the EU Urban agenda: challenges and gains for Latvia” on the September 5th, 2014. The seminar took place in Riga, Latvia, Peldu street 25, starting 9:30 am.

In June 18th EC released a paper on „The Urban dimension of EU policies – key features of an EU agenda”, starting public debate about the content, necessity and added value of the EU Urban agenda.

Ministry of environmental protection and regional development of Latvia have started the preparatory work for the Latvian presidency of the EU with the previous seminar organized by State regional development agency on June 19th in Riga. The seminar on September 5th was a continuation of the discussion on the topic of possible EU Urban agenda, including sub-topics e.g. the content of the EU Urban agenda, geographical scope and potential impact on the allocation of EU funding.

Thus far the main EU level discussion has been on the challenges of metropolitan areas. Therefore, in this context, one of the main priorities for Latvia is to shift focus towards issues concerning small and medium sized cities and their role in the national territorial development context.

The aim of the seminar was to facilitate meaningful further discussion about the position of Latvia relating to the standpoint and interests of Latvia in creation of EU urban agenda; including the role and contribution of small and medium sized cities in reaching the common EU development goals.

Seminar working language was Latvian and participants of the seminar were representatives from all ministries, planning regions and municipalities, social partners, researchers and experts in relating fields.

Key messages from the seminar are:

  • The definition of small and medium sized towns is particularly imperative. Categorising the towns by population criteria (≤ 50 000 inhabitants) may be one of the benchmarks to fit in this category; however the city/town functions are of great importance as well.
  • There is sufficient evidence on small and medium sized towns in ESPON to prove that they are essential to EU in terms of the share of population. However the economic contribution and importance has yet to be highlighted.
  • The main challenges for small and medium sized towns are: emigration, lack of workforce (highly qualified) and capacity; somewhat poor economic development; lack of employment possibilities, aging population; lack of service and infrastructure availability; unused potential of infrastructure and limited accessibility to resources.
  • Possible solutions to the main challenges: polycentrism; networking; cross-regional/border collaboration; strengthening the links with bigger cities; shift towards green economies; improvement in services, accessibility and infrastructure etc.
  • It is important to take into account the territorial context, e.g. interaction between the urban-rural territories, when trying to define the small and medium sized towns/cities.
  • The urban agenda shouldn’t be separated or artificially detached from common EU territorial development questions.
  • How to overcome the administrative borders in development of functional small and medium sized towns?
  • Growth vs. quality is an important dilemma that is appearing more and more often in topics on territorial development.

Agenda of the seminar as well as presentations and photos from the event are available below.


Photo: Riga from satellite. Public Domain