Food for thought: priority to.... Sustainable urban development!

Sustainable urban development has always been a key aspect of territorial cooperation. However, the latest developments in territorial cooperation itself and the newest trends in sustainable urban development retailored this particular aspect of cooperation.
First of all, the introduction of a holistic approach (that is of a "multisectoral" perspective) to urban projects requires more careful planning but the results can have a higher degree of sustainability. This means that urban projects within the frame of trasnational cooperation have to treat cities as an entity of different policies. Consequently, the area of intervention in these cases cannot be limited to only one aspect but all the possible effects have to be evaluated and tackled in order to implement an integrated urban development strategy. In practice, besides such aspects as the preparation of physical rehabilitation of deprived and former industrial zones, the urban dimension needs to consider as well the multi level governance aspect and the inclusion of cultural values.   We would like to build a little in this short article on the cultural aspect, as a real sustainable urban development cannot take place in a cultural vacuum.  sud

The ERDF regulation, when it describes the possible priorities of territorial cooperation programmes under sustainable urban development, highlights among others the importance of preserving and promoting the cultural heritage. "(..)in the case of action involving sustainable urban development (..), the ERDF may support the development of participative, integrated and sustainable strategies to tackle the high concentration of economic, environmental and social problems affecting urban areas. These strategies shall promote sustainable urban development through activities such as: strengthening economic growth, the rehabilitation of the physical environment, brownfield redevelopment, the preservation and development of natural and cultural heritage (...)". In the case of South East Europe this aspect should be well emphasized, since this area of Europe has an important cultural heritage. In SEE countries, urban areas reflect the common European heritage as well as the rich cultural diversity of the area; however this potential of sustainable development is not exploited properly or at all.  

The SWOT analysis of the SEE Operational Programme draws the attention to this contradiction. The common cultural heritage links the different countries and nations at the transnational level providing a solid basis for cooperation. How can this potential be best exploited? The SEE Operational Programme gives two answers: by joint utilization and/or joint conservation. During the joint utilization the projects have to select a cultural value/heritage on which they will focus and which could become the engine of sustainable growth in the area. Joint conservation is slightly different because it aims the better management of an existing cultural value/heritage. The common elements of these two approaches are the focus on the respective cultural value/heritage and not on the methods or instruments used and the aim to generate directly or indirectly income and jobs for the area concerned.

To conclude, the inclusion of cultural values to urban projects represents a great opportunity for the South East Europe countries to reach sustainable development and establish sustainable growth areas. The past can be linked to the present and together can establish a common and better future. The SEE Programme provides the right framework for supporting a real "dialogue of urban cultures" in the South East Europe Area as it works towards protecting and promoting the common cultural heritage with the aim of encouraging sustainable development of the region. 

Has contributed to the SEE News : Kirill Dimanopoulos