EU urban strategies 2014-2020: exploring the functional area approach

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There is a vast literature that has investigated processes of spatial reconfiguration, contributing to the emerging of a "new urban question" that not only reframes traditional urban issues but also challenges our understanding of what are cities todays. At the same time, the "European city model" still persists, particularly regarding the institutional role of cities, increasingly considered as relevant policy actors. This "urban paradox" gives new emphasis on the urban regional scale and urgently calls for connecting the two dimensions, both in terms of dynamics on the ground and policy formulation. The paper addresses the topic by focusing on the functional area approach promoted by the EU Regional Policy discourse discussing how it shapes and legitimates new spatial configurations, with implications for urban analysis and policy approaches. The paper is based on the analysis of a database gathering nearly 1000 strategies for Sustainable Urban Development funded by EU in 2014-2020, with a significant number of functional areas. Interestingly, functional areas as a strategic approach do not only apply to metropolitan areas, big cities and FUAs. On the contrary, it has been used for different type of territories, beyond metropolitan areas, and suggests the need for better understanding what kind of spatialities and territorial arrangements they contribute to shape.
EU urban policy, sustainable urban development, functional urban areas, strategic planning