Sustainable Communities plan builds across Europe

European Ministers have agreed to unite behind a common goal of building sustainable communities across Europe.

The so-called Bristol Accord, drawn up at the EU Informal Meeting of Ministers in Bristol this week, will provide a new framework for EU Governments to deliver jobs, economic prosperity, social justice and improved quality of life for Europe's 450 million citizens.

It sets out eight key characteristics to inform future European regional policy and builds on the Rotterdam urban acquis, the Lisbon agenda for jobs and growth, the goals of environmental sustainability agreed at Gothenburg, and effective democratic governance agreed at the Warsaw Summit in May.

UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said: "Sustainable Communities is a big idea for a bigger Europe. It offers a chance to create thriving and successful places in which the people of Europe will have a more secure and prosperous future. In Bristol this week, we have taken a major step forward in realising this shared ambition."

An expert group will also be formed to look at how European Investment Bank loans can contribute to the development of sustainable communities. The group will include Member States, the EIB, and the Commission and will report back to the German Presidency in 2007.

Ministers also signed up to a Sustainable Communities Skills Symposium to help drive forward the implementation of the Accord. This will look at the common challenges in building the skills capacity needed to create sustainable communities across Europe.

Regional policy Commissioner Danuta Hubner said the proposals were part of the Commission's reform of cohesion policy for 2007 - 2013.

"Urban areas are at the heart of a successful cohesion policy. Mobilising the potential of our towns and cities is key to faster growth, more quality jobs, social inclusion and better environment. I want to see to it that the cities have the means to carry out the job," he said.

The Community URBACT network of cities for exchanges of experience will contribute with finance and expertise to a pilot project on skills relevant to urban regeneration.

The Symposium will meet at the UK's Academy for Sustainable Communities in November 2006.

David Hopkins



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