The Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities, signed by European ministers on 24 May, lays the foundation for a new integrated urban policy in Europe, focusing on helping cities tackle problems of social exclusion, structural change, ageing, climate change and mobility.

EU ministers responsible for urban and spatial development laid the foundations for a new urban policy in Europe, on 24 May 2007, with the signature of the “Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities”, at an informal meeting on Urban Development and Territorial Cohesion, organised by the German Presidency. 

With this charter, the 27 member states have, for the first time, outlined an ideal model for the "European City' of the 21st century and agreed on common strategies for urban-development policy. 

  • Strengthening the inner city 

According to the charter, the primary aim should be to attract people, activities and investment back to the city centres – which are the engines research, innovation and economic development in Europe – and to put an end to the urban sprawl phenomenon, as this simply increases urban traffic, energy consumption and land use. 

Focus should be on regeneration of existing residential and business areas in inner cities, with a greater mixture of living, working and leisure areas, making cities more exciting and vibrant, but also more socially and economically stable. 

  • Assisting 'deprived neighbourhoods' 

Member states agreed that doing something about deprived neighbourhoods should receive particular attention and be considered as a "public task" because the existence of such neighbourhoods jeopordizes attractiveness, competitiveness, social cohesion and security in cities. "There must be no 'no-go' areas in Europe," the text states. 

  • Better funding 

The charter also urges the Commission to ensure that cities are at the heart of European funding policies. 

So far, of the €350 billion structural and cohesion funds for 2007-2013, €19.5bn has been earmarked to support EU cities. But the Leipzig Charter makes it clear that member states will have to do more if they are to be able to face up to demographic change, global warming and economic structural change due to globalisation pressures. 

It recommends that governments make more use of public-private partnerships to enhance investments in city infrastructure.