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Nemzeti Fejlesztési Ügynökség

12 October 2017
Urban Europe : statistics on cities, towns and suburbs
Since the industrial revolution, there have been major changes in the geographical distribution of populations across Europe.

Urban areas — composing cities, towns and their suburbs — are now home to almost three quarters of the European Union’s (EU’s) population; they therefore play an important role in our lives, in terms of providing a location for work, rest and play.

Urbanisation has subsequently become a global phenomenon, accounting for an increasing share of economic growth, land area and the total number of inhabitants; nowadays, the process is particularly evident in emerging economies and the developing world.

Patterns of urban expansion in the EU take a variety of forms: despite the gradual blurring of the demarcation between urban and rural regions — due to a growing number of suburban and peri-urban developments — while urban areas accounted for 22.5 % of the EU’s total area in 2014, the share of total area accounted for by cities was considerably lower, at 3.9 %. As such, cities, in particular, have the potential to be very efficient places, insofar as they can offer a broad range of health, educational, and other social and cultural services, as well as transport, communication, energy and sanitation networks at a much lower cost than in sparsely-populated regions. Furthermore, the close proximity of people, businesses and services provides opportunities for a more efficient use of resources, a higher take-up of public transport, and more people living in flats and multi-family houses (which generally require less heating per person).

Indeed, cities can be viewed as both the source of and solution to many of today’s economic, social and environmental challenges. On the one hand, they are motors of the EU economy, providing hubs for wealth creation and attracting large numbers of people as a result of the wide range of opportunities they offer in economic, educational or social spheres. On the other, they face a range of social and environmental challenges, for example: making available affordable housing, or tackling poverty, crime, congestion and pollution. That is why socioeconomic and technological initiatives that promote the development of sustainable and inclusive cities are at the foundations of EU policy for building a resource-efficient Europe, one of the main goals of the Europe 2020 strategy.

In October 2016, a United Nations (UN) conference on housing and sustainable urban development, Habitat III, is scheduled to take place in Quito, Ecuador; it will promote new ideas for urban development, based on an integrated approach for sustainable development. As a means of drawing attention to the important issues raised by the conference, as well as providing an opportunity to present a wide range of EU statistics on urban territories, Eurostat has decided to release this publication: Urban Europe — statistics on cities, towns and suburbs.