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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » January 26, 2012
Special Section: Education
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Polish Metropolises Will Grow Stronger
January 26, 2012   
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The government expects that Poland will be allotted around 80 billion euros as part of the European Union’s cohesion policy from 2014 to 2020, but in the future funds from this source are likely to decrease, Poland’s regional development minister El┐bieta Bie˝kowska said during The Development of Metropolitan Areas: Programming Challenges conference held at the University of Economics in Katowice Jan. 10.

Bie˝kowska said that Poland is likely to benefit from the fact that the EU’s future cohesion policy will strongly focus on the Europa 2020 strategy and its results. The strategy covers all that Poland and Polish regions need when it comes to both stimulating new development projects and continuing on with what has been achieved so far, Bie˝kowska said. She added, however, that the new directives proposed by the European Commission with regard to structural fund absorption will add to the administrative burdens for agencies managing the distribution of EU funds.

Bie˝kowska’s speech opened a daylong debate on the development of Poland’s metropolitan areas. The University of Economics in Katowice organized the conference to mark its 75th anniversary.

“We tackled the subject, because the EU’s new cohesion policy which the European Commission plans to introduce in 2014, attributes a greater role to the development of large urban areas,” said Prof. Florian Ku╝nik, head of the Department of Strategic and Regional Studies at the University of Economics in Katowice.

New draft legislation in the EU calls for earmarking 5 percent of the European Regional Development Fund as funding available for the sustainable development of precisely defined urban areas and assigns considerable funds to many other projects in cities.

Consequently, it is vital to discuss the development of metropolitan areas at the start of 2012. “We have to prepare well, both as a country and as metropolises, to absorb funds available as part of the next budget,” Ku╝nik said.

Although many of the 150 participants in the discussion as well as the panelists appealed for a speedy adoption of what is referred to as a law on metropolises, the debate focused on economic rather than administrative matters. Prof. Tadeusz Markowski, head of the Committee for Spatial Economy and Regional Planning at the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), said that metropolitan areas frequently have to pay considerable costs resulting from municipal services provided to non-residents who visit cities regularly, even on a daily basis as commuters. This topic became another opportunity to discuss the much-debated issue of preferential treatment which suburban areas are given as part of the tax system. Such areas frequently benefit from personal income tax paid by people with relatively high incomes who move to live in suburban districts and yet continue to spend most of their active time in big cities.

Danuta Kami˝ska, the chief treasurer of Katowice, gave a brief summary of the experience which Katowice and other cities affiliated in the Union of Polish Metropolises have gathered in dealing with problems related to the financing of municipal infrastructure projects and maintaining systems to provide urban services.

Conference participants also discussed the methodology of metropolitan development programming. The discussed topics included regional planning—in the context of a new National Spatial Development Perspective approved by the government in December—as well as metropolitan development strategies and work on future operational programs as part of cohesion policy. One of the most important topics was the application of what are known as foresight methods to inspire future development projects in urban areas.

“I am convinced that our conference has been a success and that here in Katowice Polish experts on regional policy have sent a clear message concerning these crucial issues,” said Prof. Jan Pyka, president of the University of Economics in Katowice. “This shows that the university, which was founded 75 years ago as a research center with strong ties to the economy, has remained such an institution to this day.” Marcin Baron
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