It is well known that cities are incubators of culture and innovation, repositories of scientific and artistic knowledge, centres of strategic decision-making, and engines of economic growth. Cities are vital to regional, national and European economies. The European Commission and Member States are committed to enhance cities' economic performance and improve the quality of life in urban areas. Moreover, the Europe 2020 Strategy considers cities as the main potential motors to achieve its aim of economic growth and job creation. The urban system in Europe comprehends cities with different profiles and sizes making Urban Europe as an important territorial asset.
Cities, however, can be defined in different ways. In general two approaches have been considered to analyse the importance of cities in urban systems from local to European/global level: the functional and morphological approach. Although both approaches are well documented, the relationship between these two approaches and the integration of different types of data and geographical scales remained somehow unexplored.
In the framework of one of the projects of the ESPON Programme – “the European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion”, a first attempt has been made to present a example of integrating statistical and geographical data using several databases. The following databases have been used: SIRE database (EUROSTAT) for commuting numbers, Euroboundary Map (EUROGEOGRAPHICS) for LAU2 spatial definitions and the ESPON Database (ESPON Programme) for Morphological Urban Areas. The aim was to produce a delineation of Functional Urban Areas in Europe based on both morphological and functional approaches by establishing a relation between different databases and geographical scales.
ESPON presents the theoretical framework and the methodology used to achieve this objective. In addition, we present and discuss the practical results of the work undertaken, showing maps of the Functional Urban Areas in Europe. It is important to mention beforehand that improvements on the methodological implementation, mainly related to data gaps but also to changes in the LAU2 units, should be carried out in order to increase the quality and validity of the results. Finally, some conclusions and recommendations are given regarding data provision and further research.
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