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The ESPON 2013 Operational Programme
http://mapfinder.espon.eu/wp-content/uploads/OMF10091-300x389.png 300 389 http://mapfinder.espon.eu/wp-content/uploads/OMF10091-546x709.png 546 709 http://mapfinder.espon.eu/wp-content/uploads/OMF10091-1250x1623.png 1250 1623 http://mapfinder.espon.eu/wp-content/uploads/OMF10091.png 2719 3532 http://mapfinder.espon.eu/wp-content/uploads/OMF10091-546x709.png 546 709 http://mapfinder.espon.eu/wp-content/uploads/OMF10091-1250x1623.png 1250 1623 http://mapfinder.espon.eu/wp-content/uploads/OMF10091.png 2719 3532 Urban-rural typology, 2010
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  • Understanding the diversity of rural-urban relationships in Europe is a strong policy demand
  • A new contribution in classifying European regions distinguishes predominantly rural, intermediate and predominantly urban regions
  • In the EU27 around 24% of the population lives in predominantly rural regions, around 35% in intermediate regions and slightly more than 40% lives in predominantly urban regions

Observations for policy

The fifth cohesion report argues, that as countries become more developed, the advantages of agglomeration become more widely spread throughout the country due to improvements in the business environment, communication and transport infrastructure and the education of the labour force outside the main urban regions. At the same time, some of the benefits of agglomeration are offset by congestion costs and high rents. As a result, economic activity will start to spread to less developed regions, often rural, and the gap between these and urban areas will start to close, leading to more balanced development.

Policy context

Defining what is urban and what is rural is not an easy task at European level, at the same time various European and national policies make distinctions between rural and urban, for instance European Agricultural and Cohesion Policy.

There are already numerous typologies of rural and urban areas in Europe, each of them having its own specific advantages or drawbacks.

The present typology has been developed over several years by a cooperation of major EU bodies (including DG Regio, DG Agri and Eurostat). The work took its point of departure in the OECD typology adding the factor of access or vicinity to urban centres. It has as well been informed by the ESPON work on rural and urban typologies.

Map interpretation

The map shows predominantly rural, intermediate and predominantly urban regions. In the EU27, around 24% of the population lives in predominantly rural regions, around 35% lives in intermediate regions and slightly more than 40% lives in predominantly urban regions.

In most of the EU12 countries, a larger proportion of the population lives in intermediate and predominantly rural regions, over 40% living in predominantly rural regions and only around 20% in predominantly urban ones.

In the EU15, less than 20% of population lives in predominantly rural regions and over 46% live in predominantly urban ones. These proportions, however, differ between countries. In Ireland, Finland, Greece and Denmark, between 43% and 72% of population live in predominantly rural regions.

Concepts and methods

The typology builds on a simple two-step approach to identify population in urban areas:

  • A population density threshold (300 inhabitants per km2) applied to grid cells of 1km2
  • A minimum size threshold (5000 inhabitants) applied to grouped grid cells above the density threshold

The population living in rural areas is the population living outside the urban areas identified through the method described above.


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