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The ESPON 2013 Operational Programme
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Classification of European cities according to the nature of their links with non European cities, 2006-2010

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  • In Europe, there are considerable territorial imbalances as regards the location of cities acting as major gateways and the type of links to non-European cities
  • A large majority of large cities with diversified types of gateway functions towards the rest of the world are located in Western and Northern Europe may of whom are capital cities
  • London alone accounts for more than 25 per cent of all extra-European connections

Observations for policy

Cities are motors of economic development and many of them are important gateways for globalisation in Europe. Europe needs international ports, airports, centres of business services, knowledge production and innovation as well as financial gateways that reach necessary thresholds of concentration to benefit from agglomeration economies in these different fields. In Europe, there are considerable territorial imbalances as regards the location and type of links to non-European cities.

Policy context

Cities and globalisation are two issues underlined in many policy documents. Europe’s growth depends also on its capacity (a) to grasp opportunities deriving from globalisation, and (b) to benefit from integration with its neighbourhood and more distant parts of the world.

In these processes European cities have a double role to play. They are important hubs for the interaction with stakeholders outside Europe and, at the same time, they need to serve as engines for European development.

Map interpretation

Cities with diversified types of gateway functions (in red) are mainly located in Western and Northern Europe, many of whom are capital cities.

These cities have many international connections and diversified types of gateway functions. London ranks first, accounting for more than 25 per cent of all extra-European connections in Europe. Paris and Frankfurt stand below London but are still characterized by high values in most types of networks (APS, stock exchanges, air connections, real estate offices).

This first set of cities (in dark red) is followed by a small group including Brussels, Amsterdam, Munich, Stockholm, Madrid (light red), which includes cities with much less importance in networks, but still characterized by a high diversification of their gateway functions.

The three other types of cities are characterised by a marked specialization in just one type of gateway functions. Some cities are mainly specialized in harbour functions (in blue), such as Hamburg, Rotterdam, Barcelona, Bremen and Antwerp. Other cities are specialized in advanced producer services (in green), including mainly Eastern European capital cities, relevant as national gateways in advanced producer services. And finally, smaller cities (in yellow) are often specialised in advanced producer services or air services.

Concepts and methods

The goal was to classify cities according to the nature of their links in European and global networks. For this purpose, only large urban areas having more than 500000 inhabitants have been considered for this exercise.

The intensity of connections and specialisation of cities have been combined to derive a city classification. The intensity indicates the total importance of cities in each network and it is aimed at highlighting the active role of few cities in each type of network.

The classification here is based on six different types of network. For each of them both the total connectivity and also the extra-continental connectivity of each city was measured. The network data used for this exercise looks as follows:

  • Firms in advanced producer services (GaWC) for 2008;
  • Air connections for 2008;
  • Containers connectivity of ports in 2006;
  • Foreign quotation on stock exchanges in 2010;
  • Average investments in office real estate between cities for the period between 2006-2010;
  • Location of corporation headquarters in 2008.

In order to make these indicators comparable it was calculated the share of each city in the total connections. The final classification is based on a combination of volume (i.e. intensity of connections) and specialisation (i.e. type of connections). The volume indicates the total importance of cities in each network and shows the active role of some few cities in each type of network. The specialisation of cities shows which gateway functions a city is specialised in.


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