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Milan-Bologna is a 'workshop' for new equilibria - EU study

Rethink of governance mechanisms necessary says ESPON

(ANSA) - BRUSSELS, JUN 30 - Urban regions are replacing cities on the international economic scene, bringing out new power relations between territories and playing an unprecedented role in the territorial reorganization of capitalism. This is not a neutral process, and it contributes on the one hand to creating new spaces, harbingers of conflicts and imbalances, and on the other to fueling a new territorial protagonism and new political dynamics.
    The Imagine research project, produced by the EU's ESPON study programme, specialized in regional analysis, and under the lead of the Politecnico University in Milan, highlights the processes of regionalization going on in the territory between Milan and Bologna, with a focus on the impact of the high-speed corridor on the area's social and economic dynamics.
    The picture that emerges is in some ways contradictory: the social and economic processes, which expand and integrate on a regional level, are associated with now obsolete governance mechanisms.
    The snapshot that the researchers have taken is that of a productive, densely populated and interconnected region, organized into a poly-centric structure which can count on an offering of highly qualified infrastructure.
    It is a region rich in strategic regional and urban functions (universities, research and development hubs, airports, exhibition areas) and based on the interaction between the urban Milanese region and the poly-centric system of the medium-sized cities of the Via Emilia corridor.
    At an institutional level, the researchers observe, there is a mixture of centralities and networks, with a metropolitan governance that is trying to bolster territorial cohesion, while new functional actors are emerging which could generate innovative urban scenarios.
    The territory, further, shares common environmental challenges, if one considers the intense urbanization, the high level of atmospheric pollutants and the hydro-geological risks that characterize the region.
    Among the obstacles to regionalization, the researchers identify growing regional differentiation, due to differing trends of economic development; an erosion of common goods such as the environment, put under pressure by economic and urbanization dynamics; and also a fragmentation and lack of coordination on an urban-regional level.
    On this last point, the study underscores how the fragmentation of governance also impacts economic functions, producing competition and duplications in the supply of goods at a local level and affecting the competitiveness of firms on international markets.
    There are many areas for intervention identified by the researchers that suggest: regulating functions organized on a trans-territorial scale, like logistics, mobility, utilities, and the environment; recognizing the role of middle-sized cities which are suffering the growing attractiveness of the metropolitan areas; integrating the peripheral and mountain areas in the face of the tendency to concentrate functions in the metropolitan areas; and considering the Milan-Bologna area as a significant bio-region for a more sustainable integration of the natural system with the urban one.
    photo: a bird's eye view of Bologna (ANSA).


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