Urban regeneration in the Mediterranean
The importance of urban problems for the development of the Mediterranean coastal regions was recognised early on by the Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development (MCSD). In the period 1999-2001, a special working group, led by the MAP centres for Priority Actions Programme (PAP/RAC) and for the Blue Plan (BP/RAC), analysed the state of urban agglomerations in the Mediterranean and prepared draft proposals that were adopted by the MCSD and the Contracting Parties in November 2001.
A certain number of the recommendations referred to the built up parts of the towns. The existing urban structure in the Mediterranean region is characterised by two prominent features: existence of old historic parts; and proximity of the sea and orientation of the urban life towards the sea and harbours. In order to maintain this typical, high-quality character of the Mediterranean towns it is necessary to launch the process of urban regeneration, especially where reversible processes occurred with numerous negative economic, social, cultural, ecological and physical consequences. There is a general consensus that for launching the process of urban regeneration a strong political will of decision-makers is necessary, as well as considerable funds that often exceed the possibilities of the public sector. The latter points at the need to find innovative institutional solutions.
The process of urban regeneration in the Mediterranean, and especially in its southern parts, is at the very beginning, and in that respect the Mediterranean in general is lagging considerably behind the northern European countries. However, its importance in the Mediterranean is by no means lesser, and an initiative for its more systematic implementation is considered necessary.
In 2002, implementing the recommendations of the MCSD and the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, PAP/RAC launched the project "Urban Regeneration in the Mediterranean Region". The project enjoys financial support of the European Commission. Within the project seven case studies have been prepared (Aleppo, Alexandria, Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Split, Tunis). The studies cover a variety of urban situations in the coastal regions of the Mediterranean. They were presented at a regional workshop held in Split in July 2003. The workshop participants gave basic directions for the preparation of the Guidelines for Urban Regeneration as the final document of the said project. The document is intended for decision-makers at the local and national levels. After reading the document, they should accept the concept and act towards its becoming a dominant approach, both at the policy and implementation levels. However, the document should not remain uninteresting for the technicians, i.e. professionals within the town administrations and in the planning practice.
(Illustrations: M. de Forn Foxa)