The EESC stresses that it is in the interests of the Union that:
- the metropolitan areas in the 25 EU Member States should be defined;
- a set of relevant data on such areas should be produced annually, in particular through the European Labour Force Surveys;
- the main Lisbon Strategy indicators should be evaluated for these areas;
- clusters of activity with high value added should be identified within these areas;
- the Commission should report regularly on the socio-economic situation of metropolitan areas and their ranking.
Producing such information and making it available for all should:
- contribute towards the recognition of metropolitan areas and provide more in-depth knowledge of their social, economic and environmental situation;
- make it easier to assess the strengths and weaknesses of these areas on a European scale;
- improve the definition and implementation of both European and national policies, adapting them to the specific characteristics of these areas;
- provide local and regional authorities with an assessment of the competitive ranking of their areas on a European scale. Today such assessments are either non-existent or drawn up at huge expense on the basis of incomplete information;
- enrich the debate on European regional policy by facilitating dialogue between all the parties concerned on the basis of objective information;
- provide the private sector with information which could prove useful when defining business strategies.
The EESC believes it is essential for a "metropolitan areas" unit to be set up within Eurostat, which would be responsible for producing the aforementioned data each year.
The EESC hopes that the European institutions will agree with the broad thrust of this opinion.
The EESC believes that, against the background of the establishment of a forum bringing together metropolitan areas and the Commission, the situation of these areas should also be on the agenda of the Competitiveness Council and the informal Council for Regional Planning and Urban Issues.