In 2009 the European Commission-DG Regional Policy organized in Brussels three seminars inviting a panel of analysts and scholars with the aim of collecting information, assessments and practical and methodological knowledge to be used to arrange the report Cities of Tomorrow – Challenges, Visions, Ways Forward (2001). I was commissioned one of the four background reports (‘issue papers’). My task was to investigate the factors that may explain cities’ adjustment capacity to strong exogenous shocks affecting the economic base.

In my issue paper I put forward a pattern model to explain European cities’ economic development potentials, and highlighted how different cities may be – regardless their size – with respect to their adjustment capacity. I underlined that since the publication of the European Commission communication Towards an Urban Agenda in the European Union (1997), there had been a growing interest, on the part of the European Union itself and national governments, in the development trajectories of European cities and their territorial impact. Yet the role of cities in promoting local, regional and national development and cohesion was not equally acknowledged in all European countries. A comparative empirical exploration of the actual and potential state of European cities seemed to be a critical step towards upgrading European and national urban policy frameworks.