Wide economic and social disparities within many European cities and regions threaten political stability and general economic progress. Many local and national authorities have begun to respond to localised concentrations of unemployment, poverty and related social problems with a range of novel area-based policies and initiatives. They provide ways of directing development support more closely to the areas and communities with the greatest needs than traditional regional policies and programmes. The EU Structural Funds have played an important supporting role in some instances and a leading one in several others.