With more than 75% of Europeans living in urban areas, ‘urbanisation’ is no longer a trend, it is a fact of how we organise our society. Cities are the place where the fight against climate change becomes real, where technological innovation can help boost the digital transformation, and where we can build equal and inclusive societies that leave no one behind.
Making sure that urban interests are properly represented in European and national policy making, is therefore of vital importance. As the network of large cities in Europe, that’s one of EUROCITIES’ key functions. We are actively engaged across a wide range of topical policy issues confronting Europe’s urban areas, and increasingly recognised as a valued player among the European institutions.
One of the strengths of a network like EUROCITIES is that we work across different sectors on interconnected challenges that cities have to deal with. This reflects the way that city administrations work themselves – and helps us to better explain local realities to European decision makers.
But how do we find consensus across cities with such disparate histories, cultures and economic make up? Another aspect of our work centres on transfer of knowledge and sharing best practice. Cities are the perfect scale to test out new solutions – which can then be adapted for alternative local situations and used to feed into broader policy debates at other governance levels. In this way, EUROCITIES can bring crucial insight into how best to shape European and national level policies that will work across Europe when implemented in different local situations.
Urban and European challenges continue to be strongly connected, and recognition of this is increasing at all levels. The Urban Agenda for the EU is a good example of this – and has been a milestone for cooperation between the different levels of government. This partnership based approach strengthens mutual understanding, and innovations like the urban impact assessments provide an opportunity for city experts to contribute directly to the policy making process.
Take an example like environmental legislation – the majority of which must be implemented at the local level. The urban agenda partnerships, which bring together local, national and European representatives, have delivered actionable outcomes. These include the creation of a political training academy to raise awareness about climate change with local politicians, and a set of circular economy indicators to monitor the transition to and strengthen the implementation of locally developed roadmaps towards circularity.
Of course, there is room for adjusting and improving certain aspects related to the urban agenda – and that is where a network like EUROCITIES can again play a strong role. To ensure the continued recognition of urban matters in the next European cycle, we propose the nomination of a European Commission vice president explicitly in charge of urban matters. We also recommend to further develop the successful partnership approach via establishment of a high level group on the urban agenda to oversee strategic issues for a more ambitious Urban Agenda for the EU, including assessing the need and scope for a vision for cities in the EU or a European urban policy.
This is without doubt an urban century. Tackling today’s most pressing societal challenges means designing policy that works in our cities, where most people live. By working together across different levels of government, we can get there.
EUROCITIES is the political platform for major European cities. We network the local governments of over 140 of Europe’s largest cities and more than 40 partner cities that between them govern some 130 million citizens across 39 countries.