The 6th Direct Dialogue of Mayors and vice-Mayors of EU Capitals with the European Commission took place in Riga on 21-22 September. The event, hosted by the mayor of Riga, Nils Ušakovs, recognises the need to intensify communication between cities and the EU institutions to meet domestic and international challenges. It included keynote speeches from Corina Crețu, Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy and Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union. Discussions covered cohesion policy, the future of the EU and the refugee crisis.
The dialogue is also a chance to review the progress of the Urban Agenda for the EU. The EU capital cities were encouraged that the 12 partnerships envisaged in the Pact of Amsterdam have now been launched. However, cities want further reflection to address the balance between partners and how to create a better framework in which to support these actions, including funding.
The mayors, vice mayors and representatives from 22 capital cities adopted a joint declaration, 'on strengthening the role of European Union Capital Cities for growth and unity within the Urban Agenda for the European Union', which covered an array of topics.
It was agreed that “cohesion policy is a valuable and powerful instrument in helping urban regions and EU capital cities meet current and future challenges.” Cohesion policy helps to strengthen European solidarity across different level of government and the ownership of European policies, bringing them closer to European citizens. To this extent, the cities want cohesion policy to be included in the next multiannual financial framework of the EU for 2021-2027. Yet, this should be done in greater partnership, with cities having more of a say in decision making in this area.
Cities deal daily with refugees and other new arrivals. It is our shared responsibility to treat people with dignity, and this means ensuring that anyone who has a right to be in the EU can fully participate in all levels of society. The cities noted successful, city-led initiatives, such as SOLIDARITY CITIES, that help exchange best practice. However, to fully integrate newcomers in cultural, social, economic and political life, cities need direct access to EU funding.
Regarding the ongoing debate on the future of Europe, the capital cities pointed out that this also needs to include citizens. To this end, the cities invited all members of the College of the European Commission to liaise with cities to engage in dialogue with citizens.