Our secretary general Paul Bevan considers the added value of a European urban agenda
The call for a ‘European urban agenda’ has been around for almost as long as EUROCITIES. Formally there is no legal basis for an EU urban policy. Yet we know from the breadth of our own network’s interests – as covered by our six forums - that much of what the EU does impacts greatly on Europe’s cities.
More than that, cities manage this diverse but connected agenda, altogether, in one place. Addressing urban challenges in an integrated, joined-up way promises better, quicker results and value for money. A long line of intergovernmental agreements - from the Bristol Accord, through the Leipzig Charter to the Toledo Declaration - have acknowledged as much.
So now the European commissioner for regional policy has been given an additional urban brief. And both he and several member state ministries are actively refining propositions for an EU urban agenda. The political discussion scheduled with Commissioner Hahn at our annual conference in Ghent this year is therefore a timely opportunity to feed into the thinking.
What value could a European urban agenda add? Of course the heightened visibility for our cause is welcome. But it is hardly realistic to expect member states to extend EU powers.
A reasonable goal would be better coordination. Every city mayor knows how departmentalism compromises delivery. The same is true at the EU level. For instance, Europe rightly imposes targets for cleaner air but has not yet ensured effective vehicle emissions testing. It supports cities striving to integrate migrants but insists that population movement between EU states does not count as migration. There are many more examples.
What we need is not just yet more words, but a practical, more coherent and coordinated approach to EU policy making that makes sense for cities.