“With everything that is now happening in our neighbourhood, in Europe, to our friends and colleagues in Ukraine, it is clear that European cohesion, democratic values and freedom is even more important than ever,” said Anna König Jerlmyr, Mayor of Stockholm on the second day of the Cohesion Forum.
Organised every three years by the European Commission to reflect on the important role that Cohesion Policy plays in improving the wellbeing of all people living in Europe, the event follows publication of the 8th Cohesion Report, which revealed that investments made through Cohesion Policy have risen sharply as a percentage of total public investment in recent years.
Indeed, given that cohesion represents as much as one third of all investments made through the EU budget, the €392 billion set aside for the 2021-27 period is a crucial tool for cities in implementing long-term investment plans, including their post-Covid-19 recovery.
Over the last two years, cities have demonstrated remarkable fortitude in their ability to respond to and adapt to crisis. This has brought many lessons, including the fact that rapid change is possible: the rate at which urban mobility systems were transformed, with more bicycles lanes and pedestrianised areas, for instance, or how communities rallied to support one another, shows that the much needed transformations of our time are possible.
“When we start our road to recovery it is important that we do not waste the experiences from the pandemic, but instead rebuild a greener and smarter Europe – together,” said Jerlmyr.
For the mayor, who spoke also on behalf of Eurocities, the European Green Deal, with its ambition to achieve a climate neutral EU by 2050 and secure a sustainable future, provides a central framework needed in all aspects of Europe’s recovery and planning for future investments.
And, for cities, “the cohesion policy is at the core to realising these goals,” according to the mayor, which also includes reducing regional disparities across Europe.
In Stockholm, the mayor noted that the Cohesion Funds “have been used for climate innovations, education and collaboration, strengthening businesses and other important stakeholders,” and that specific support offered through the European Social fund, which falls within the cohesion ‘package,’ has allowed more people to enter the labour market, receive their first jobs and get valuable work experience. The city has similarly used the European Regional Development Fund to help start-up companies working with climate innovations.
Given the years of pressures on city budgets across Europe, it’s clear that Cohesion Policy is a crucial tool for mobilising local authorities’ ability to invest in the local and regional economy.
Future of cohesion
Going forwards, the design of cohesion programming can help cities to act proactively to reduce the risks that can occur when implementing steps in the green and digital transitions.
“One example is that we need strong measures to increase the usage of renewable and sustainable fuels such as biofuels and electricity,” said Jerlmyr.
To ensure that future programmes make sense at local level, and that the green and digital transitions can be enacted to maximum effect, Jerlmyr also pointed out that the role of cities needs to be clear. “Together with the business community, cities can provide the national and international level with invaluable input on the needs and opportunities on the ground,” she said.
And doing that requires a partnership between all levels of government.
Similar topics will be discussed this Wednesday at the Eurocities Economic Development Forum. More here.