A fair chance for all cities

24 February 2020

Our cities are engines of growth, generating 85% of the European Union’s GDP, which is one of the big reasons that Rafał Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw, says “it’s really important, especially now in the European Union, to support all the cities.”

It’s not surprising really that for many mayors Europe offers a hope for delivering much needed results for citizens. As Trzaskowski explains, the local level often has more in common with European ambitions than might be immediately considered: “We are more progressive. We are more open, more transparent than some of our governments.”

This was one of the reasons why Trzaskowski recently teamed up with other mayors from the capital cities of the Visegrad Group, to push for better coordination in the way the EU and local levels work together.

“The dream scenario,” says Trzaskowski, “would be to use our know how, use our knowledge, and actually support us to create the right networks.”

One success on this score in recent years has been the Urban Agenda for the EU, which has marked a milestone for cities and their relationship with the EU in building this sort of a relationship based on its partnership approach. However, as EUROCITIES, the network of big cities, points out in its ‘City Leaders Agenda for Europe’, the urban agenda still has some way to go in order to develop into a coherent strategic framework.

And, as Trzaskowski explains, cities can bring an added value to the EU table, but, in part it is still also about the “fight for direct access to EU money.”

The EU’s cohesion policy is the union’s main investment tool, which has the potential to harmonise economic development, and is the main avenue through which cities and regions can access EU funds, but it is not always so straightforward.

Warsaw, for example, has managed to use part of the cohesion funds to construct several ‘park and ride’ schemes that allow people to leave their cars behind, while making better use of public transport, and has constructed a series of safe bicycle routes connecting the peri urban area with the centre.

However, in other areas where cities might want to, or be forced to take responsibility, such as the reception and integration of migrants and refugees, national level policies can block local action.

This is why Eurocities is currently working with the European Commission to advise on the future support for the urban agenda and to reinforce the offer to cities supported through other elements, such as the cohesion policy.

In Trzaskowski’s words, “we really need support of the European Union to create the right networks, and actually to realise the priorities that are ours, and which are that of the European Union.”


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer