The effects of the current crisis are leaving a strong mark on our urban societies. Moving beyond the emergency response, we now have an opportunity to build more resilient cities, create better policies that are coordinated across all levels of government, and find new ways to meet the challenges posed by climate change.
Today’s informal European Council meeting of national ministers on urban matters, which was attended by Dario Nardella, Eurocities President and Mayor of Florence, gave a boost to these tasks through the adoption of the New Leipzig Charter.
“It creates a new momentum for Europe’s cities as we are currently dealing with the devasting pandemic and its deep consequences for our people, businesses and economies,” commented Nardella.
Indeed, the New Leipzig Charter, comes at a significant time for cities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated social inequalities and highlighted the need to speed up the digital transformation. In addition, it coincides with the largest ever EU budget, and recovery package, which promises to focus on a green and fair recovery.
Cities have been the hardest hit by the crisis, and so, it is against this backdrop that we must now turn the messages of the new Leipzig Charter into reality.
“Firstly, we must reinforce the involvement of cities in decision-making,” commented Nardella. “We are asking for a seat at the table when decisions that have implications for cities are taken.”
Successes, such as the Urban Agenda for the EU, mean that the recognition of the centrality of urban matters to many of today’s most pressing challenges has grown considerably over recent years.
“Any further budget delay means a financial massacre on cities”
For Nardella, the New Leipzig Charter offers an “opportunity to boost the implementation of the Urban Agenda for the EU in the years ahead”, and to build on it with a “systematic and ongoing dialogue“ that would work “across all policy areas which have an impact on urban developments”.
“Secondly, we must ensure that EU funding and investments rapidly reach cities in these times of crisis,” stated Nadella.
He explained that the Italian government “is working with its metropolitan areas and cities to build a recovery plan which fully considers the important role of cities for a sustainable recovery.” This means that key targets for investments include areas relevant to cities, such as mobility, social infrastructure, digital developments, housing and local entrepreneurship.
The New Leipzig Charter emphasises “the transformative power of cities for the common good”. This must include keeping a strong urban focus within the EU’s cohesion policy – the main tool through which EU level investments can reach cities – and in the design of its operational programmes. “For a just and green recovery in Europe, the recovery plans must match the needs of cities,” said Nardella.
Nardella encouraged national ministers to “meaningfully involve cities in the development of the national recovery plans”. In doing so, this will help to understand the investment gaps, the needs and to target investments where they will make the biggest difference – in our cities.
Lastly, regards the EU budget, Nardella warned, “this is no time for national vetoes. Our cities cannot afford any delay.” With recovery efforts now central to municipal budget plans, any delay in decisions at EU level could have a severe knock-on effect in our cities.
“Any further delay means a financial massacre on cities,” concluded Nardella.
Listen to the podcast “Cities for the common good” with Anna Lisa Boni from Eurocities and other urban experts discussing the New Leipzig Charter and the way forward