Barcelona declaration calls for cities’ involvement in EU policies and democracy

8 November 2023

Ahead of next year’s European elections, leaders of large cities across Europe have signed a major new declaration in Barcelona to demonstrate the importance of cities in building a just, green and prosperous future for the European project.

The Declaration of European Cities for European Policy-Making and Democracy, which is addressed to the EU institutions and members states, stresses the need to increase the recognition and participation of local authorities in European decision-making processes, ensuring that cities play a key role in the shaping and application of European policies.

The declaration urges the EU to work in partnership with cities to fight populism and strengthen EU democracy and social justice. It underlines that despite financial and budget challenges, cities have continued to lead the ambitious climate neutral objectives of the European Green Deal and have led plans to tackle major crises, such as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the influx of refugees from Ukraine.

City leaders who signed the declaration in Barcelona

It also sets out ways to further develop collaboration between cities and the EU, including improving cities’ access to EU funds, involving cities in the EU Presidencies for all areas that impact on urban areas, and reforming the European Committee of the Regions to ensure the greater participation of city administrations.

The new declaration was signed at the European Mayors’ Summit in Barcelona yesterday, organised by the city of Barcelona and Eurocities, with the support of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

To date, the declaration has been endorsed by the leaders of Athens, Barcelona, Bilbao, Bologna, Brussels, Budapest, Espoo, Ghent, Helsinki, Lyon, Malaga, Milan, Murcia, Oulu, Paris, Porto, Roma, Rotterdam, Sant Boi, Tallinn, Tirana, Turin and Vienna.

If your city would like to endorse the declaration, please send an email to Stefano Simonetta from Eurocities, ( and Joan Batlle, from the city of Barcelona (

“Cities are the driving force within Europe”

Held at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, the Mayor’s summit was chaired by Mayor of Barcelona, Jaume Collboni, alongside Eurocities Secretary General, André Sobczak.

At the event, city leaders agreed to work together to strengthen institutional relations between cities and the European Commission and European Parliament. They also discussed ways to define new EU governance instruments specifically designed for cities.

City leaders gather to sign the declaration in Barcelona
André Sobczak, Secretary General of Eurocities
Meeting at the European Summit of Mayors in Barcelona
Jaume Collboni, Mayor of Barcelona, addresses the summit

Jaume Collboni, Mayor of Barcelona, explained that cities are the driving force within Europe and “are growing in terms of population, economic activity and becoming more attractive both culturally and socially.”

He stressed that the EU “needs to be more in touch with the public through cities, as they are the most accessible and efficient administrative bodies when it comes to channelling policies that have a direct impact.”

Mayor Collboni also said that the summit was an opportunity to reaffirm Barcelona’s commitment “to the defence of democracy, rights and freedoms, social justice and the rule of law.”

Supporting the Mayor’s position, André Sobczak, Secretary General of Eurocities, said that cities are essential allies in the future of the European project. “At Eurocities, we strongly believe that a better Europe starts in cities,” he stated. “Cities have demonstrated their capacity to face tough and simultaneous crises. As the level of governance that is the closest to citizens, they are best placed to understand the needs but also to identify and implement the solutions.”

Highlighting the importance of the new declaration, Sobczak explained that it is “an offer to the national governments and the European institutions to take advantage of cities’ expertise, experience and energy to defend European democracy and build a prosperous urban future.”

He added: “But we want to make sure that this offer leads to a strategic alliance. We need a systematic involvement of mayors in the European decision-making process. And we need to make sure that cities’ rights and financial capacity are protected by the EU and member states.”

Five key points for cities

The summit closed with the joint signing of the declaration, which is structured around five main points and specifically calls on the governments of EU member states and EU institutions to:

  • Strengthen democracy, promote decentralisation, guarantee local self-governance and the effective application of the principle of subsidiarity as defined in the Treaty on European Union, and at the same time strengthen partnership with local governments.
  • Promote fiscal decentralisation and local financial sustainability, which is fundamental for empowering city governments.
  • Boost the urban dimension of EU policies. The rapid development and growing importance of cities requires an approach to EU urban policies that involves the participation of cities, which is not as yet the case.
  • Involve cities in the presidencies of the EU and in the make-up of the Council. The inclusion of cities in the design and application of political decision-making and policy priorities will not only improve effectiveness but will also strengthen democratic accountability.
  • Reform the European Committee of the Regions to ensure greater participation by municipal and metropolitan administrations.

The declaration will be presented to the Spanish Presidency of the EU in advance of the informal meeting of ministers responsible for housing and urban development, being held in Gijon later this month. It is also expected that the Spanish government will take this declaration to the European Council in December.

Cities shaping Europe: the road to a strong urban future

The European Mayors’ Summit, and the signing of the new declaration, take place at a crucial time for cities throughout Europe. They are part of several strategic actions that are planned to convey the importance of cities to the prosperous future of the European Union, ahead of next year’s European elections.

The meeting in Barcelona was held in parallel to the Cities’ Social Summit in Lyon. The two meetings follow on from a series of events launched in October, when Eurocities convened a meeting in the European Parliament with city leaders, MEPs and the upcoming Belgian presidency of the EU to set out and discuss shared challenges.

At the meeting, held with the Urban Intergroup of the European Parliament, the cities highlighted the importance of the European Green Deal, and called for greater recognition of the urban agenda in EU objectives.

Looking ahead, these key political discussions will complement Eurocities’ own electoral campaign, to be launched at the end of 2023, and in January 2024, a high-level event will be held in Brussels on the future of urban policy, organised by the upcoming Belgian presidency of the EU. The meeting will be an opportunity to continue working on the key recommendations for European institutions from local city and metropolitan area leaders.


Read the Declaration of European Cities for European Policy-Making and Democracy, signed at the European Mayors’ Summit, held in Barcelona on 08 November 2023.

Members of Eurocities who would like to express their support for the Declaration can reach out to: Joan Batlle Montserrat,; or Stefano Simonetta,