Cities at a crossroads: outcomes from EUROCITIES Annual Conference 2019

22 November 2019

“It’s incredible to witness how all cities across Europe are transforming, every day”, remarked Anna Lisa Boni, EUROCITIES secretary general, in her opening remarks to 400 urban experts gathered in Prague for the EUROCITIES Annual Conference 2019.

Focussed on ‘cities at a crossroads’, the conference reflected on the new political landscape at EU level, as well as the changing landscapes in our own cities. How can we retain genuine urban life within the historic cores of modern European cities, and how can we bring back city life and find new purpose for old municipal or industrial sites that no longer serve their original purposes?

A central element of the conference this year were the rolling plenary debates, which were held in parallel with the ever popular speednetworking in which 12 cities gave presentations. Participants were encouraged to move between the two rooms. The plenary sessions focussed on four topics:

  • Renewing the city – making cities today great places to live, work and play – in a sustainable way
  • Tourists everywhere – caught between the benefits tourism brings and the problems it creates
  • Our digital future – combining the power of data and the power od people whilst protecting personal rights
  • A changing society – managing a changing political environment and empowering citizens in making decisions about their communities

A special session sharing mistakes cities have made, in order to provide learning points heard input from Bristol, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Guimaraes, Hamburg:

Projects included a Horizon 2020 funded research and development project that sought to deploy Smart City ICT infrastructure in Bristol; kickstaring a mobility transition in Cologne with investments in cycling infrastructure; creating a dialogue with citizens to safeguard local heritage at a time of shrinking budgets in Glasgow; engaging with your business community to develop a long-term entrepreneurial strategy in Gothenburg; implementing a long term roadmap for the sustainable development of the city with Guimaraes; and building successful cooperation with other cities with Hamburg.

In a private political session, with around 70 politicians, participants shared views on how best to work alongside the new European Commission. As the level of government closest to people, cities must be an essential part of a solution which seeks to close the gap to people living in Europe.

Participants also discussed the state of play and what future can be envisaged for the Urban Agenda for the EU.

The EUROCITIES Awards, always a highlight at our conference, reflected the ‘cities at a crossroads’ theme. The winning projects are:

Delegates to the conference also took part in elections for EUROCITIES executive committee – always represented by politicians from 12 cities. With four places open this time round, the new mandates go to: Nantes, Stockholm, Vienna and Warsaw.

Stockholm’s reelection in EUROCITIES executive committee, means that Anna König Jerlmyr, mayor of Stockholm, continues on as EUROCITIES president.

The keynote address, given by Jaromir Hainc, director of urban design at IPR in Prague, was very well received. As was an intervention by Petr Hlaváček, deputy mayor of Prague.

The announcement was also made for the next host city of the EUROCITIES annual conference: Leipzig.

You can find photos from the awards here

and follow the discussions from Twitter here.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer