44 cities, representing more than 51 million citizens, have jointly pledged €14.2 billion in social investment measures towards creating a fairer, more equal and inclusive Europe.
25 mayors and deputy mayors today presented their new pledges to MEPs and European Commission officials during a high-level conference online. The city pledges each mark a commitment to put at least one of the 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights into action through dedicated social investments and concrete actions.
“Cities are essential partners in building a stronger social Europe,” commented Sedat Arif, Deputy Mayor of Malmo and Chair of Eurocities Social Affairs Forum. “At a time when Europe’s social model is more at risk than ever, when social inequalities are deepening, it is local level actions like these that can lead Europe towards a fair and inclusive recovery.”
The city pledges, part of Eurocities Inclusive Cities 4 All initiative, focus on real actions on key social issues for cities, such as housing, childcare, skills training, active support to employment, healthcare, long-term care and equal opportunities.
Despite these commitments, city administrations are struggling to find the financial resources needed to match the increasing demand for social services and social infrastructure at local level. City leaders have implemented rapid responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and must now look towards longer term solutions.
“Without the quick actions of our city councils, many more people across Europe would be facing poverty and the recession would be deeper,” said Maarten van Ooijen, Deputy Mayor of Utrecht and Vice Chair of Eurocities Social Affairs Forum. “Going forward, cities’ efforts for a fair and inclusive recovery must be supported through the REACT-EU and the European Social Fund+, with a stronger focus placed on getting funding to where it is most needed, in our cities.”
Through their pledges, Eurocities members are showing that they are able to work with all partners and all levels of government to do what is best for their citizens. In a new position paper, launched at today’s event with Katarina Ivanković-Knežević, Director of Social Affairs, European Commission, and MEPs Agnes Jongerius, Brando Benifei and Estrella Durá Ferrandis, Eurocities calls for a formal recognition at EU level of cities’ role in developing and implementing social policy. This could involve:
- A pact between the EU and city leaders to jointly shape the action plan for implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights;
- Regular dialogue between the EU and city leaders, including a place for cities at the EU Social Summit in 2021;
- A clear role for cities in the European Semester, which would involve consultation in the national recovery plans to determine how NextGenerationEU funding will be allocated.
“Cities have an important role to play for a stronger social Europe, together with the EU Institutions,” said Katarina Ivanković-Knežević, Director for social affairs, DG EMPL, European Commission. “The European Pillar of Social Rights remains the Commission’s compass in the crisis and the recovery. Cities’ contributions and pledges can concretely feed into the forthcoming Action Plan to implement the principles and rights of the Pillar. In addition, the new Recovery and Resilience Facility will support Member States in addressing the challenges of the crisis, as well as in building social resilient systems in the big twin transition, the green and digital transitions. It will add exceptional resources to the €86 billion of the European Social Fund, and in the fields of education and skills, employment, health, and economic, social and territorial cohesion.”
“The crisis has also demonstrated the need of digital cohesion”, added Anne Karjalainen, Chair of the Social Affairs Commission of the European Committee of the Regions. “We need investments in connectivity, which is becoming a key element of territorial and social cohesion. Digital skills are part and parcel of this endeavour”, she underlined, highlighting the key role of cities in all recovery efforts.
Responding to the city actions, Brando Benifei, Member of the European Parliament, said: “Cities will play a crucial role in the aftermath of the pandemic. It is therefore important that mayors, local authorities and European policy makers coordinate their actions to tackle the many challenges we will face in the next years.”
Agnes Jongerius, Member of the European Parliament, said: “With the establishment of the European Pillar of Social Rights we already took great steps towards a Social Europe. It is great to see that so many cities are now already committed to implementing it. Especially in times of a pandemic.”
“To build black better is to integrate social progress as an investment priority, together with the green and digital transitions, in the Recovery and Resilience Facility,” said Estrella Durá Ferrandis, Member of the European Parliament. “This is necessary to protect vulnerable people against the negative impact of the current crisis. This should include Social Progress Plans in the Recovery and Resilience Plans, outlining how the European Pillar of Social Rights principles are going to be implemented and where the social investment is going to be targeted, including investment in social housing. We have to reform the economic governance framework of the EU in order to protect the rights of citizens and the social welfare systems in situations of economic crisis, including by adopting a Sustainable Development and Social Progress Pact. This will give social and ecological objectives the same legal enforceability as that of fiscal consolidation and financial stability.”
Notes to Editors
- Eurocities is the political platform for major European cities. We network the local governments of over 140 of Europe’s largest cities and more than 40 partner cities that between them govern some 130 million citizens across 39 countries. www.eurocities.eu
- The cities that have presented pledges are: Amsterdam, Antwerp, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Besiktas, Bilbao, Birmingham, Bologna, Braga, Bristol, Brno, Cluj-Napoca, Frankfurt, Ghent, Gijon, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Helsinki, Istanbul, Leeds, Leipzig, Lille, Ljubljana, Lyon, Madrid, Malmo, Milan, Nantes, Nicosia, Pau, Poznan, Rennes, Rotterdam, Stuttgart, Timisoara, Turku, Utrecht, Vantaa, Vienna, Warsaw, Zagreb and Zaragoza.
- The individual pledges can be downloaded here: https://inclusivecities4all.eu/political-campaign/
- An overview of all pledges is here: https://bit.ly/3l2isGm
- An infographic is available here: https://bit.ly/2GrboUn
- Read Eurocities Social Europe statement here: https://bit.ly/3n9CEIa
- A new website for the campaign is accessible here: www.inclusivecities4all.eu
Alex Godson: +32 495 298 594 // firstname.lastname@example.org