EU do it better with cities

16 October 2019

Cities are the place where the fight against climate change becomes real, where people are most engaged in decision making, and where we can build equal and inclusive societies that leave no one behind. In many of these areas, cities are showing leadership and innovation that should inspire their national or European level counterparts.

To make the EU fit for purpose we must strengthen our tools for working together. It’s clear that Europe depends on its cities, and that’s why we’re preparing for the European Commission’s first 100 days by highlighting some of the activities of cities and are calling on the new European Commission to take clear action.

Carbon neutrality by 2050

Following the joint action by 328 mayors to demand more ambitious action at EU level, it’s clear that cities have a strong commitment to tackling climate change. Inspiring city examples abound, and should be taken on board in the development of national and EU climate mitigation and adaption policies.
ACTION: Propose an ambitious long term strategy that takes account of the vital role of cities and commits Europe to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.

Listen to citizens

Cities are uniquely placed to bridge the gap between European and national leaders and their citizens. EUROCITIES principles on citizen engagement show that we stand ready to support the Conference on the Future of Europe proposed by the new Commission and can lead the way towards a more citizen focused European society.
ACTION: Involve EUROCITIES in the preparation of the Conference on the Future of Europe to use our established network of cities, the closest level of government to citizens.

Sustainable urban mobility

Mobility is a leading cause of climate change, air pollution, traffic accidents and noise in our cities. We need political will to address this. There must be action on decarbonising transport, managing demand and harnessing digitalisation to secure a better quality of life for citizens.
ACTION: Present an updated Transport White Paper with a strong urban dimension, including ambitious measures to avoid, shift and improve mobility.

Speed up Europe’s circular economy

Full implementation of the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan is still a long way off. Further EU-level actions such as driving investment in jobs and skills for a circular-fit workforce, or setting reuse targets, are still needed.
ACTION: Set up a pilot project with cities on the rollout of city indicators for circular economy, based on the proposals from the Urban Agenda, as part of the new Circular Economy Action Plan.

A fair chance for all cities

Cohesion policy reaches every corner of the EU, and all cities and regions can and do connect to it, for investment and infrastructure as well as social projects. As the principle investment tool of the EU, and an essential lifeline for many local administrations, cities are pushing for a greater focus on sustainable urban development.
ACTION: Present an efficient governance model for the European Urban Initiative which maximises the potential of working with cities through the Urban Agenda for the EU.

Boost digital innovation

Cities are the perfect scale to test out innovative and smart solutions that work for people. A significant number of EU-funded projects have had positive impacts for people and cities. A common agenda for upscaling smart initiatives will ensure that local economies, services and democracy benefit evenly from the digital revolution.
ACTION: Endorse and actively support the ‘join, boost, sustain’ initiative to dramatically scale up digital solutions across Europe’s cities and communities.

Use citizen data responsibly

Digital technologies are already all around us and have helped create more liveable and sustainable cities. As cities we want to ensure the digital transition works for people through better public services and better use of data. This includes people being able to access, use and manage their own data.
ACTION: Table a legislative proposal on how local governments can access privately held data and use it for the benefit of all, which takes into account EUROCITIES 10 principles on citizen data.

Let us invest in our future

Making good long term investments at local level can in turn secure the long term growth of the European economy. This includes cities’ ability to access a good mix of financial instruments, whether local or national. However, current budgetary rules, set at EU level, restrict city administrations’ ability to do this.
ACTION: Create more flexibility in the European Stability and Growth Pact to enable cities to make much needed long term investments.

Fight poverty

The European Social Fund is the EU’s main tool for investing in people, including any actions through the European Pillar of Social Rights. With one in four people in Europe currently at risk of poverty or social exclusion, initiatives like the social pillar can only be effective if cities are involved as partners and are enabled to combine different funding and services.
ACTION: Revamp the European ambition to eradicate all forms of poverty by allowing cities to tackle these challenges according to their local needs through the integration of different EU funding schemes.

Support inclusion and integration in cities

Most migrants and refugees head to cities. This means providing a variety of services such as shelter, health, food as well as integrated measures for more long term integration (education, training, housing, labour market). Working in this joined up way means cities must be involved in decision making and are empowered to match specific services with the social needs of people.
ACTION: Ensure the effective involvement of cities in the design, planning and implementation of operational plans for the European Social Fund (ESF+) and the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).


Culture at the centre

Investments in culture can make a big difference at the local level. They can regenerate a neighbourhood, lead to better social impact, or aid integration of newcomers. Helping cities to make smart investments in culture can therefore positively impact other policy goals.
ACTION: Commit to placing culture centrally across the EU’s policies as vital for inclusion, cohesion, economic development, innovation and citizens engagement.


A seat at the table

The Urban Agenda for the EU has been a milestone for Europe and cities, bringing together different levels of government to collaborate on a range of issues that matter to cities. Now it must develop into a coherent strategic framework.

ACTION: Host a summit of mayors with the Commission president and vice presidents to engage in a dialogue with city leaders on how to tackle common challenges and deliver on Europe’s vision.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer