How can we move towards a greener, more digital and more just future for our cities? At Eurocities 2021, cities and the European institutions will take on the question of how a more democratic Europe can be reached in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. To watch the live broadcast of the conference, click here.
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Live ticker from Eurocities 2021
Friday, 5 November, 11:00-12:00: Eurocities General Assembly
Mayor of Florence and President of Eurocities, Dario Nardella, reflects on the lessons of the conference: “I think we need to be more aware about our power, our passion, our commitment.” He says he has clearly seen that, “Dear European leaders, the future of Europe is here – is in our cities!”
President Nardella welcomes the new cities in the network and announces the results of the voting for the cities for the 2021-2025 Executive Committee mandate: Barcelona, Ghent, Leipzig and Tallinn.
Chair of the Culture Forum, Dresden, says hailed a strong year of collaboration and the continued transversal approach to culture in cities.
Chair of the Economic Development Forum, Helsinki, strong emphasis on sustainable growth, recovery and resilience and invited participants to Mannheim for the coming forum meeting in 2022.
Chair of the Environment Forum, Porto looks forward to the forum meeting in Grenoble and continuing its work on the European Green Deal, fighting micro-plastics and supporting energy directives.
Chair of the Knowledge Society Platform, Barcelona, will start working with the Commission on treating the Green and Digital transitions as one.
Chair of the Mobility Forum, Toulouse, boasts of having increased ties with other forums and paving the way to more inclusive streets and open spaces and invites members to the next forum in Antwerp.
Chair of the Social Affairs Forum, Utrecht, called for more equal, inclusive and welcoming cities.
Nardella thanks the Forum Chairs for their essential work in concretely contributing to the EU and securing Eurocities’ place as partners for the European institutions.
Nardella celebrates Eurocities’ role in helping to secure a legal requirement for member states to include cities in the development of Recovery and Resilience Plans for funding from the European facility. He also pointed to The European Mission for 100 Climate Neutral Cities as a clear sign of the advancement of the position of cities at the European level – something that Eurocities will continue through the Conference on the Future of Europe and the Urban Agenda.
Nardella reminds the mayors in UK cities that Eurocties still strongly values their part in the network. He also addresses Polish cities: “You are not alone, Eurocities is supporting you. Whatever it takes, this is our commitment.”
Nardella closes the conference with a message in a bottle, an ‘S.O.S. to the world’ demanding that world leaders catch up with cities in meeting and exceeding EU climate targets. He hands the message to Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, Mayor of Gdansk, who will bring it to the COP in Glasgow, demonstrating the strong link between the two events: the meeting of city leaders and state leaders, as well as the divergent levels of commitment between those groups.
Anna-Lisa Boni, Eurocities Secretary General, addresses members about the achievements of the network: Stronger communication, more seamless digital collaboration, a stronger funding service and strategic approach to EU funded projects and other sources of funding, and more detailed and juridical lobbying. She nods to the great effort of keeping the team and membership cohesive despite remote and digital working and hails the largest membership ever for the network: 204 cities. “At the same time,” she warns, “we should not sit down and relax.”
Espoo Deputy Mayor Mervi Heinaro thanks Mayor Jung of Leipzig for hosting Eurocities2021, and invites the membership to join Eurocities 2022 in Espoo in June. The conference will be themed, ‘An Era of New Beginnings’ and will take place in three parts: ‘Dream’, ‘Act’, and ‘Live’. A city where there are more saunas than private cars, Espoo can boast more than half of all Finnish patent applications. The city looks forward to welcoming Eurocities members to experience this climate of sustainability and innovation in June.
Mayor of Espoo Jukka Mäkeläream guarantees that Eurocities 2022 will include bold ideas for the future as well as a firm work for the present.
Henrik Vuornos, chair of Espoo City Board hails the importance of youth and speaks to the deep inclusion of youth in the programme as mentors for participating politicians.
Anna Lisa Boni rounds off her last general assembly reminiscing about the positive experiences she has had in Eurocities, but looking forward to her new career as Deputy-Mayor of Bologna. She extends her thanks to all those who contributed to making the conference a huge success.
Mayor of Leipzig Burkhard Jung gestures to the enormous statue of ‘Madamme Europ’ erected above the conference hall as a fitting overseer of Eurocies2021, expresses his thanks to all those participating and organising the event and expresses his positive anticipation of Eurocities2022.
Friday, 5 November, 09:15-10:40: The future of Europe and our European values
Opening the second day of the conference, Dubravka Šuica, Vice President of the European Commission, applauds the focus on citizens: “We politicians should always take people along with us in our policymaking.” She makes reference to the citizens’ panel being held with the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is collecting over 9000 ideas, 800 citizens from across the Union. “I’m firmly convinced that bringing citizens into policymaking strengthens our representative democracy,” she declares, insisting that this consultation is “not just a listening exercise,” but “it started with a clear commitment to implementation from three European institutions.”
Šuica, former Mayor of Dubrovnik, espouses the virtues of cities: “Cities are a hive of ideas,” she says, “cities are vibrant places for citizens to deliberate on their future.” She indicates the timely nature of this year’s Eurocities Annual Conference and commits to pursuing further collaboration.
Šuica also indicates the important role of cities in dealing with demographic change and asks that they collaborate with the Commission on this issue. She highlights the role that ageing will have in European policy: “Aging is not just for the elderly… we start ageing on the day we are born.”
Matthias De Clercq, Mayor of Ghent addresses the Commission Vice-President, pointing out that a huge majority of the EU’s population lives in cities, and therefore there can be “No Europe without cities.” He also insists that to truly involve citizens, you cannot consult them once, or over a brief period – “If you want to involve citizens,” he says, “you have to respect their pace.” Šuica concurs with this point and says that while the Conference on the Future of Europe must end in time to have its findings implemented within the current mandate, but that the Commission is looking at how they might be able to “transform it into a permanent mechanism.”
Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, Mayor of Gdansk, emphasises the importance of young people in policymaking, “I firmly believe in the young people,” she insists, and says that for good policy, politicians must “try to give people, especially young people the power too.” Šuica concurs on this point and hopes that collaboration with young people will continue and be strengthened.
Emil Boc, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, points out that “we need in this very moment to consolidate this European project from a bottom-up, not a top-down perspective. That means the role of cities who are the closest level of government to citizens.” He recalls his country’s Communist past and says, “We choose Europe because we choose freedom,” and insists that “it’s important to keep this value throughout Europe.” In order to manage this, he says, “we need the Cohesion spirit to be in all European Policies.”
Hermano Sanches Ruivo, Deputy Mayor of Paris points to “The strength of Cities to renew democracy.” However, he points out that “Cities are not always part of the reflection, but they are always part of the solution.” He asks how cities can be better included in national and European decision making, how people can vote for the Parliament without voting for the government, and how cities can attain more funding to make this future a reality. Šuica, while noting the difficulty that cities faced in being represented in the Conference on the Future of Europe, reassures them that they are there and they will be heard. She explains that results of the consultation show that “the first issue was climate change for our citizens, and the second issue was European democracy.” She points out that cities are the natural place to make up for this perceived democratic deficit: “I’m sure that in your town halls this can be better deliberated than it is at the moment.”
Lutz Kinkel, Managing Director European Centre for Press & Media Freedom presents the insight that in contrast to rural areas, “from our perspective, the cities are excellent because while they have a pluralistic media structure, they are mostly pro-EU.” He takes the opportunity to ask Šuica how the Commission will facilitate better links between cities and rural areas and empower cities to assist their rural neighbours. Šuica points to the need for more inclusion of rural areas, especially through digital and investment in digital literacy. “It’s not easy to do it at European level, so the most important thing is to network with you mayors, with cities and rural areas in order to facilitate this.”
The Vice-President of the European Commission reiterates the need to strengthen urban-rural linkages and tells the cities present at the conference that “for us in the European Commission, we badly need your help and your support if we want to reach every European village. Your help is very much appreciated and I hope that we will continue our collaboration.”
Matthias De Clercq, Mayor of Ghent declares that the Commission must remember that “The cities are the motors of Europe. In cities are the believers of Europe,” and that Europe will have to empower citizens in ways that cities are already doing: “We have living streets in Ghent, no longer cars, to give the streets back to the people,” and also a participatory budget that people can decide on the use of. “That’s what Europe has to do,” he says, referring to the need for greater citizen engagement, “and I think Eurocities is a good platform to do that. Without the citizens of the cities, no strong Europe, so it’s in the cities that we can engage them.”
Asked about the schism between the national government in Poland and the European mainstream, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, Mayor of Gdansk, points to a clear message from Europe that “Poland must respect values.” She declares that “I deeply believe in the power of education. Education not only of young people. I believe we should be open and showing the results of not treating democracy seriously.” However, she counters narratives that this is the democratic will of the Polish people: “We really have a serious situation regarding media… we really don’t have many independent media, and those independent are now under threat,” as is the judiciary system. The onus for remains on local leaders to strive for justice, and European and other levels should support that effort: “At the local level, we keep surviving and promoting local democracy. We’re helping people to stand for the constitution and for human rights.”
Emil Boc, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, calls attention to the multiple identities that must work in harmony for people in Europe: “I am Transylvanian, I am Romanian, I am European,” he says. He warns that “Talking about this triple identity means we have to work together in this not ‘ego-‘ but ‘eco-‘system approach.” He speaks to the importance of focusing on the future: “What will be our next European dream?” he asks, and says that cities are uniquely placed to kindle, “Europe for the future.”
Asked whether mayors make better leaders, Hermano Sanches Ruivo, Deputy Mayor of Paris immediately replies “Yes,” and adds, with reference to Dubravka Šuica, Vice President of the European Commission, “especially when they are female.” He gives the example of how city leaders continue to put positive emphasis on the EU: “None of us win or lose an election talking about European subjects, but still we have to do that” in order to ensure the future. He rounds off by pointing to the great value of Eurocities, and to how much Paris has learned from other cities.
Kinkel says that while cities have a limited direct influence on press freedom, “you can be the lighthouse for the national level.”
Mayor De Clercq calls for greater solidarity with Polish cities that are fighting for liberalism in the face of national policy and says that cities should be doing more on this front. He recalls that “my grandfather told how the Polish army liberated Ghent, and I saw him cry. That’s the feeling that we have to plant in the hearts of our citizens. If this feeling is there, we are unbeatable.” He points to the role of cities in battling illiberalism and the need in such cases for a direct line from the Commission to cities: “The time is there that Eurocities and our cities have a seat at the table.”
Mayor Dulkiewicz conjures the famous Solidarnos movement that began in Gdansk, and points to the strong bond that many European cities have with their Polish twin cities. She applauds the motion for greater solidarity, and warns that without a serious sea-change, Poland may be on the way out of the EU.
Mayor Boc notes that “In Europe, the highest level of trust is in local leaders, not in national leaders.” He says that power needs to be distributed accordingly.
Mayor Sanches Ruivo mourns the loss of the UK from the EU and the divergence of the Polish and Hungarian governments. However, he says that though these countries are all deeply desired in Europe, “Maybe now we have to recognise that you are either in Europe or you are not.” He calls for the discipline of illiberality through the European budget: “Maybe we should help [the Polish people] not giving a euro to the government, not giving a credit to the government. We have to stand on our values, because if not, then everything will collapse.”
Colin Scicluna, Head of Cabinet of Vice-President Šuica, contributes a few final remarks, pointing out that “The root of the word politics and politicians is ‘polis’ city. We have seen today how important cities are not just for our societies but for our democracies.” He points to the fragility of democracy: “I think we need to assume that we are always at a critical juncture because democracy is always under threat,” he says. He therefore highlights that “one of the objectives we have through the Conference on the Future of Europe is that we need to strengthen our European identity.” He says that seeing what cities are doing in this regard “is something that is very encouraging.”
Marek Prawda, Former Polish Ambassador to the EU, in his concluding remarks for the Eurocities Annual Conference 2021, says that “European Union is like a glass pane – it’s noticed only when it’s dirty or broken.” Social cohesion and inequality are key issues at the moment, he says: “Europe has always been about bridging the ditches between the rich and the poor. However, this Europe is changing.” He called for a thorough overhaul of the economic model.
Prawda says that “Closer cooperation is not an ideological concept – it’s a matter of survival.” However, he points out that those who protest are not those who are doing worst, but those “who feel a deficit of meaning and appreciation.”
Prawda quotes Mayor Boc, “We chose Europe because we chose freedom.” He also hails this meeting in Leipzig as a way to develop new projects and new ideas. He points to the good example of Gdansk, taking the attitude of solidarity from the past using it to focus on current issues. He warns against concessions to the current illiberal administrations in the EU: “If we make concessions to those who are acting in bad faith, we just become hostages of their delusions. They will only test our consent to the extremes.” In contrast he points to cities as a beacon of hope: “I think European cities take a particular responsibility because they can tell us an optimistic story in a pessimistic time.”
Thursday, 4 November, 14:00-15:00: Panel debate Socially equitable cities
Alison Gilliland, Lord Mayor of Dublin, warns that “the more that we talk about sustainable and equitable cities, we do realise that we are up against the clock.” However, she notes that despite the fact that cities are “more agile in local government,” their inclusion in policy making, especially in the Irish context, is not sufficient. Worringly, she says, “our national governments are backloading instead of frontloading” their climate targets.
Mohamed Ridouani, Mayor of Leuven points to the need for inclusion in local climate policy: “Everyone in Leuven, administration, NGO, comapanies, organisations, everyone” can be part of positive climat change, with “180 experiments running,” in the city, with a followup system that means that “no green-washing is possible.”
Erion Veliaj, Mayor of Tirana speaks to the responsibility and the need for action that mayors bear: “You can brainstorm yourself to death and never reach a conclusion,” he says – but it falls on mayors to deliver action. He jokes that years of extreme drought, flooding, snow, fires and earthquakes that left experts scratching their head seem like bad luck – “Everything that happens once-per century was packed into my mandate – really?” – however, as mayor, he takes seriously the need to take radical action to tackle the root of these issues, as well as their fallout.
Laia Bonet, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona concurs regarding the special role of mayors: “We are especially good at acting, at doing, not just brainstorming scenarios.” She insists that mayors must use that position to bring about the green and digital transitions while carefully keeping the social element in the centre. “If we want to be socially equitable cities, we have to be caring cities,” she says.
Gilliland agrees that “we have to lead by example, we have to walk the walk,” and points out that to make that action possible “we have to reach into our communities.” “If you know your citizens and you know their needs,” she says, “you can empower them, not talk down to them.” This way of working is baked into the city’s Smart Dublin strategy.
Ridouani points to the importance of the narrative that we create, and the responsibility of the media and politicians to be custodians of that narrative, so that while it’s up to mayors “to get it done,” it remains true that “the storytelling and the action matters, and there you need to include everyone.”
Veliaj reminds attendants of the need for politicians to be leaders: “You don’t need to be liked by everyone,” he declares. That is part of the reason why his administration has focused a lot on children as ambassadors for the future. Popular opposition to pedestrianisation was parried by the testimony of children for whom getting the streets back on Car-Free Day was a liberating experience. “Are we more obsessed about the next election,” he asks, “or about the next generation? And if we get this answer right, we will get a lot of things right.”
Gilliland points to a good example of how Dublin is leading on creating a better future: “During Covid, we got a lot of funding from national government for ‘Covid mobility measures,'” the city used the funding to lay massive rows of cycling infrastructure. “We did that quickly, on a huge scale… “Perfection is the enemy of the good, so we didn’t strive for perfection, we strove for the good,” and the local administration is now moving forward with the community to improve on what has been done.
Ridouani gestures to long-term and bottom up processes that Leuven has facilitated to ensure that bicycles are plentiful and that people feel comfortable using them and having them around the city – from consultations to lessons to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
“I fully agree with the mayor of Dublin,” Veliaj declares. His city, Tirana, took immediate action to create improvements during Covid, and has now taken action to reach out to citizens by addressing letters to them soliciting their needs and opinions. “We have a vaccine against covid, be we don’t have a vaccine against populism, against misinformation, about fake news,” he warns, calling these the greatest dangers of our day.
Bonet points to the use in Barcelona of digital tools “to build more effective policies.” Her city is using a ‘digital twin’, an online replica of the city that can be used for experimentation and to aid citizen engagement. “This is a tool that allows us to test policies before implementing them in our cities, for example, to test the impacts of the low-emission zones.” Her city is using digital solutions to combine and meet environmental and social goals.
Gilliland rounds off with a call for more acknowledgement of the role of cities: “The national government doesn’t give enough credence to local governments. We are the people on the ground, walking through communities, working with communities.” She also takes the opportunity to remind the audience that climate change is not something that we can afford to delay action on: “We’re talking a lot about future generations, but nobody here is 100 years old – this is going to affect all of us.”
“The cities are the motors of Europe. In cities are the belivers of Europe.” … “We have living streets in Ghent, no longer cars, to give the streets back to the people.”
Thursday, 4 November, 12:00-13:00: Panel Debate: Climate ambitious cities
“Lyon has increased its objective in terms of emissions,” says Grégory Doucet, mayor of Lyon, kicking off the debate.
“Copenhagen still has a lot of problems, it’s not so known that car ownership is growing in the city even before the pandemic, so we need more cooperation with other cities to formulate ideas to change the situation,” says Ninna Hedeager Olsen, deputy mayor of Copenhagen.
Peter Kurz, mayor of Mannheim, says that Mannheim leads the transformation by taking part in the Local Green Deal. “Biodiversity is as important as carbon reduction.”
Member of Fridays for Future, a youth-led and organised global climate strike movement, Janine O’Keefe says she’s not content with what she’s hearing. “2050 is the basis for the ‘blablabla’,” she says, noting that it’s too far in the future. “Are we giving our children the planet we were born into? Are we stepping up for the challenge?” she asks.
“The climate is on a negative spiral and is threatening our planet and all life on earth. I don’t want to be the person who helped that, especially not politically. We are supposed to be intelligent. I really wonder where we are. Maybe we are intelligent as individuals, but not as a group. We soar off the branch we are sitting on and we are sitting on the wrong side of the branch. Climate is like quicksand, you slowly get further in and as time passes the harder is to get out,” laments and warns O’Keefe.
Doucet, answering O’Keefe, says he fully agrees with her. “we have to fully transform this vision, this fear, into actual action. This is why I decided to engage in politics.” He says he pursues two goals, the necessary ecological transition, which concerns the economy, industry, energy, mobilities, and social justice. Both issues have to be addressed simultaneously.”
“We have promoted local labels, such as ‘Lyon fare and sustainable city’, that we give to local business compromised with sustainable practices,” also notes the mayor of Lyon.
“Having an activist with us is important to show the shortcomings of politicians,” says Olsen. “We need the people, activists, to push us on making the hard decisions.”
Kurz agrees with O’Keefe saying that they have lost time. “We weren’t fast enough, that’s pretty clear”. But he notes that the tone of the message,e how it’s delivered, can alienate people. Pushing for individual guilt is not the way. O’Keefe agrees, saying that they must say that “it’s the institutions, the processes that are pushing them to use cars, plastic, eating meat.”
“Cities have the ability to push new ideas, to actually spark changes. Look at Leipzig, the 1989 revolution started here,” reminds O’Keefe.
Both Doucet and Kurz note the importance of bikes, saying that their cities have hugely invested in creating bike lanes, offering bikes to citizens among other related initiatives as a small example of their efforts.
Mayor Doucet, asking for mayors to keep discussing and dedicated to this transition, says that “there’s not a single day I don’t think about the future for my 6-year-old daughter.”
Thursday, 4 November, 11:00-11:45: Keynotes and pannel debate
“We are in the perfect moment discussing the crucial challenges that we are facing. Our goal is to discuss how to transform our cities and how to promote urban regeneration in a sustainable way, and I think now we need more than ever mayors and cities’ support. All global challenges you have, such as climate change, immigration, we mayors must be involved, and Eurocities is a fundamental player for the European Union and our continent to transform these theoric goals into concrete actions and push our countries and EU institutions,” says Dario Nardella, Eurocities President, mayor of Florence.
Live from Brussels and on its way to Glasgow for the COP26, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President of the European Commission, says that “we are still a long way from where we are supposed to be.” Adding that “the challenges that cities face dictate that we must act faster and earlier.”
“As much as I admire what cities are doing, we have no room for complacency, we must do much more. We have to reduce gas emissions at least by 55% by 2030 and only on the local level we’ll get this done and that’s a fundamental part of the European Green Deal. Cities are the centres of inspiration, innovation, where minds meet, different opinions clash and through this clash of opinion and ideas is that something new can emerge,” says Timmermans.
Timmermans: “The only comparable transformation to the one we must have is the first Industrial Revolution.”
“We must avoid energy poverty increase and we must prove that this transformation we are leading is not going to leave people behind,” says Timmermans calling attention to the role of cities in the task.
Timmermans note the importance of cities mobilising citizens (and vice-versa) to tackle climate change and drive the transition. “Citizens really support in the local level what cities are doing, so we must not underestimate the role of cities in the process,” he says.
“We all recognise the special role and responsibility of city leaders in leading the transition,” says Nardella. “We have to anticipate the goals set by the EU so we have a chance to succeed,” added Florence’s mayor.
“Many cities are not involved in the design of the National Recovery Plans and this is a problem as we are missing out on the knowledge of these cities,” complains Nardella, adding that “we need people power. As city leaders, we work with citizens every day to shape solutions and we can do things the national government cannot, we [cities] can have a leadership.”
Nardella reminds that “the majority of cities, such as Florence, have revised upward their climate goals following the start of the European Green Deal.”
“We have to enhance this pact between EU institutions and mayors and as a clear message: Let’s work together to make the transformation a reality. Let’s meet regularly, European mayors and European Commission together,” sentences Nardella.
Timmermans answers Nardella, saying that “we are not using our full potential, I’ll be by your side. You’ll always find an open door at my office to discuss these issues. It’s in the cities we can demonstrate in the short term that changes are possible.”
Nardella finally reminds everyone that “we have to act today, not tomorrow and our role is crucial.”
Burkhard Jung, mayor of Leipzig mentions the first Leipzig Charter, signed 14 years ago, with the goal “to promote integrated and sustainable urban development,” involving citizens, NGO’s, companies and city government. “Public participation is central,” he says.
Minna Arve, mayor of Turku, says she’s really happy with Nardella’s and Timmermans’ speech, noting that “people want to have rapid, but fair transition and cities are at the heart of this change.” She also notes that “we have an ambitious goal to become carbon neutral until 2049 taking into consideration circular economy and biodiversity.”
“People need to feel better air quality, enjoy greener and more beautiful cities, have jobs, enjoy better mobility,” notes Arve, adding that “we have to empower citizens, we need everyone on board.”
Jung adds that “in all efforts to achieve a sustainable energy transition, substituting fossil fuel, we must not lose sight of the social dimension. This is especially true when we speak of rising inflation in the EU area because the consequences of social imbalance are felt particularly by cities.”
Rafał Trzaskovski, mayor of Warsaw, says that “this is a chance of a lifetime.”
“In every crisis, there’s a chance to think differently on how we want to develop our cities,” says Trzaskovski, adding that “when it comes to making decisions, that’s where problems begin. We are investing in public transportation, metros, buses, tram lines, but when I talk to my friends of my age, they are really loving their cars. In post-Communist societies, a car is a symbol of status and with Covid, people use more cars. And our problems begin. We must reach out to them, make campaigns, we must reach out to citizens.”
“Include us, allow us to access funds directly because we know how to use and spend them,” pleads Trzaskovski, noting that “we know how to do it and we are really committed and ambitious.”
Nardella agrees with Rafał Trzaskovski and Minna Arve, saying that that “we must consider the Covi-19 crisis an opportunity to change in a profound way our cities, and the intersection of social sustainability and environmental sustainability is the focal point.”
Mayor Arve comments on the good practices of her city and what recommendations can be shared by saying that Turku is investing a lot in sustainable mobility and that it’s very important to involve citizens in the discussions to reshape cities from the planning phase. “The cost of not doing nothing is higher,” Arve says.
Thursday, 4 November, 09:30-10:30, Session 1 – Towards a green and just recovery in cities: what does it take?
“We don’t become resilient from one moment to the other,” says Mayor Rio, calling attention to the need for a mid-term vision and a strong network of local actors.
Pascal Smet, Secretary of State, Brussels Capital Region, and Markus Lewe, Mayor of Munster both call attention to the social dimension of the crisis, with Smet saying we need to see “how much this health crisis was a social crisis.” They draw attention to the way the crisis has affected different communities to different degrees, with more severe effects on vulnerable people, but also to the importance of community for tackling its effects.
Anna-Kaisa Ikonen, Mayor of Tampere, jokes that two-metre social distancing came naturally to Finns, but ultimately attributes the success of her city in mitigating Covid-19 to a continued stance of “keeping our knees flexible,” and following the data. She also mentions that her city is using climate budgeting in euros to mitigate the climate crisis, staying innovative in both domains.
Smet announces the comeback of the city, but highlights the difficulty of communication, especially with less integrated groups, giving the example of public authorities trying to counter rumours via social media. “One out of two people in Brussels don’t have a personal doctor,” he says, and therefore lack a trusted person who can give them solid medical advice.
Aziza Akhmouch, head of CFE cities, OECD, says that the pandemic has demonstrated that issues like density that had many pundits foretelling the demise of cities proved to be advantages: Many very densely populated areas or cities fared much better than lower-density areas because they have better infrastructure and healthcare available as a result of pooling resources. However, she calls attention to a burning need in cities: “If we don’t tackle social inequality, then we are letting those hot potatoes aside that will become major bottlenecks in the future.”
Ikonen demonstrates the truth of this sentiment with regard to her own city, Tampere: “We have kept growing, even during the Corona times.” She also highlights that the ‘city’ does not just consist of urban areas: “We have the green all around us, and nature nearby.”
For Mayor Rio, the more resources and powers cities have, the better the situation will be. “When we take the lead, we can get the best results,” he says, “Like Anna Lisa said: ‘Cities have taken the lead’.” Smet says that it is a mistake to set up a rhetoric of cities versus regions vs nation states, that all of these groups must work together for success, but that “cities have a core part of it.” He points out that young people are having trouble affording life in cities and are being forced to move out, and that there is a particular European model of cities, liveable cities, that must be exported worldwide.
Lewe states that “one of the most important things is that we are here in a network of major European cities.” We all have solutions, he says, but once we share them we become very powerful and more agile than other levels of government. “The ideas must spring up like mushrooms,” he says, before declaring that “The mayors rule the world.”
Looking to the future, Akhmouch says there is a lot of scope for local solutions to improve community life and affect global issues, including the recent work of cities to “revisit their relationship to time,” and “play with chrono-urbanism” and multi-centrality. “It’s been remarkable to see cities step in where sometimes national governments stepped out,” she declared – however, she cautioned against an over-reliance on cities and said that we all had to come together if real change was to occur.
Thursday, 4 November, 09:00-09:30: Official opening
From the stage of Leipzig’s Kongreßhalle, Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung, welcomed deligates to his citiy. Conjuring major “rising energy prices,” to shaking of “the foundation of democracy,” he gestured to the importance of two days of coming together around these issues. Anna Lisa Boni, Eurocities Secretary General, called this conference a chance to “build the Europe that our young generation deserve and all generations deserve.”