Eurocities Monitor 2024 – city insights

27 May 2024

With the European elections on the horizon, this second edition of the Eurocities Monitor, driven by a Brussels-based team and an extensive network of over 6,000 city officials, provides a detailed look into the state of European cities. With insights gathered from the Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey, guest essays, and analysis of key urban topics, this is a publication that no one wanting to understand the state of play in Europe can afford to miss.

Read the Eurocities Monitor 2024.

Taking mayors’ pulse

One of the key components of the Eurocities Monitor, the Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey, captures the voice of 92 mayors from major European cities.

For the second consecutive year, climate action emerged as the top priority for mayors. Mayors highlight the co-benefits of the climate transition to other sectors, ranging from building renovations to citizen engagement. Significant challenges persist, however, particularly a lack of financial resources and local capacity to deliver on ambitious climate goals. When asked about their current ability to match the needs of their city, 49% said they lack sufficient tools and capacity to meet their climate commitments and targets.

Social inclusion and equity (31%) and access to affordable social housing (30%) have leapt up the charts this year to become the second and third greatest priorities for mayors. These priorities were mirrored in the challenges that mayors reported, with climate change coming in as the top challenges (29%), followed by the housing crisis (26%) and public budget and administrative capacity (22%).

Go straight to the Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey here.

As much as cities share many challenges and solutions, there is also a rich diversity between
— Dorthe Nielsen

As much as cities share many challenges and solutions, there is also a rich diversity between them due to, for example, geographic differences and different national or regional contexts,” says Dorthe Nielsen, Executive Director of Eurocities. Nielsen highlights the impact of the EU political mandate on urban debates and negotiations, with a focus on the social impact of green and digital transitions and European competitiveness. “Locally, the green and just transitions go hand-in-hand,” she says.

Perspectives on urban development

The Eurocities Monitor also features guest essays from urban thought leaders and experts.

Agustí Fernández de Losada, Director of the Global Cities Programme at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, warns of the political implications of the upcoming European Parliament elections. “The appointment of the new EU institutions… will be crucial to understand the way Europe will address key files in the years to come,” he writes. Fernández de Losada warns that a rollback in the European Green Deal could jeopardise the climate neutrality commitments of cities, as defence and security priorities might overshadow urban interests.

Themis Christophidou, Director-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission, emphasises the importance of local sustainable development for global progress. “Cohesion Policy supports cities in their green, digital, and just transitions,” Christophidou says, advocating for multi-level governance and community involvement to tackle regional disparities and build resilient urban environments.

Ambroise Fayolle, Vice President of the European Investment Bank, highlights the urgent need for climate adaptation. “It’s crucial to increase investment in making urban areas more climate resilient,” Fayolle says, pointing to the EIB’s significant financial support for adaptation projects.

It's crucial to increase investment in making urban areas more climate resilient
— Ambroise Fayolle

Philipp Rode, Executive Director of LSE Cities, speaks to the centrality of government innovation for meeting urban challenges. Rode notes, “Government innovation is about balancing risk-taking, continuity, and responsible budgeting with the flexibility needed for experimentation and creative solutions,” pointing out that the Eurocities Pulse reveals that without innovation, 85% of cities will not have sufficient resources to deliver on local priorities.

Deep dives

The Eurocities Monitor 2024 also includes thematic essays on key topics for cities such as mobility, climate adaptation and culture. They provide fresh insights, policy developments and great ideas and actions from cities.

An essay on Ukraine details the unwavering support European cities have shown during the Russian war. This includes emergency aid, integration programmes for refugees, and sustainable rebuilding efforts.

The dive into social affairs brings into light issues of affordable housing, access to public services, and employment. Cities like Dublin and Barcelona are tackling this through innovative housing projects, while Stockholm and Madrid are upskilling vulnerable groups for the digital transition.

An essay highlighting cities’ role in advancing the European Green Deal through sustainable mobility notes challenges like data availability and regulatory enforcement, as well as good practices like Lyon’s ‘rues des enfants’ returning space taken up by cars back to people.

Cities’ enormous role in managing public spending and driving market innovation is highlighted in the economic development essay, despite budget gaps that hinder climate goals. Cities look to simplified EU fund access, innovative financing, and strong public-private partnerships to stimulate local economies.

Integrating culture, heritage, and architecture is crucial for vibrant, sustainable urban landscapes according to the essay on culture. This piece highlights initiatives like the Eurocities Lille Call to Action, where cities commit to environmentally sustainable cultural policies.

An essay on mitigating climate change details how cities are leading efforts to reduce carbon emissions and enhance resilience, calling for more capacity building, technical support, and robust EU policies to support their initiatives.

The piece on urban governance notes that collaboration between city governments and societal partners is essential for planning and managing public services, emphasising the need for better EU collaboration, direct funding access, and citizen engagement to build sustainable urban areas.

Cities are crucial in developing sustainable integration pathways for migrants and refugees, including by co-designing strategies with migrants themselves, argues the essay on migrant integration. Successful examples from Prague and Oulu on providing psychological support and integration advice are highlighted, along with a call for better EU funding access and cohesive asylum policies.

Cities are advancing public services and innovating rapidly, as reported in the essay on digital transformation, by focusing on protecting digital rights and bridging the digital divide, for example in Brussels and Leipzig. This piece stresses the need for robust data-sharing frameworks.

An essay on urban food systems points to integrating sustainable food policies into broader climate, social, and economic strategies. For example, Milan’s focus on recovering and upcycling food waste, or Ghent’s redistributing surplus food to lower-income populations.

A vital resource

As we head into a new EU political mandate, the insights from the Eurocities Monitor will be a vital resource for policymakers.

We should be proud of the many urban successes achieved over the course of the current EU mandate
— André Sobczak

The Eurocities Monitor captures the current state of European cities while outlining the aspirations and challenges of urban leaders. In the words of André Sobczak, Secretary General of Eurocities, “We should be proud of the many urban successes achieved over the course of the current EU mandate, and look forward to what cities can achieve in the coming years.”

Read the Eurocities Monitor 2024.


Anthony Colclough Eurocities Writer