“In a time of lockdown, regional and local representatives have come to the fore,” commented Commissioner Elisa Ferreira in an online gathering of Cohesion Alliance politicians this Europe Day (9 May).
She added, her belief that “there will be no effective recovery without you” and that the recovery is going to be asymmetric, affecting places differently.
For Cohesion Alliance members, of which Eurocities is a founding member, this was a good sign of commitment to the local level from the Commissioner in charge of cohesion and reforms.
The Cohesion Alliance advocates the need for a reinforced cohesion policy supported by a strong EU budget that is up to the task for the next 7 years.
In his comments, Dario Nardella, vice president of Eurocities and mayor of Florence, focussed on this aspect of the recovery, saying “I am deeply concerned about the mid- and long term knock-on effects of the pandemic and lock down. We see the violent shock to our labour markets and sharp increases in unemployment locally. This impact on people and business across all sectors in our cities is dramatic.”
Speaking on behalf of Europe’s larger cities, Mr Nardella, continued, “we appreciate the opportunity given by Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative and the new set of exceptional measures introducing extraordinary flexibility and simplification. But for the regions and cities that have already allocated the current available resources it has been a minor help. To tackle the current emergencies and prepare for the longer term needs, new fund allocation is a must.”
Mr Nardella explained that, for many cities, their EU funded programmes, and other planned activities, have been deeply disrupted this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this in mind, and thinking about the longer term situation with a new cycle of the EU budget to be announced, along with new funding programmes, one of his concerns was to ensure this current disruption does not lead to a ‘funding gap’ while new funding programmes are prepared and current ones comes to an end.
In preparing for the new programmes, he commented that “we must make sure programmes match the needs on the ground by giving cities a seat at the table.”
It’s clear that the current emergency has led many cities, for example, to radically accelerate their digital and green transformations to make them more resilient and sustainable, and this should be reflected in the new programmes, which should be shaped with input from city representatives.
In Nardella’s words, “there will be no future for Europe without local communities and local governments”
If you are interested in watching the event, you can catch it via the video recording here:
In prepared remarks the day before, Mayor Nardella spoke at the European university Institute’s State of the Union address, in which he shared remarks on how cities such as Florence can contribute to the future of Europe, including in recovery measures from COVID-19, which will need collaboration from all levels of government to bring Europe closer to citizens.
You can catch his remarks here:
My conference speech for #SOUCOVID19. I hope that @EUISoU will be “real” next year and welcoming participants in Florence. @EuropeanUni pic.twitter.com/MB0O8jqzcK
— Dario Nardella (@DarioNardella) May 9, 2020