“National recovery plans should be about investing in people”

7 May 2021

Below you can find the full speech made by Dario Nardella, President of Eurocities and Mayor of Florence, at the EU Social Summit in Porto.

Thank you. I am deeply honoured to be here today at this important event as President of Eurocities and Mayor of Florence. Eurocities is the network of almost 200 larger European cities. We work together and with the European Institutions to improve the quality of life of our people.

We are facing an unprecedented crisis in Europe. Social inequalities are deepening and unemployment is rising rapidly. These trends are more visible in cities. More people are losing their job and income. We are seeing in our cities new groups of people being out of labour market, such as students, young people, self-employed, EU mobile citizens.

We need to act. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we cities have reacted with fast and immediate actions to save jobs, help local businesses and protect the most vulnerable people. We have stretched our budgets, often beyond limits, to provide urgent support. Without the quick actions of cities, many more people across Europe would be facing poverty and the recession would be much deeper.

Ensuring a just recovery based on sustainable and inclusive labour market is the greatest challenge of our times. I applaud the initiative of the Portuguese Presidency to hold this EU Social Summit and to invite cities to be part of the debates. Just yesterday, Eurocities held the first-ever Cities Social Summit where we, as city leaders reaffirmed our full support for the European Pillar of Social Rights and inclusive labour market recovery.

About 75% of Europe’s population lives in cities. We are responsible for implementing more than half of the EU’s employment and social policies. 13 of the 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights are within the competences of cities. We are also in charge of two thirds of the total public social investment. It is impossible to imagine how we can create sustainable and inclusive labour market in Europe by 2030 without cities in the driving seat.

I believe we can do even more and even better if, and only if, we bring the green and digital agendas with inclusive employment.

We are ready to use the new opportunities under the European Green Deal to support the creation of new green jobs and ensure upskilling and reskilling by bringing together local businesses and training providers via local skills pacts.

There cannot be a green or digital transition without inclusive employment. No one should be left behind. The transition should be fair and inclusive of all. And to this purpose I am pleased to announce that we are creating a Mayors Alliance for the European Green Deal that brings together ambitious local action where climate, environment, employment and social goals go hand in hand.

Cities have already proven their commitment to the Pillar implementation with real actions on the ground. We have done so through the Eurocities campaign Inclusive Cities 4 All over the last two years by putting the principles of the Pillar into action at local level with social investments from our municipal budgets. I am happy to announce that we have mobilised 66 city pledges. These are not just mere promises, but actions on the ground that are already being delivered. Thank to these commitments for example almost 100,000 new social and affordable housing units will soon be delivered in cities and my city Florence already committed for 1,300 units. House and work are essential: as the historic Mayor of Florence that in the 1960s revolutionised the social policy in the city, Giorgio la Pira, said “bread and therefore work is sacred, the house is sacred. You don’t touch each other with complete impunity.”

Cities are committed to supporting employment for all people, including the most vulnerable. I can give you some examples of concrete actions:

Many cities have introduced social clauses in public procurement to support fair pay and decent working conditions for all workers, including platform workers.

We are working very closely with public and private employers to support job creation. Many cities have set up Local Pacts for Employment mobilising thousands of companies to offer jobs and on-the-job training to the people furthest away from the labour market. For instance, Lyon committed in 2019 to support local employment through its ‘Charter of 1,000 Companies’. By 2021, Lyon has involved 1,071 companies to employ over 2,500 people.

We are also supporting local social economy. For example, Lille set up eight entrepreneurship centres to support the creation of new businesses in the most deprived neighbourhoods.

We work hard to provide online skills training and make access available to everyone. For example, Athens is delivering Action Plan on life-long learning transforming municipal spaces into learning spaces to respond to real time needs for learning and skills

Cities across Europe are piloting social innovations to better match the offer and demand for new skills on the local labour markets, by directing the recently unemployed to the sectors looking for new skills such as ICT and healthcare.

We are also taking care of our young people. Many cities are investing in local schemes of Youth Guarantee to help young people get vocational training for jobs that are in high demand on the local level, especially in the new sectors looking for green and digital skills.

And we care about the most vulnerable people, such as migrants, Roma, people with disabilities by helping them with personalised counselling, language learning and tailored support services to enter and stay in employment.

Even where we do not have formal competence, such as minimum wages or minimum income, cities are innovating with inclusive policies to push for a living wage according to the living costs in their cities and by piloting minimum income schemes such as the Solidarity Basic Income in Berlin or the new Youth Solidarity Plan starting in Lyon.

We, cities, are committed to working together with national government and EU institutions to put inclusive employment first in Europe’s recovery. We are ready to fulfil our role. But in turn we expect you to engage us as key partners in the EU agenda for the recovery.

National governments need to talk to us in the making of the national recovery plans. Despite repeated calls, many cities are still not consulted in the national recovery plans. At Eurocities, we have conducted a network-wide consultation some month ago with inputs coming from around 50 cities from almost all Member States. The main takeaways are very clear:

Firstly, so far 70% of the cities responding believes that the consultation process has been insufficient. Only one out of ten cities responding thinks that their contributions have actually been considered in the draft plans. To be honest, in Italy the cities and metro cities have been involved since the beginning.

This means that most cities so far did not have an impact on the overall strategy of the plans. We were hoping for an improvement of the situation in the last months but from a first update it looks like this is not the case. This is a lost opportunity that the EU cannot afford at this time, which will dampen Europe’s ability to bounce back. Without cities, the prospects for a sustainable and inclusive recovery look grim. Let’s work together to shape the national recovery plans.

Secondly, let’s put the biggest EU budget in history to good and fast use. We have to ensure investment in green and digital reforms, will bring new quality jobs to people and inclusive labour market also for the most vulnerable. The recovery requires an unprecedented level of social investment in local services and social infrastructure. The national recovery plans should be about investing in people’s skills. Investing in childcare, education and training infrastructure. This is what will get Europe out of the crisis.

Finally, let’s make this summit the start of a new pact between cities, national and EU leaders to work together for a fair, inclusive and sustainable recovery in Europe. Let’s have a summit every year to monitor the progress on social rights and employment trends and to find joint European solutions to common challenges faced by our people. We can build back better a stronger social Europe, if and only if we work together and join forces.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer