The path to paradise begins in hell

19 May 2020

This famous line of Dante Alighieri made me think of the current crisis and how we are all moving from a hell-like emergency phase to the recovery of our economies and societies.

As you can read on Eurocities COVIDnews platform, many cities have started planning and acting on recovery for their local economy. This is about striking a balance between protecting citizens’ health, restarting businesses and activities but also ensuring the crisis is used to rethink a fairer and greener system. It is clearly easier said than done, especially when no direct support nor investments from the EU and national governments seem to actually end up directly with local authorities. And above all, when the bulk of the money is already going to traditional industries regardless of their impact on climate.

Next week President von der Leyen should present the EU COVID-19 recovery plan. It will be based on the EU’s seven-year budget and will be topped up by a recovery instrument. She says this will focus on the countries that have been hit the most. Good news. That it will include grants (and not only loans). Great. It also mentions the possibility to frontload part of the investment this year, by using proven financing models based on national guarantees. Interesting. Now, will this proposal get the green light from all 27 governments? Or, will another North-South divide come up again in terms of EU solidarity, further weakening the already embattled European project? It’s possible. In her press statement, though, von der Leyen seems hopeful that the money will come and that the plan will also strengthen the European Green Deal and support digitalisation and resilience.

As Eurocities we have been placing the recovery needs of our cities at the centre of our work from day one: in our city dialogues and forum and working groups meetings, in our COVID-19 political statement and EU advocacy work, in our media calls for a green and fair recovery. And very soon, the mayors of our executive committee will have conversations with the relevant EU commissioners and members of the European Parliament…with I am sure many open questions like “will the new funds reach cities?”. Let’s hope the answers will get us to Dante’s paradise 🙂