The premise has always been simple: let’s work together, across levels of government, because together we can get more done.
There are big issues at play that demand this. Perhaps the most obvious is climate change, but it’s equally true of other areas of mutual interest, such as the post-pandemic economic and social recovery.
Working together, we learn from one another and find better solutions to the biggest challenges we are all facing.
But matching process and politics on these issues requires a lot of careful, and dedicated work.
The Ljubljana Agreement, adopted today at the Informal Meeting of EU Ministers responsible for Urban Development, comes as a result of such action. It delivers the latest instalment of the Urban Agenda for the EU, which began in 2016 through the Pact of Amsterdam, and seeks to recognise the added value of bringing cities, member states and the European Commission together on matters that impact urban policy makers and citizens.
“The impact in our cities of the decisions taken at EU level and the contribution of cities to the EU’s success, continue to grow,” said Ricardo Rio, Mayor of Braga, who represented Eurocities in today’s meeting, and who made the point that although there is a big overlap between the way policies designed at local and international level support and impact one another, the EU’s competencies in urban matters have remained limited, while the work through the urban agenda and other soft competences have grown stronger. Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement in how these two levels of government work together.
A current example of this comes via the implementation of the national recovery plans, that, according to Rio, can “contribute to the system change we need for a green, digital and inclusive transition.”
Despite this, many cities were not involved in the design of the recovery plans. “We must close this gap in the implementation phase,” said Rio to the assembled Ministers. “Your cities are your natural allies when tackling the most important challenges of our times: climate change, digital transformation and social equity.”
EU Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira, also intervened to renew her support to the Urban Agenda and to cities, which will have an important role to deliver on many EU priorities such as the European Green Deal – a point that was also supported by many of the EU Ministers present.
“With the Ljubljana Agreement, adapted to new contexts and priorities, I am confident we have secured an Urban Agenda that can contribute to tackling the challenges ahead,” declared Rio in his conclusions.
What is in the Ljubljana Agreement?
Firstly, the agreement sets out a renewed commitment to the Urban Agenda for the EU, reaffirms the importance of strengthening intergovernmental dialogue on urban matters, and confirms that the three core pillars of “better regulation, better funding, better knowledge” will remain its focus.
Further, the agreement set out a stronger governance mechanism for the Urban Agenda, so that it can better deliver and achieve its ambition to improve EU legislation and facilitate its local implementation.
It also outlines a commitment to further integrate the work on urban matters into other EU and international agendas, such as the New Leipzig Charter, the Territorial Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
It highlights the vital contributions of “European cities and regions of all sizes as determining drivers for the future of Europe and their active role in implementing priority policies” across myriad areas from the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Renovation Wave, to the New European Bauhaus.
And promises to work on “the creation and reinforcement of the national.”
Lastly, it builds on the original partnerships approach of the Pact of Amsterdam and confirms that the partnerships will remain the chief delivery mechanism for the urban agenda. The urban agenda will, therefore, continue to be focused on thematic partnership so that it can continue to deliver with action plans, exchanges and recommendations, on pressing and specific urban issues that need to be tackled together.
In the lead up to the final agreement, Eurocities, together with other stakeholders such as CEMR, played a core role in mobilising cities to share their priorities. This resulted in four proposals for thematic partnerships, namely sustainable tourism, greening cities, equalities in the city and food. These four themes are now included in the Ljubljana Agreement and added to the previous list of priorities, and two of them, sustainable tourism and greening cities, are hope to start next year.
Ministers also approved the Multiannual Working Programme for the Urban Agenda for the EU, which can be found here.