What priorities should be on the EU agenda? – a local perspective

29 February 2024

Ahead of the European elections in June 2024, Eurocities is putting mayors and deputy mayors in the spotlight to discuss the importance of local governments and what should be included in the next EU mandate’s priorities.

Cities across Europe agree on the need to strive for a Europe where the future is sustainable and inclusive for all. To fulfil this future, cities work alongside the European Union to implement crucial policies such as the European Green Deal, the European Pillar of Social Rights and the digital transition on the ground. Constant exchange and cooperation with EU institutions and national governments is essential to implement their strategies at the local level.

“At a time when populism, nationalism and the extreme right are on the rise in Europe, cities are the ramparts and the beating hearts of European democracy,” said Jeanne Barseghian, Mayor of Strasbourg.

As the closest governments to citizens and as crucial actors in policy implementation, cities deserve an active role by being at the heart of European and national decision making.

The Mayor of Ghent Mathias de Clercq proposes to set up an annual meeting between members of the European Parliament and mayors to talk about the European Green Deal and “have a seat at the table and work together to convince everybody that the cities of Europe and the citizens are the future and that we can make European values clear in our cities.”

A green future…

…starts in cities. As allies to the European Green Deal committed to climate targets,  local governments have taken great leaps towards a more sustainable future. “We are adapting our cities to climate change making them greener, cooler and more resilient,” adds Barseghian.

For example, the city of Stockholm will invest €200 million in the next four years in their new “low emission zone” to revamp bike and bus lanes and pavements to improve the condition of the air and the quality of life of every citizen, as explained by Lars Stromgren, Vice Mayor for Transport and Urban Environment of Stockholm.

In Barcelona, the municipality prioritises climate targets and citizens’ wellbeing over tourism. The municipality implemented a tourist income tax that will be used to fund the installation of heating systems in 170 schools. “We have to be ambitious if we want to achieve net zero emissions by 2030 and make sure the energy transition leaves no one behind,” says Laia Bonet, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona.

…that leaves no one behind.

Certainly, the achievement of urban climate objectives cannot go to the detriment of social rights. “We need to ensure our citizens can access affordable housing regardless of their income, place of origin, or age,” adds Bonet. “We are currently building more than 5,000 affordable housing apartments and we are putting a lot of effort into reducing and regulating short-term rentals.”

Mayors want to ensure that their social priorities are heard ahead of the new social agenda. Moises Rodriguez Canton, Deputy Mayor of Rubi, says: “The new agenda should work on social innovation and focus on social and economic justice.”

“Cities will play an important role in the future and for the future of Europe,” adds Stromgren. “We would like the EU to have a commissioner with the portfolio of cities and regions”.

At a glance, cities’ priorities are gathered in the Eurocities manifesto. Local governments are key to solving a large part of the issues the EU is facing. European institutions should listen to the voices of cities because a better Europe starts with them.


Marta Buces Eurocities Writer