Brussels, 14 February 2014
Shaping an EU Urban Agenda for Cities of Tomorrow
Giving Europe's cities a greater voice and putting the urban agenda at the heart of EU policy-making will be a key aim of the CiTIEs: Cities of Tomorrow: Investing in Europe forum in Brussels which takes place on February 17 and 18.
European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn is bringing together important figures in urban policy to plot the way ahead for a new EU Urban Agenda. With more than two thirds of Europeans living in cities, the meeting is designed to explore and debate ways to give cities a greater prominence when it comes to European policy, to make sure the needs of cities are better understood, and policies are more co-ordinated. It aims to highlight the key role cities can play in achieving wider European goals like tackling climate change, unemployment and social exclusion.
The discussion will centre around an issues paper prepared by the European Commission. A series of events will take place involving key actors including numerous urban experts, city associations, local authorities and representatives from national ministries as well. Mayors from 16 capital cities in the EU who are meeting at the forum, are also expected to join calls from member states for a coherent EU urban agenda.
Ministers representing the Greek and Italian EU Presidencies will be speaking at the plenary event.
Commissioner Hahn has championed the cause of cities and urban development throughout his mandate. He said, "I am determined to raise the profile of our cities. Cities are too important to be treated as a side issue. They should be central to our thinking. After all, most Europeans live in cities. We need to make them a better place to live in and make sure they are better heard."
He added, "This is why I now want to launch a debate to ensure the urban reality of today's EU is fully understood and taken into account by policy makers. Cities of tomorrow are the Europe of tomorrow."
Through high-level meetings, workshops and its main plenary, the forum will explore how a more coordinated approach can be extended across all levels of European policy making. It will pose a number of questions about the role of cities in implementing policies which should reflect their potential and needs – and how this can be achieved.
For the first time the UN Human Settlements Programme: UN-Habitat has requested the EU and the European Commission to make a contribution to the HABITAT III conference in 2016. Commissioner Hahn and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy will provide that input on how the EU can develop a new approach which can be offered to others around the world as a model.
Joan Clos, United Nations Undersecretary-general, and Executive Director of UN–Habitat (as well as former mayor of Barcelona) will also be addressing the forum and giving a joint press conference with Commissioner Hahn.
In 2012 Commission President José Manuel Barroso decided to make urban policy the responsibility of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy under the supervision of Commissioner Hahn. This was in recognition that the EU needed a more "joined up" approach to urban policy and that Europe's cities are vital to address global challenges and implement the EU's 2020 Growth Agenda.
The recent reform of EU Regional Policy, has made the urban dimension more central: it is expected that half of the European Regional Development Fund investments for 2014-2020 will be made in cities and urban areas. Furthermore, Member States are obliged to invest 5% at the very least on integrated sustainable urban actions.
Capital city mayors, met for the first time as a distinct group with Commissioner Hahn in February 2013 issuing a joint statement entitled: 'Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth: EU Capital Cities – essential partners for Europe 2020'. Attending this time are Rome, Vienna, Sofia, Zagreb, Warsaw, Bratislava, Bucharest, Nicosia, Riga, Helsinki, Ljubljana, Lisbon, Tallinn, Athens, Valletta and Amsterdam. Commissioner Hahn will draw together the different discussions at the forum and report to the forthcoming informal council of EU ministers on Regional Policy meeting in Athens in April under the Greek EU Presidency.
A joint press conference with Commissioner Hahn and Joan Clos UN Undersecretary-general, and Executive Director of UN-Habitat will take place at 13:15 in the Charlemagne building on 17th February.
Video stock shots of Urban EU co-financed projects, along with forum video and photo coverage will be available on Ebs http://ec.europa.eu/avservices