UDN - European Urban Initiative of Cohesion Policy 2021-2027- what is the way forward?
This session had the objective of introducing and discussing the European Urban Initiative (EUI) of the Cohesion Policy proposal 2021-2027.
The EUI is a response to requests from cities to simplify and align EU support for sustainable urban development. It will have two objectives. First, to strengthen the integrated and participatory approaches to sustainable urban development. Second, to provide a stronger link to EU policies, particularly Cohesion Policy.
After introductory remarks from Pia Laurila and Thomas de Béthune (European Commission, DG for Regional and Urban Policy), the session got underway with a presentation on the design of the EUI. This was delivered by Twan de Bruijn, the expert who is working with the Commission to develop the proposal. He explained the EUI’s value chain and its three strands of activities.
This was followed by responses from key stakeholders. Adele Bucella of the URBACT Technical Secretariat emphasised the numerous ways in which URBACT already contributes to each of the three strands of activities and the need for caution when making changes. Raffaele Barbato of the Urban Innovative Actions Permanent Secretariat discussed how the initiative must retain its flexibility whilst increasing its ability to upscale actions earlier, recycle its outputs from good projects, and support cities in working together.
Angelika Poth-Mögele of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions reminded the audience of the need to bridge the gap between the EU and its citizens and of the need to reach out to cities that are not yet participating in support programmes. She suggested this should be done by persuading local politicians of the benefits of participating. Meanwhile, Dorthe Nielsen of EUROCITIES reiterated Mr Barbato’s comments on the importance of flexibility in the Urban Innovative Actions programme and flagged the importance of ensuring that the right urban challenges are selected when the EU chooses to support solution development. Ms Nielsen also encouraged the EUI to interconnect with the other EU sectoral policies beyond Cohesion Policy.
The session was closed with questions and comments from the audience. For example, how can the EUI support smaller urban areas when Urban Innovative Actions requires cities to have a population of over 50 000? In response to this, Mr Barbato emphasised the flexibility of Urban Innovative Actions, pointing out that local authorities can sometimes work together to meet the threshold. Another question was on how the EUI will integrate with EU support programmes that are related to, but are not exclusively targeted at, urban areas? In response to this, Mr de Béthune recognised the importance of the issue and confirmed that it is an ambition of the EUI to interconnect with such programmes, but noted that the initiative must first learn to walk before it can run.
Take away message
A European Urban Initiative proposal that aims to better align existing support for sustainable urban development under Cohesion Policy is warmly welcomed. We should build on what already exists and works well, ensure smaller urban areas are not neglected, retain flexibility (plus add more where possible), and break down barriers between local people and the EU.
"The European Urban Initiative is an exciting new proposal that responds to cities’ requests for simplified support of sustainable urban development" — Twan de Bruijn, Expert assisting the European Commission