Day 2 of the CITIES Forum opened with a statement from Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Crețu, who announced the adoption of the first report of the Urban Agenda for the EU while stressing the importance for cohesion policy to work hand in hand with urban policy.
The first panel was devoted to the New Urban Agenda and the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda and emphasised the importance of multi-level governance, willingness to change and dialogue to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Thus, the OECD’s Deputy Secretary, Mari Kiviniemi, highlighted the interdependency between urban and rural policies, while Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, focused on the overall approach of these policies, underlining that they are "not about growth, but about prosperity". The panelists discussed the necessary involvement of cities in the energy market to "use public space for decentralised energy production", in Mr Clos’ words. In general, interactions with the audience proved that cities know about the SDGs but experience difficulties to measure their performance in reaching these goals.
The second panel of the day focused on the Urban Agenda for the EU and its "importance for the future of Europe, to restore faith in the European project and put citizens in the centre", as declared by Karin Wanngård, Mayor of the city of Stockholm and Vice-President of EUROCITIES. In line with this, Katrin Lompscher, Berlin’s Housing Minister, called for advocacy by the European Commission, institutionalising the urban topic more strongly. Normunds Popens of the European Commission’s DG REGIO highlighted the concrete activities happening at Commission level (such as mainstreaming the territorial impact assessments and delivering the Urban Innovative Actions funding scheme, which is fully aligned with the Urban Agenda priority themes), and also pointed to the necessity to start working on new themes such as the security of public spaces and cultural heritage. Polls asking the audience to provide their opinion showed a general agreement towards the need for an increased participatory role of cities in the EU decision-making process.
The question of how to secure and administer sustainable and innovative investment to urban areas coined the following panel discussion. The panelists – representing The Hague, Vienna, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) – engaged in an animated debate on the types of investments needed to secure public service delivery and sustainable and innovative growth. Their conversation was introduced by a video statement from European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, who announced the new advisory and investment platform provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Commission, URBIS. Commissioner Crețu and EIB Vice-President Vazil Hudák solemnly launched the platform.
Parallel workshops divided the conference participants into three groups that focused on:
- Discussing the Covenant of Mayors and the impact of global climate and energy objectives in cities,
- Sharing best practices from cities (case studies from Rotterdam, Ghent, Madrid, Nantes, Barcelona, Lille, and Maribor) in a “speed networking” session, and
- Presenting the human rights perspective in the Urban Agenda for the EU, with representatives from the Urban Poverty Partnership, Doctors of the World, Utrecht University (Cities of Refuge project), and the Fundamental Rights Agency of the EU.
The final panel discussion revolved around one of the most widely and controversially discussed issues in European urban and regional policy, namely the cohesion policy and particularly its urban dimension and post-2020 development. Representatives from the European Commission's DG REGIO, the European Parliament (EP), the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), the European Committee of the Regions, and Bulgaria (as incoming Council presidency) discussed achievements of the 2014-2020 period, particularly provisions such as Article 7, and their potential future development in a new financial framework after 2020. Furio Honsell of the city of Udine and the CEMR stressed that the SDGs needed to play a role in the future cohesion policy. The Committee of the Region’s President Karl-Heinz Lambertz added: "cohesion policy is the ultimate expression of EU solidarity" and pointed to the cohesion alliance initiative, aiming to secure a stronger, more visible cohesion policy after 2020.
The discussants agreed that a key added value of cohesion policy was the fostering of integrated working structures and partnerships within Member States, beyond the pure financial support provided by the funds. Denitsa Nikolova, Deputy Minister of Regional Development of Bulgaria, particularly stressed that besides a strong urban dimension in the future cohesion policy, balanced territorial development acknowledging urban-rural connections needed to be a key objective. Jan Olbrycht, the EP’s Urban Intergroup chairman, stated that the relatively new focus of cohesion policy on cities, next to the traditionally regional approach, was working well and needed to be secured in the future.
Closing the event, DG REGIO's Normunds Popens thanked the organisers, especially the city of Rotterdam and the Competence Centre for Inclusive Growth, Urban and Territorial Development at DG REGIO, and invited all stakeholders and particularly local authorities to share their ideas and experiences with cohesion policy with the European Commission to inform the development of an effective and successful policy addressing all regions.
Read a summary of day 1 here.
And watch the video covering the first day’s workshops!