Cities get more influence in EU policies
Today in Amsterdam, EU ministers responsible for urban policy have, under the Netherlands Chairmanship of minister Ronald Plasterk (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations), adopted the Pact of Amsterdam. It states that European cities, on the basis of the so called ‘Urban Agenda for the EU’, will get more involved with EU legislation, access to financing and knowledge sharing. The agenda as drawn up by the Ministers includes 12 priority themes, which are essential for the development of urban areas. The elaboration of these issues and the formulation of proposals for improvement of existing EU policies will take place through Partnerships in which cities, Members States and European institutions are involved. These proposals can be regarded as contributions to the design of future and the revision of existing EU policies. For the moment, four Partnerships are currently active.
Why an Urban Agenda for the EU?
The Netherlands, currently holding the Presidency of the EU, has taken this initiative because cities are increasingly making a difference both globally and in individual Member States. Human capital, entrepreneurship and – consequently – economic growth are increasingly concentrated in urban areas. The same goes for social and physical quality of life issues. Cities are getting increasingly interconnected and at the same time, especially at an international level, are in increasing competition with each other. This not only leads to widening differences between regions, it also makes innovation a necessity. The EU needs to anticipate and accommodate the development of urban areas. This will be beneficial to the people in both urban areas and the surrounding countryside. It also enhances the international competitiveness of the EU as a whole.
Sustainable and inclusive growth
The Urban Agenda for the EU identifies for the first time the main challenges facing Europe's urban areas, which are translated into priority themes that are vital for achieving smart, green and inclusive growth. This concerns in the first phase themes such as air quality, urban poverty, housing and inclusion of migrants and refugees, as well as jobs in the local economy, circular economy, climate adaptation and mobility.
New form of cooperation
Also new is the fact that the priority themes of the Urban Agenda for the EU are developed in the form of Partnerships. In these partnerships 5 urban areas, 5 Member States, the European Commission, European institutions such as the EIB, together with other partners, including urban organisations, work together on thematic proposals to improve existing EU policies. The Pact of Amsterdam stipulates that the outcome of those partnerships will be utilised in the improvement of existing EU legislation, access to EU funding and knowledge development and exchange.
The Urban Agenda for the EU and its implementation is supported by all Member States, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Investment Bank, the mayors of European capitals and many other institutions and urban umbrella organisations. This is an important milestone for the EU. At the same time, all those involved will collectively still need to make a strong effort to benefit citizens in the coming period.