The EU Urban Agenda
The core objective of the EU Urban Agenda is to improve the implementation of EU and national policies on-the-ground by involving cities in the design of policies and mobilising them in the implementation (i.e. more effective, more efficient and at a lower cost). In addition, the EU Urban Agenda will seek to focus at a European-level and strengthen cooperation between Commission services.
Cities have a key role to play in translating national and EU policy objectives into concrete action. They directly or indirectly implement EU policies and legislation and contribute to EU's major policy objectives, particularly its Jobs, Growth and Investment agenda, the Digital Single Market and the recently adopted Energy Union with a forward-looking Climate Change policy. Cities are a major player in EU investments. In EU-28, 55% of total public investment is carried out by sub-national authorities. The OECD calculates that 50% of all public procurement is performed at subnational level.
However, despite discussions for decades at intergovernmental level on coordination of urban related topics, progress on the ground remains limited. Cities have increasing difficulties in dealing with the effects of climate change (heat, heavy rainfall, etc.), congestion and air quality in cities is often deteriorating, urban poverty remains an issue, etc. To address these challenges, the city level needs to be better taken into account when designing and implementing EU policies.
Important initiatives and programmes, such as the Urban Mobility Package, European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities, EU-China Partnership on Urbanisation, Green Capital and Green Leaf awards, Covenant of Mayors or the reinforced financial support for cities within the European Structural and Investment Funds, are successfully established at EU level. However, they need better coordination to deliver their potential.
Action is needed at EU, national and city level to ensure continuous work and results on the ground. Furthermore, a stable coordination and governance system is needed between the main stakeholders, laying out what action is required at which level, by when and how. Ownership and commitment at all levels will be the key precondition to make change happen.
Two Cities Fora (2014 and 2015 with more than 500 participants) and a public consultation confirmed the need for an EU Urban Agenda.
The EU Urban Agenda is strongly supported by Member States (Riga Declaration, June 2015), the European Parliament (Westphal Report), the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee and cities (e.g. through Eurocities/CEMR). The EU Urban Agenda is also a priority for the 2016 Dutch EU Presidency.
The EU Urban Agenda would focus on a limited number of Priority Themes agreed by the Commission and Member States on the basis of a series on consultations. Each Priority Theme would be designed and implemented by 'Partnerships' composed of experts of the Commission, Member States, cities and existing networks. Sufficient political commitment and resources of the actors involved is crucial. These Partnerships would be asked to report back to the Member States and the Commission. Four pilot projects are currently being set up to test its effectiveness: (1) Air Quality, (2) Migrants & Refugees, (3) Housing and (4) Urban Poverty.
Each Priority Theme would be implemented through an Action Plan with concrete actions at EU, national and local level. It could also include projects as examples. The Action Plan would be a rolling document which can be updated when needed.