Cities have the capacity to find new ways to deal with fast-changing societal, economic and environmental realities. They are the engines of our economy, providing jobs and services, and serve as catalysts for creativity and innovation. Almost 70 % of the EU population lives in urban areas. However, they are also home to some of our greatest challenges: economic, social, environmental and demographic, often interrelated. This is why today we are making a step forward towards the EU Urban Agenda.

Indeed, in recent years, a growing number of voices at EU, national and local levels have expressed the need for an EU Urban Agenda with a more coordinated approach for all EU policies related to cities. Today at the 2nd European CITIES Forum, in the presence of Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, we unveiled the results of the public consultation on the EU Urban Agenda launched in July 2014.

The EU Urban Agenda will not be about the EU grabbing new policy competences. The EU urban agenda will not bring more regulation. On the contrary, it will be about better regulation, more transparency and coordination in what the EU is already doing. The Urban Agenda is about enabling cities to fully contribute to EU objectives.

And to turn this EU Urban Agenda into reality, this how we will proceed:

1. We will focus on a few priority areas that have proven to be able to deliver; these areas cover smart, green and inclusive cities.

2. We will guarantee better EU legislation by reinforcing urban impact assessment and ensure stronger stakeholder involvement at local level.

3. We will promote a better coordination of EU policies related to cities, revisiting, simplifying, streamlining and better focusing existing initiatives, making them more efficient and with more synergies between them.

4. We will make better data, benchmarking and monitoring available

We are now working closely with the Latvian and upcoming Luxembourgish and Dutch presidencies to make the Urban Agenda happen. The aim is to agree on a consolidated Agenda during the Dutch Presidency in 2016.

But I want to stress that Cohesion Policy is already taking concrete steps to boost the competitiveness of our cities and improve the quality of life in urban areas.

On 16 March, we launched URBACT III, the European Territorial Cooperation programme aiming to foster sustainable integrated urban development in cities across Europe. For the new period 2014-2020, more than 74 million euro of EU funds will be allocated to the programme to enable knowledge sharing and capacity building.

Furthermore, today, we announced the launch of the Urban Innovative Actions, an initiative with a budget of 370 million euro to fund innovative ideas in the field of sustainable urban development. This will enable cities to experiment and explore novel solutions to current and future urban challenges.

EU Cohesion Policy is putting the urban dimension at the very heart of its priorities. More than half of the ERDF resources will  be invested in urban areas, and around 15 billion euro will be directly allocated to integrated strategies for sustainable urban development.

I will be discussing the urban dimension of our policy during the Informal Meetings of Ministers responsible for Cohesion Policy, Territorial and Urban matters in Riga next week. There I hope to find the support we need from all 28 EU Member States to bring forward the EU Urban Agenda.

 

Corina Cretu Maros Sefcovic