Hans Verdonk is the Co-coordinator of the Partnership on Jobs and Skills in the Local Economy (together with the city of Jelgava and Romania) and the EU representative for the city of Rotterdam. Veerle Smit from Ecorys Spain interviewed him on behalf of the Technical Secretariat of the Urban Agenda for the EU during the Partnership meeting in Porto in May 2018.
Could you please present yourself and your institution?
My name is Hans Verdonk and I am the representative of the city of Rotterdam at our Brussels office.
Why did your city decide to join the Partnership?
We are in the transition phase towards the future economy. The whole idea of the Next Economy, in combination with skills and society, is crucial for our region. This is why it is important for us to be involved in all elements currently happening at the EU level that can benefit this transition.
What is your draft Action Plan proposal?
The draft Action Plan is in progress. It consists of a wide range of actions. We focus on better funding to ensure the availability of the investments. In addition, we are working on the simplification of the existing and the upcoming EU frameworks for European funding. We also discuss ways to improve our public services through better governance and by bringing national, regional and local levels together. Working with the European Commission and the European Investment Bank, we aim to make this transition run as smoothly as possible.
How can cities across the EU benefit from your work?
Romania being a Co-Coordinator of our Partnership and holding the EU Presidency in the first half of 2019, we have the opportunity to bring proposals to the institutions' tables. If we manage to present improvements, everybody who will work with these proposals will benefit from it equally.
What are the main obstacles and common grounds you have found amongst members when defining the actions?
This is a very difficult question. There is a wide range of institutional arrangements. In a country like the Netherlands, we are very strongly involved in the discussions with the national government on the actions. In other countries, it is very difficult for local authorities to deal with this, even if the city is quite large. Apart from finding ways to overcome the obstacles in content (e.g. by making sure that people are being educated in the right way), we also discuss about overcoming the barriers caused by different institutional situations.
What is quite interesting about the Urban Agenda for the EU Partnerships is their different way of working. As much as it is interesting, it is also something we should get used to. In a partnership process, it is not only for the entity in charge to decide what will be done; it is a joint action. All the other partners are just as important in getting the action forward and coming up with the ideas.
For the moment, we have seen the first (draft) Action Plans of the first two generations of Urban Agenda for the EU Partnerships. I have the impression that it is a very positive and interesting way of working. Of course we have to see what is going to happen once these three rounds of Partnerships finish, whether there will be new Partnerships and new ways of working. We have the feeling that we can make a difference.
What should we expect from the Partnership?
A brilliant Action Plan to be implemented by our friends from the Romanian Presidency.