Coordinators & Action Leaders’ Meeting 2020: a renewed impetus for the Urban Agenda for the EU

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    Leïla Morais
    27 August 2020 - updated 8 months ago
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The Coordinators’ and Action Leaders’ meeting 2020 was the 5th of its kind, held as online meetings over a 4-day event. The core meetings took place on 3 and 5 June, presenting the state of play of the Urban Agenda for the EU (UAEU) looking at challenges and concerns, presenting the new European Urban Initiative (EUI) and looking to the future of the UAEU. Two additional technical and targeted sessions were organised on 10 and 12 June, the first on the new support package for the implementation of Actions and the second dedicated to the Partnerships on Security in Public Spaces and Culture and Cultural Heritage, which are currently undergoing a Public Feedback process on their draft Action Plans (a crucial milestone in the Partnerships’ lifespan).

The Coordinators’ meeting is organised once a year by the European Commission with the support of the Technical Secretariat. It brings together all Coordinators (Member States, European institutions and urban authorities in charge of coordinating a Partnership) of the 14 Urban Agenda Partnerships, and relevant stakeholders from EU institutions, network organisations, and Presidencies of the EU Council. This year, attendance was extended also to Action Leaders, who lead specific Actions under each Partnership, in order to promote exchanges between active members of the Partnerships. The delivery and implementation of Actions and the future direction of the UAEU were the main topics on the table.

In the current context, 12 of the 14 Partnerships are finalising (or have finalised) the implementation of their Actions, with the last two Partnerships on Security in Public Spaces and Culture/Cultural Heritage undergoing the process of completing their Action Plans. We are thus in the middle of the implementation phase, giving this meeting added importance in assessing the work done so far and laying out the next steps.

This year’s meetings gathered more than 300 participants in total, including Coordinators, Action Leaders, EU institutions, Urban Development Group members and Presidencies of the Council.

You can find the presentations here.

Day 1: State of play and EUI (Wednesday 3 June 2020)

The meeting was officially opened by the European Commission (DG REGIO), providing the context and goals of the meeting, reflecting on the unforeseen situation brought about by Covid-19, its ensuing economic and social recession, and the Commission’s commitment to counteract its negative consequences.

Ivana Katurić was the first speaker to take the floor on behalf of the outgoing Croatian Presidency. Her intervention highlighted the priority themes (two new priority themes were introduced by the Croatian Presidency, including ‘Green Infrastructure in Urban Areas’ and ‘Reuse of building and spaces in terms of the transition towards a circular economy’), emphasizing the presentation of the New Leipzig Charter and its Implementing Document which will be further developed during the German Presidency (see Day 2). The clustering of Actions was among the topics addressed by the Presidency, which has been indicated as a favourable way forward for the Urban Agenda. It was suggested that further discussions on the topic could be carried out at a Technical Preparatory Group level, and that the Better Regulation objective could be further improved through the provision of better implementation mechanisms for the results of clusters and/or Actions.

The second speaker to take the floor was Olli Voutilainen from the Finnish Ministry of Economy and Employment, representing the Finnish Presidency, which ended in December 2019. This intervention focused on the relevant work of the Finnish Presidency to the UAEU, like the Declaration ‘Joining forces to boost digital transformation in Europe’s cities and communities’ , and the promotion of a Cluster on digital innovation for sustainable cities, which also aimed at creating synergies on digital issues between several Urban Agenda Partnerships. This links to work carried out by the Croatian, German and Slovenian presidencies on exploring the possibilities and opportunities of the clustering exercise. Currently, three workshops or ‘cluster labs’ are planned.

Tilman Buchholz from the (then) incoming German Presidency took the floor to present the New Leipzig Charter to be adopted at the Informal Ministerial Meeting on Urban Development in Leipzig during the German Presidency in November 2020. The Leipzig Charter was originally drawn up in 2007 to achieve the objective of sustainable cities and recognises the importance of social, cultural and economic role that cities play. One of the key objectives underlined in the New Leipzig Charter is the concept and use of common goods to safeguard the liveability of all European cities. In the new Charter, the participatory approach is widened through the concepts of co-design and co-creation, while the place-based approach is further enhanced.


Slide on the New Leipzig Charter presented by Tilman Bucholz


Karen Van Dantzig, the Dutch Urban Envoy, and David Schutrups from Europa Decentraal, then delivered a presentation on possible ways for strengthening the Better Regulation pillar of the UAEU, in the next phase of the UAEU, and on the role which The Netherlands would be keen to take on in facilitating this work. DG REGIO added that the European Commission is currently working on the creation of the “Fit for Future” (F4F) platform aiming to simplify EU laws, reduce burden and ensure that policies and laws are forward-looking and relevant, which could be an opportunity for Urban Agenda actors to have a voice on the work carried out on Better Regulation within the Urban Agenda framework.


Slide on a stronger Better Regulation strand of the Urban Agenda for the EU presented by David Schutrups


This series of presentations was followed by updates from the Technical Secretariat on the state of play of the Monitoring Table of Actions, of the support for the implementation of Actions, and on the Communication Activities. More information can be found by following the links provided.


The following Q&A session focused on enhancing implementation and collaboration between Partnerships. Links to the private sector to facilitate public and private investment became apparent, as did the need to improve coordination between the UAEU and other urban actors such as URBACT. Next discussions yielded ideas for improved collaboration through additional support and approaches designed to enhance the use of specialised expertise to increase the impact of Actions.

The final presentation of the day was delivered by Pia Laurila from DG REGIO on the European Urban Initiative, a new instrument providing coherent support for cities for innovative actions, capacity and knowledge building, policy development and communication,coveringall urban areas. This initiative aims to strengthen integrated and participatory approaches to sustainable urban development and provide a stronger link to relevant EU policies, and in particular, Cohesion Policy investments.

The day was closed by Jan Maarten de Vet from the Technical Secretariat, reminding participants that the key priority of the UAEU remains the implementation of its Actions, which is seeing disruptions due to Covid-19, but which the UAEU will be able to overcome due to its resilient stakeholders, framing the situation also as an opportunity to boost certain areas, such as Actions linked with digitalisation.

Day 2: Assessment Study & New Leipzig Charter (Friday 5 June 2020)

With a day in between, the second day of events picked back up on the new Leipzig Charter by Tilman Buchholz. The “Implementing the New Leipzig Charter through Multi-Level Governance” is the annex document to the New Leipzig Charter being prepared by the German Presidency. It focuses on the future of the UAEU. It suggests keeping a similar governance structure as the one in place and proposes the establishment of a Secretariat to offer support to the Partnerships, Member States and the European Commission, and support to intergovernmental cooperation to safeguard coherence and continuity between Presidencies of the European Council. The work will be taken forward by and shared with the Portuguese and Slovenian Presidencies during 2021.


The New Leipzig Charter and the Urban Agenda for the EU and the need for multi-level governance in Europe, presented by Tilman Buchholz


Lamprini Lambropoulou from DG REGIO then took over to outline the conclusions of the Assessment Study, which points to a strong case for the continuation of the Urban Agenda for the EU, although not necessarily in the same format. While it is important to preserve its multi-level, multi-stakeholder approach, as well as its flexible and experimental nature, its shortcomings should be addressed in order to strengthen its impact.

The presentations were followed by Deep Dive sessions, once again asking for participants’ contribution, and they were invited to reply to a series of polls and questions, centred around 3 main ‘umbrella’ questions: How to enhance the implementation and impact of Actions, how to improve the engagement of stakeholders in and with the UAEU, and how to refine the UAEU’s governance mechanisms, internal communication, and place in the wider policy/institutional framework?

This second day was closed by Thomas de Béthune and Fiona Wieland from DG REGIO reminding participants that despite some difficulties, for instance in the area of Better Regulation, Partnerships have found their way to deliver results. The European Commission is committed to continue supporting the Partnerships and working towards setting up the EUI.

Day 3: Support to the Implementation of Actions (Wednesday 10 June 2020)

In this session, speakers from DG REGIO and the Technical Secretariat went further in detail on the new support package to the implementation of Actions which was introduced during the sessions on 3 and 5 June, declaring that two new schemes (targeted support and joint support) will be set up to continue supporting the implementation efforts of Partnerships.  All information relating to the support schemes is available in the application package, which was shared with Action Leaders and Coordinators of eligible Partnerships. The feedback provided by Coordinators and Action Leaders allowed the finalisation of the package and launch of the scheme after the session.

Day 4: Joint meeting of the Partnerships on Culture/Cultural Heritage and Security in Public Spaces (Friday 12 June 2020)

As the last Partnerships to be launched, the Culture/Cultural Heritage and Security in Public Spaces Partnerships are now in a crucial stage of development of their Action Plans. It is in this context that this session was designed. Both Partnerships were soon to enter their consultation process on their draft action plans (click here for the introduction to the draft Actions for Culture/Cultural Heritage, and Security in Public Spaces), the so-called “Public Feedback” on their Draft Action Plans. The European Commission and the Technical Secretariat  provided some suggestions and shared lessons learned from previous Partnerships on implementation of Actions and presented the support available for the Partnerships during this phase, which includes the mobilisation of external expertise. To compliment the discussion, different Partnership representatives provided testimonies on their experience implementing Actions, focusing on main lessons learnt that can help in the successful design and implementation of Actions.

Concluding remarks: A renewed impetus for the UAEU

This year’s meeting was the first to be held virtually due to complications brought about by Covid-19. Despite missing the networking component and the opportunities for exchange afforded by a physical meeting, it provided the necessary platform for relevant discussions. The 4 days of action-packed meetings allowed the actors of the UAEU to take stock, brainstorm, exchange and discuss their experiences and ideas on the UAEU and its future, as well as to inform on the support available for the implementation of Actions, and to guide the two newer Partnerships of Culture/Cultural Heritage and Security in Public Spaces as they embark on the consultation phase.

Since the signing of the Pact of Amsterdam (i.e. the Urban Agenda for the EU’s birth) in 2016, it has become apparent that not only the policy context is changing, but so are the needs and priorities of cities and other urban stakeholders. Discussions in June 2020 were central in recognising and addressing these, helping shape the next steps this important initiative will take in light of the incoming European Urban Initiative (EUI), the renewal of the Leipzig Charter and its Implementation document. Despite uncertainties about the future, one thing is sure: the commitment to continue the important work carried out so far has not wavered.

The UAEU a lively initiative, with strong support from EU institutions, Member States, urban authorities, and a myriad of relevant organisations. The community does not shy away from challenges, and with this impetus we foresee cities will increasingly be in the forefront of cultural, social, environmental and health policy.

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