With minus 15 degrees, a meter of snow but beautiful sunshine against the backdrop of wonderful mountains, the Urban Development Group (UDG) Group met on 1st March in the National Congress Centre in Sofia to discuss the progress of the 12 urban partnerships. Much attention went to the ‘Bratislava’ Partnership’s draft Action Plans (Circular Economy, Digital Transition, Urban Mobility) and to the progress in the Jobs & Skills Partnership.
Both UDG members and Coordinators present shared their enthusiasm on the progress made. “An example of what cooperation between cities, Member States and European Commission (EC) can mean”. And “Impressive to see how much energy and creativity has been displayed - impressed with the speed and the ambitions” – these were quotes that captured well the overall sentiment. It was clear to participants and observers that the learning curve within the Urban Agenda is steep, and that later generations of Partnerships benefit much from the lessons learnt by earlier one’s.
But there was not much room for complacency as there are numerous challenges to tackle. The most important one is to see how the actions can be implemented. For that, the Commission, Member States and cities need to be ready to act! In addition, one of the dilemma’s faced in the preparation of the Action Plans is to find the balance between quality and timeliness. For example, speed is required for those actions which wish to impact the post 2020 Cohesion Policy as the Commission is to table its proposal by the Summer. At the same time, the proposed actions need to be credible and well thought through and need a more careful and evidence-based approach: in order to request regulatory changes, a good case needs to be built, and there is need for detail and scrutiny.
In order to make an impact it is essential to reach out to other cities and stakeholders. UDG members welcomed the improved public feedback mechanism and in this newsletter you are encouraged to have a look at the actions proposed. There are really exciting and innovative one’s to support, embrace or perhaps…. be critical of. You do not need to comment all actions, only the one’s that you feel like. The floor is yours! But be in time before the process ends – by 16th March.
The UDG members were also informed about the implementation challenges that Partnerships face now and in the months ahead. Once action plans are prepared, they need to be implemented. And keeping the management capacity, funding, capacity and momentum in place requires strong skills and passion. And making links between these actions – also between partnerships – is crucial. These were sufficient content for debate during the two-day Coordinators meeting held on the 7th and 8th March and hosted by the EIB.
Again, there is reason to be proud to be part of the Urban Agenda community, however let’s not forget that the expectations are now even higher to deliver good work, and to make timely impacts that will ultimately benefit the citizens of Europe’s cities.
Jan Maarten de Vet
Director, Ecorys, Technical Secretariat