Corina Creţu, Commissioner for Regional Policy at the European Commission outlines how the Urban Agenda not only benefits cities, but citizens also…
As Commissioner for Regional Policy, my job is to ensure that European Structural and Investment Funds have the greatest impact on the ground in terms of job creation and sustainable growth. It is a fact: evidence has shown that urbanisation and growth go hand in hand. That is why half of the €199bn envelope of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for 2014-2020 will be invested in urban areas. More specifically, around €15bn from the ERDF will be invested in sustainable urban development; a substantial part of which will be directly managed by cities, according to our new regulations.
Europe’s cities have indeed the capacity to find new ways to deal with fast-changing societal, economic and environmental realities. They are the engines of the European economy, providing jobs and services, and serve as catalysts for creativity and innovation.
After 20 years of debate, we are no longer discussing if we need an EU Urban Agenda but rather how we can begin to make it happen. The ambitious objectives set in the EU 2020 Strategy will only be reached with the support and active participation of our cities. The EU Urban Agenda is not an isolated objective in itself. The Agenda is about enabling cities to fully contribute to our shared priorities and deliver concrete benefits for our citizens.
Furthermore I want to underline that the EU Urban Agenda will not be about the EU grabbing new policy competences. It 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.
On 2 June, at the Second European CITIES Forum in Brussels, we unveiled the results of the public consultation on the EU Urban Agenda that we had launched in July 2014. Stakeholders clearly expressed what they expected and on this basis we propose a four pronged approach: to be able to show results we will focus on a few priority areas, such as support to the low carbon economy, sustainable mobility and social inclusion. We will apply better regulation tools effectively, with stronger stakeholder involvement. We will better coordinate existing EU policies with an urban dimension. We will also ensure the availability of quality data, monitoring and benchmarking.
On 10 June in Riga I met the 28 Ministers responsible for territorial cohesion and urban matters and we have been able to agree on the Riga Declaration “Towards an EU Urban Agenda”. The Declaration identifies the key elements and principles that should be taken into account in future work on the development of the EU Urban Agenda.
Particular attention within this declaration is paid to small and medium sized urban areas, as an integral part of the EU Urban Agenda, acknowledging their significant role and potential for balanced territorial development and achievement of common European goals. These cities and towns are close to my heart. Not only do a quarter of our population live in them, but they also function as bridges between the bigger cities and the rural areas and as centres of services and activities in the more sparsely populated areas.
We need a better understanding of the different types of challenges that cities, towns and regions face across Europe.
I am thrilled to have been able to gather the necessary support from our partners in the Members States. We will now work to consolidate and implement the EU Urban Agenda in the coming years.
We have put on a table a roadmap with key deliverables that will help us define and agree upon concrete objectives and actions. This will be crucial in order to arrive at an operational EU Urban Agenda during the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2016. The Riga Declaration and the conclusions we have drawn from our public consultation give us a strong direction where to go. Now it is up to the EU, the Member States and the Cities to deliver.
Commissioner for Regional Policy