Manifesto for Metropolitan Partnerships
On 8 November 2023, the Urban Intergroup welcomed METREX to an event to discuss a Manifesto for Metropolitan Partnerships. MEPs and deputy Mayors from across Europe to discuss the 7-point manifesto from METREX, which has high ambitions to change the relationship between the EU and metropolitan-level government. The event was moderated by Henk Bouwman and MEP Fabienne Keller. METREX is a network of over 50 European metropolitan regions and areas and exists to share practical solutions to address local and regional challenges and aspirations.
In opening the event Jan Olbrycht, Member of the European Parliament and president of the Urban Intergroup, urged METREX to focus efforts on the people who will prepare the next European budget, work on which will begin after the coming elections. Mr Olbrycht set a cautious context, outlining changes being discussed at the European Commission including a possible merger of the Committee of the Regions with Employment. This change, for example, would have a serious effect on the Cohesion Policy, on which so many regions and areas rely for funding.
Jakub Mazur, the first deputy mayor of Wrocław and president of METREX, opened with a reckoning on Europe’s changing position in the world. Mr. Mazur cited a Financial Times report that compared the EU and US economies, which 20 years ago were almost on par. Today, however, the EU economy only measures in at 65 percent. Mr. Mazur believes that the answer to rebuilding Europe’s global position is Metropolitan Partnerships – the theme behind the Manifesto. “It is a new era for metropolitan areas”, said Mr. Mazur, calling for significant new financial and structural backing to see that these Partnerships can help Europe regain its global competitiveness.
The manifesto was presented by Łukasz Medeksza, a member of the METREX board and from municipality of Wrocław. Mr. Medeksza spoke about the interconnections and richness of metropolitan regions being a defining factor behind their potential. Metropolitan regions can aim big in terms of inward investment, with Mr. Medeksza citing a new semi-conductor facility due to bring around 2,000 jobs to the region around Wrocław. This, Mr. Medeksza said, points to the fact that real metropolitan areas are not solely about public institutions, but rather they are a mesh of public, private and other sectors. Mr. Medeksza reported that metropolitan regions and areas are home to over 60 percent of Europe’s citizens, with 80 percent of migrants settling within them. But while they produce nearly 70 percent of EU GDP, they account for around 70 percent of emissions. Which on one hand means they are a useful place to focus attention on climate mitigation measures.
Speaking about the latent potential of metropolitan regions, Mr. Medeksza highlighted their varied institutional structures as one of the stalling points to greater success. This varied and sometimes informal governance has proven difficult for the EU to grasp. ‘Metropolitan Partnerships’ is therefore a useful umbrella under which to organise and present an identity. Metropolitan Partnerships are not only relationships between actors within territorial areas, but also with European institutions.
The EU has always been a “club of states”, said Mr. Medeksza, however he stressed that the metropolitan level is the obvious actor to deliver objectives such as green deal and tackle challenges like housing and migration. Above all, Mr. Medeksza said, “our manifesto is about rediscovering the real engines of Europe in turbulent times of global change. It is about making the EU more efficient. About regaining the global competitive position of the EU, and preserving quality of life.”
Representing the department of strategic development and cooperation in the city of Brno and the Eurocities working group on metropolitan governance, František Kubeš spoke about a lack of formal structure and recognition for the metropolitan level in Czechia. Despite this, Brno has been active in working where possible at the metropolitan level to solve certain challenges. Mr. Kubeš spoke about his positive experience of using the ITI instrument – Integrated Territorial Investments – which has given Brno the license to operate at this level, the results of which have been very successful. Mr Kubeš welcomed the manifesto as a way to advocate for positive change.
A panel of European and local politicians, moderated by the vice president of the Urban Intergroup, MEP Fabienne Keller, was asked to respond to the manifesto and its seven calls-to-action.
Marco Griguolo, the deputy mayor of the metropolitan city of Milan, praised metropolitan regions as one of the principal actors to achieve European goals. Mr. Griguolo called for formal recognition nationally and internationally of a metropolitan level that is adaptive to the many and diverse issues Europe faces. Mr Griguolo reinforced the Manifesto’s call for a commissioner dedicated to the metropolitan dimension, which could support the international coordination and development of this level. Enhancing links was a strong theme promoted by Mr. Griguolo, who called for better physical connections between people, markets and institutions, a position Milan understands well a major transport hub and a gateway between Italy and Europe.
Gianana Panatau, the general director of the Bucharest Metropolitan Area lntercommunity Development Association, welcomed the manifesto’s position in advocating for a metropolitan funding program. This level of backing would give metropolitan areas a stronger voice, according to Ms. Panatau, and the means to include a wider array of stakeholders in development processes. Ms. Panatau spoke about the need for greater parity between a strong city and its peri-urban and rural neighbours. Adding that it is not enough to have a buoyant city in isolation – quality of life comes from economic development, not just economic growth. Overall, Ms Panatau believes, the demands within the manifesto will help to make sustainable development projects easier to deliver, bringing citizens a better quality of life.
MEP Ros, who is the Socialists coordinator for REGI Committee, spoke about the importance of a new institutional framework that compliments metropolitan regions and areas, which in turn would boost efforts against climate change, war, housing and the effects of Covid. Mobility, home working and different lifestyle choices are impacting the social and physical composition of cities and Mr. Ros therefore welcomed the timing of the manifesto and the call for wider use of metropolitan partnerships. Mr. Ros welcomed also the focus on different dimensions from urban to rural, but suggested the inclusion of ‘peri-urban’ areas which are, within his native Spain, complex spaces to analyse and understand. Concluding, Mr. Ros called for more widespread territorial planning, which he believes would bring about more coordinated development across metropolitan regions and areas. This form of approach would also enhance of the prospects of integrating the territorial agenda for 2023 which, Mr. Ros believes, has not yet been implemented successfully.
Robert van Asten, deputy mayor of The Hague, gave his support for the manifesto and offered context about the challenges that the metropolitan level can tackle in the metropolitan region of Rotterdam / The Hague (MRDH). MRDH includes some large cities and key sites such as the harbour of Rotterdam, and therefore, according to Mr. Van Asten, some significant spatial challenges such as housing and mobility. Mr. Van Asten supported the idea of metropolitan areas being at the table when policies are made, which would bring the unique sensitivity and perspective that comes from the spatial level. Mr. Van Asten ended with a pledge to help initiate an intergroup within the European Parliament dedicated to metropolitan regions and areas. This, according to Mr. Van Asten, would allow colleagues to collaborate and come together around their interest in metropolitan regions and areas.
MEP Andrey Novakov, member of the European Parliament and member of the REGI committee, recalled a recent mission to Ukraine to meet Kyiv mayor Klitschko. Here, Mr. Novakov saw first-hand the “immense power” that comes from unity and cooperation between the city and surrounding villages that comprise the metropolitan level. Mr. Novakov is involved in evaluating and advising on the Committee of Regional Development. For the first time this analysis includes the NUTS 3 level to capture the success of projects at the local political level. What is emerging is a difficult position for the EU with regards to access – and perceived access – to funding. If projects are deemed a success, this is because of an effective local politician. If the projects fail, it is the result of complex funding requirements imposed by the EU. Mr. Novakov therefore called for greater simplicity for cities and regions to access necessary funding. The RRF (recovery and resilience funds) was a popular and effective source of funding precisely because it was relatively quick and easy to access.
Mr. Olbrycht closed the event by describing metropolitan regions as “a concrete solution for the problems that exist between urban and rural areas”. Mr. Olbrycht urged METREX to focus the manifesto campaign on the right people in the European Parliament: look to those that will work across political parties, and to those who are the future of the EU, such as the young MEPs present on the panel today.
Please find the full text of the Manifesto here.
Fostering multilevel dialogue for SDG implementation
On October 24th of 2023, Urban Intergroup together with CEMR hold a two-hour event to discuss the challenges and opportunities for local and regional governments on how to successfully achieve the SDGs by 2030. This also was the opportunity to learn about different EU initiatives and tools supporting cities in their SDGs path.
Jan Olbrycht MEP (EPP, PL) introduced the discussion giving an open perspective about the urban issues in the EU, how the European Parliament and the European institutions are facing these problems, implementing the Urban Agenda correlated with the New Urban Agenda of the United Nations.
Gail McGregor (CEMR) mentioned that the conclusion of the New Urban Agenda of UN is clear: the subnational levels can play an important role in the implementation of SDGs. The regional reviews of the SDG’s implementation are important to get disaggregated information, but also, it is vital to highlight the subnational and local volunteer review of SDGs implementation, because this is the way to engage the citizens, maximising the participation of the youth, women and vulnerable people.
Bolstering synergies between level of governance
Lucian Parvolescu (European Commission) SDGs are priority for the EU, that is why the Commission is looking to connect SDGs with the political program and the policy making on the internal and the external action. Some internal examples are the European Green Deal, the Recovery and Resilience Plan, SDGs are mainstream in the annual work programs in the Commission, the Eurostat Monitoring Report, etc. The EU is building a European consensus and collaborating with the European member states for the implementation of the SDGs, the EU voluntary review. Furthermore, The EU is actively encouraging the participation of citizens, businesses and stakeholders.
The Commission have arrived to a conclusion and it is that there has been progress in the achievement of 2030 agenda and many of the SDGs, but after the war, energetic crisis and COVID – 19 pandemic the advances have been slower than before. Nevertheless, many of the EU programs as the Green Deal need some time to show results, but the Commission hopes that this results can influence positively the SDGs.
Bruno Bessis (Councillor from French Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion), in France the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion has been developing sustainable city policies since 15 years ago at the light of the sustainable city plan. Since 2019, France has been adopting the 2030 agenda and developed some indicators to follow all of the advances in the implementation of strategies into the public policies to improve the social and environmental issues in the cities. France thinks that it is necessary to tackle six specific challenges for the regional and local levels to reach the SDGs. These challenges are:
- Acting for just transition by combating all forms of discrimination and inequalities, and guarantying the same rights and opportunities for all.
- Transforming business model by reducing the carbon emissions and saving natural resources to help protect the climate, the planet and biodiversity.
- Relay on lifelong education and training to enable a change in behavior and lifestyle adopted to the world we are building into the challenges of SDGs.
- Promote the earth and wellbeing of all in particular through healthy sustainable food and farming.
- Make citizens participation in achieving the SDGs a reality and transform practices by strengthening local experimentation and innovation.
- Build a sustainable European and international transformation.
In addition, France is strongly supporting the development of the reference framework for sustainable cities as a way to be aware of the importance of the local levels in the implementation and achievement of the SDGs.
Vitor Aleixo (Mayor of Loule, Portugal), in Portugal, work on the SDGs has been carried out in different spaces and actions not only at the national level, but also at the local level. This has been mainly from the Prime Minister’s office to the national association of municipalities, who have been developing strategies that include local actors such as business, civil society and universities in the creation and implementation of strategies for the development and fulfilment of the SDGs.
However, these actions must be seen beyond the local and national levels. In addition, at the regional level, the participation of the EU has been of paramount importance in the training already provided for the fulfilment of the SDGs. Despite this, there is still pending task to be carried out in the development of strategies for the SDGs and that is the dissemination of these strategies and their results to civil society in general. If there is no clear dissemination of progress, it will be increasingly difficult to involve new actors who are extremely necessary for the achievement of these objectives. Non-institutional actors must be more directly included in decision-making and in the development of strategies in order to obtain increasingly stronger results at the local levels.
Eva Banos de Guisasola (CEMR/PLATFORMA) showed the results of the European Territories Localise the SDGs. This study is based on a joint survey conducted in February 2023 by CEMR, PLATFORMA and UCLG, which coordinated with all its regional sections to produce a parallel global report on the implementation of the SDGs. Its purpose was to collect the most recent information on how and to what extent Local and Regional Development Government Associations and networks have been involved in localising the SDGs, both in Europe and among their global peers.
One of the most important result was the progress in raising awareness of the SDGs among citizens and municipal officials. Compared with 2022, progress this year has been deemed increasingly “medium” with 5% stating that progress had been “limited” compared to last year.
At the same time, there is a high level of interest in promoting or actively participating in concrete activities to raise awareness and spread the knowledge of SDGs among the population and local stakeholders in recent years. More than half of the respondents implemented strong and regular actions, while 22% developed limited actions, 20% reported average mobilisation and 5% did not take any specific action. This is only a part of all the inform data obtained by CEMR and PLATFORMA.
To finalise, Ms. Banos presented seven recommendations:
- For its first EU Voluntary Review, in reporting on any progress made in achieving the SDGs in Europe, it should be very clearly indicated by the European Union how the different levels of governance and civil society organisations have contributed to this process.
- National governments and the EU should accelerate the localisation and territorialisation of the SDGs. To do this, they need to give Local and Regional Governments appropriate autonomy of action adequate means and resources to implement the 2030 Agenda in their communities. All directives and new initiatives and finds must be developed in close consultation with LRGs and their representative associations in order to determine whether the necessary transformation can actually materialise on the ground.
- The production of VLRs and VSRs, as tools to engage with citizens, must be further encouraged and integrated in the VNRs. It would help raise people’s awareness and broaden their knowledge of global challenges, thus reinforcing the capacity of all to implement the necessary societal change.
- VNRs need to include relevant disaggregated data and information for subnational level. Consequently, LRGs call for the unwavering recognition and inclusion by national governments of LRGs and their associations in their monitoring and reporting of progress in the implementation of SDGs
- The EU institution and European States should give political space and recognition to LRGs by establishing regular dialogue with subnational levels and by including local elected representatives in their delegations to any relevant high-level meetings.
- International cooperation to achieve the 2030 Agenda at the local and regional levels is crucial and LRGs are asking for more support to accomplish this. Sharing and learning among peers in Europe and further afield can bring positive change at local level and improve local public policies through co-inspiration.
The true implementation of SDGs will not transpire without the specific inclusion of youth, women and vulnerable groups in decision-making and related activities to contribute to achieving the SDGs.
Experiences of effective SDGs implementation
Pedro Bizarro (CEMR) spoke about how the reference framework for sustainable cities works. It assists cities in translating this European vision of sustainable cities into practice. These strategies have a connection, as well, with the cities implementation of the New Leipzig Charter.
There is a 3-step process to implement this framework:
- Identifying priorities, translating SDGs to the local processes.
- Identify what the cities are already doing for implementing the SDGs.
- Monitoring and evaluation defining an own system of indicators for each city.
At the end, it is so important to sharing knowledge with the other city participants, comparing data about the indicator results showed in the Local and Regional Voluntary Reviews. This is an important activity to learning from each other and be aware of the advances and improve opportunities each city.
Jonas Scholze (European Urban Initiative) highlighted what the European Urban Initiative is doing for the achieving of SDGs in Europe. The European Urban Initiative (EUI), funded by the European Union, supports urban areas of all sizes with innovative actions, capacity and knowledge building, as well as policy development and communication on sustainable urban development.
The EUI offers strengthening capacities for cities in design in sustainable urban development strategies, policies and practices in an integrated and participative way. Furthermore, funding innovative actions in cities and sharing knowledge and capitalising on experiences are, as well, work of this organisation. Mr Scholze, showed how advanced EUI is in its work with the cities and how it is affecting the implementation of the SDGs at the local levels.
Stina Heikkila (URBACT) mentioned how URBACT is supporting the SDGs localisation. URBACT promotes integrated development to support cities implement horizontal and vertical policy integration. Positive change can best be made when local authorities collaborate with different levels of governance (regional, national, EU) –vertical integration – and when they tackle challenges and problems in a holistic way that considers environmental, economic, and social dimensions at the same time – horizontal integration. In addition, it is so important to take into account to the citizens as an actor who legitimates all of the actions done by the multilevel authorities. This helps to build trust around the SDGs implementation.
Iraklis Stamos (Joint Research Centre) spoke about the pilot project ‘Monitoring the SDGs in the EU regions – Filling the data gaps – REGIONS2030’, launched by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, in collaboration with the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy for Eurostat and with the support of the European Parliament and the European Committee of Regions. This project is a follow-up to the latest report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which the report incentivises the creation of indicators to design a monitoring system for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at their territorial level.
Mr Stamos showed some of the indicators used by the JRC to following the advances in the SDGs implementation in the local, regional and national levels, looking for an approach of localisation of the strategies and taking into account all of the differences and particularities between the different cities and regions in the EU.
Please see the presentations shown during the meeting: