Presentation of the Ljubljana Agreement
The most recent online meeting of the URBAN Intergroup was devoted to a discussion on the newly adopted Ljubljana Agreement. This Agreement and its Multiannual Working Program for the Urban Agenda for the EU were approved by EU Ministers responsible for Urban Matters on the 26th of November 2021. Both documents declare support for continuation and further development of the Urban Agenda for the EU, as well as introduces new approaches and emphasises the role of small and medium sized cities.
Jan Olbrycht, President of the URBAN Intergroup, opened the meeting by briefly introducing to the audience the new agreement and reminded them about the previous intergovernmental documents which focus on urban issues such as the Leipzig Charter (2007), the Riga Declaration (2015), the Pact of Amsterdam (2016), the Bucharest Declaration (2019) and the New Leipzig Charter (2020).
Next to speak was Vlad-Marius Botoș, Member of the European Parliament and Vice-Chair of the REGI committee. He underlined that promoting the urban dimension of cohesion policy, which is one of the committee’s core competences, is high up on list of committee priorities. He explained the importance of urban areas and their fight to overcome growing and complex challenges, such us their recent fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In his opinion, the current focus should be directed at measures that might be taken to help the cities, considering their struggles caused by the fight with the virus. “The European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development is committed to enhancing the impact of the Urban Agenda at Union level and welcomes the Ljubljana Agreement”, he added.
Asa Rogelj, Deputy Director General at the Ministry of the environment and spatial planning, representing the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, explained the current Council priorities such as continuation of the Territorial Agenda 2030 implementation. She focused on expanding the path that led to the agreement, its structure and content. The Ljubljana Agreement is a ministerial statement of support for continuation and further development of Urban Agenda for the EU. The document introduces new approaches for strengthening UAEU and emphasises the role of small and medium sized cities. The Multiannual Working Programme for the Urban Agenda for the EU – the Next Generation is an operational framework for the cooperation in 2021 – 2026. She also presented the audience with the roadmap of planned future priorities that the European Union will focus on, leading to new partnerships and final revision of the Multiannual Working Programme for the UAEU. 4 new themes will be added to the list of existing 14 UAEU priority themes: Cities of Equality, Food, Greening Cities, Sustainable Tourism. During 2022, partnership on Greening Cities and Sustainable Tourism will be set up.
Dorthe Nielsen, Executive Director of Eurocities, and Frédéric Vallier, CEMR Secretary General, presented their assessment of the Ljubljana Agreement. They underlined that this is a strong political document, which reflects growing recognition of the role of cities in policy implementation. The diversification of tools and technical support for the work of partnerships is still needed on the ground. They underlined that the Urban Agenda for the EU and its different thematic partnerships are still valid among different new instruments and initiatives. UAEU secures multilevel governance approach and involves urban authorities to reflect on new priority themes. Next step should be that cities are not only partners but also “shapers” of EU policies.
The meeting was concluded by a debate moderated by Andreas Scheider, Vice-President of the URBAN Intergroup, during which Asa Rogelj, Dorothe Nielsen and Frédéric Vallier answered questions asked by the audience. The participants asked about future partnerships, urban agenda preparatory groups and means that can be taken in order to guarantee their best output, and the order in which future steps would be taken.