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.
EU Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities
The last event of the URBAN Intergroup on 19 November was dedicated to the presentation of the EU Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities which is one of 5 Horizon Europe missions. This mission will support, promote and showcase 100 European cities in their systemic transformation towards climate neutrality by 2030 and turn these cities into experimentation and innovation hubs for all cities. This will be done through a multi-level and co-creative process formalised in Climate City Contracts, tailored to the specific situation of each city.
Fabienne Keller, Vice-president of the URBAN Intergroup and former mayor of Strasbourg, opened the webinar by recalling that mayors have been working very hard for many years now to reach the target of climate-neutral cities. This is a very ambitious target and the EU should support investments and actions in cities. She stressed that the EUmust help cities to provide better living environment, cleaner air, less congestion and less noise for people.
Professor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Chair of the Mission Board for the Cities Mission and former Mayor of Warsaw, expressed satisfaction that the European Commission has adopted the Mission Board concept and largely implemented it. She explained the difference between previous EU-funded projects for the cities and this mission by underlining that the mission is not sectoral but an overarching, holistic and innovative strategy. This “Cities’ Mission” will also focus on delivering greater synergies and complementarities with other EU programs whilst helping cities to deliver on the twin objectives of the Mission: to achieve climate neutrality in 100 European smart cities until 2030; to disseminate this programme. She underlined the importance of pulling different resources and innovative solutions in order to achieve the goals.
Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director General of DG MOVE, manager of the EU Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities, emphasised that the European Green Deal has to be Green but also a Deal. “To make it happen, it should be done for and with citizens – and this is the approach as well in the Cities’ Mission”, he said. After COP26, we start globally to move from negotiation into implementation and the Cities’ Mission might be vital as a micro action to implement the macro objectives of the European Green Deal and the EU global ambition. 75% of Europeans live in cities and it is where the European Green Deal set at EU and national level, will be implemented. The local level is where policy meets people.
Improving legislation on short-term rental platforms for a better cohabitation
Short-term rental platforms and their impact on the real estate sector and cities in Europe was the topic of the last online seminar co-organised by the URBAN Intergroup and the European Association of Real Estate Professions (CEPI), which is also one of the Intergroup’s official partners.
Jan Olbrycht, President of the URBAN Intergroup, opened the seminar by welcoming the discussion and clarified the importance of the phenomenon of short-term rental platforms and its impact on tourism, housing and the real estate sector in general, as well as on urban developments in European cities.
Elisabeth Rohr -de Wolf, CEPI Secretary-General, underlined that the European Association of Real Estate Professions (CEPI) was happy to co-organise this session on short-term rental platforms (STRs) together with the URBAN Intergroup as it brought together many of the key players involved in the field enabling all to discuss the different challenges and opportunities surrounding STRs. In her opening address, Elisabeth Rohr -de Wolf, underlined that CEPI does not intend to promote a pro/anti narrative in this field. She suggested the need for a better understanding of this relatively new ecosystem, highlighting the requirement to study its potential in the sharing economy, as well as ensuring that appropriate regulation remains in place for the benefit of all. The ultimate aim, she concluded, is not to discriminate against alternative business models but to ensure a level playing field for all involved parties.
During the first panel discussion, Federico Ranuzzi de’ Bianchi, CEPI Vice-President (FIAIP, Italy), recalled that the short-term rental system is not only proposed by big online platforms but by real estate agencies as well. This type of rentals, in fact, is not only destined to tourists but it is also relevant for mobile workers and students. Luis de Prado, CEPI Vice-President (CGCAFE, Spain), underlined the need for reflection on how real estate and property management agencies on one side, and online short-term rental platforms on the other, could beneficially co-exist on the market. He emphasised that platforms should encourage their customers to respect rules concerning the quality of life of inhabitants and that more control of customers’ inappropriate behaviours should be put in place in order to avoid potential conflicts in the buildings. He called for a better organisation of this section of the rental market in order to find the best ways of coexistence between different operators.
European Cities alliance on Short Term Holiday Rentals- Feedback on the Inception Impact Assessments on Short-term rental initiatives
Covenant of Mayors for a climate-neutral Europe-last event
Members and partners of the URBAN Intergroup had a chance to listen to a presentation of the Covenant of Mayors for a climate-neutral Europe last Friday (October 8th).
The Covenant of Mayors is the world’s largest movement for local climate and energy actions. It gathers more than 10.000 local authorities across Europe whose vision is to accelerate the decarbonisation of their territories, strengthen their capacity to adapt to unavoidable climate change impacts, and allow their citizens to access secure, sustainable and affordable energy.
Jan Olbrycht, President of the URBAN Intergroup, recalled at the opening of the event the beginnings of the Covenant, and some raising questions about the status and ownership of this bottom-up network of Mayors. After all those years of activities, the Covenant of Mayors is, according to Jan Olbrycht, “very well known, stable and a prestigious Pact”. He underlined as well the engagement of the European Parliament and the warm words of EP President David Sassoli that “Mayors’ actions will provide concrete results for the European Green deal”, during the Covenant of Mayors – Europe Ceremony 2021 that took place the day before the URBAN Intergroup event. Jan Olbrycht finally reminded the role of local authorities in the implementation of EU policies and targets on the ground: “We need a clear voice coming from the cities especially ahead of negotiations of the Fit for 55 package.”
Eero Ailio, Adviser on Energy Transition and Local Governance, from the European Commission DG Energy and Frédéric Boyer, Head of the Covenant of Mayors Office Europe, jointly presented the achievements and future challenges of the Covenant of Mayors. To set the scene, they recalled the major legislative proposals setting EU climate and energy ambitions, starting with the publication of the Green Deal in December 2019, the European climate Law (March 2020), the 2030 Climate Target Plan (September 2020) and finally the Fit for 55 package (published in July 2021). In this particular context, they showed how the Covenant of Mayors’ bottom-up approach to climate and energy ambitions of the EU. Moreover, the Covenant of Mayors in Europe community brings more than 10 thousand European local governments, which are committed to meet or exceed EU climate and energy targets from 2020 to 2030 and 2050 climate neutrality. This is the largest initiative of its kind in the world. It has been recalled how in 2016 the European Covenant of Mayors became the Global Covenant of Mayors with the engagement of Michael Bloomberg. Thanks to the support of several Commissions DGs and the pooling of different financial sources from EU Funds, the European Union invested in regional offices of the Global Covenant of Mayors.
Last event on the EU´s Affordable Housing Initiative
The URBAN Intergroup had a pleasure to co-organise with the Housing Partnership of the Urban Agenda for the EU an online seminar on “the Affordable Housing Initiative – Co-creation of liveable neighbourhoods with cities and citizens” on Friday, September 17th.
In his introductory speech, Andreas Schieder, Vice-president of the URBAN Intergroup, underlined that affordable housing has become a pressing issue. More and more people are searching for an affordable place to live and accommodation is more and more expensive: that is why the EU, national and local policies can contribute to find solutions to tackle holistically housing issues. Exchanging new solutions and ideas is key.
As former coordinator of the Housing Partnership, Michaela Kauer, Director of the Brussels Office of the City of Vienna, set the scene of housing in Europe and presented findings of the UAEU Partnership, which was conducted between 2015 and 2018. She highlighted that the support of the European Parliament and the URBAN Intergroup was key to set up the whole EU Urban Agenda process. Moreover, she reminded how partners advocated since 2019 the promotion and implementation of the Partnership’s policy recommendations for better regulation, better funding and better knowledge.
Elena Szolgayová, former coordinator of the Partnership from the Slovak Ministry for Construction and Co-Chair of the Housing 2030 project, presented the joint initiative of UNECE (The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), UN-Habitat and Housing Europe with a focus on affordable and social housing and housing finances. “Housing 2030” works in 4 fields such as housing governance and regulation (including measuring housing affordability), access to finance and funding, access and availability of land for housing construction and climate-neutral housing construction and renovation. She summarised findings of “Housing 2030” project and announced upcoming launch of the final report.
Housing challenges in the EU – Presentation of Michaela Kauer, coordinators of the UAEU Housing Partnership 2015-2018, and Elena Szolgayová, Co-Chair of the Housing 2030 project
The European Responsible Housing Initiative – Presentation of Barbara Steenbergen, Director of Brussels Office of the International Union of Tenants