ing in Strasbourg on september 15thLast meeting of the URBAN Intergroup at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Thursday September 15th, was devoted to the presentation of the European Investment Bank’s emerging response to the Urban Agenda.
At the beginning of the meeting, Gerry Muscat, Head of Urban Development Division, stressed that the European Investment Bank (EIB) actively participated in the consultations of the Pact of Amsterdam. He explained that the Urban Agenda constitutes “a set of principles” which guides the EIB lending for cities, “a framework” to help the EIB providing better urban financing and advice and “a stimulus” to focus the EIB attention on urban issues.
Moreover, it has been recalled that in the Pact of Amsterdam, Ministers invite the EIB to help develop better funding approaches in the urban context, contribute to the partnerships (especially better funding and better knowledge), and to reflect – where relevant – the outcomes of the Urban Agenda for the EU in its urban lending, grant-loan blending and advisory services.
In introduction, Paulius Kulikauskas, Chief of the UN-HABITAT Office for Europe and European institutions, briefly presented the cooperation between UN-HABITAT and DG REGIO in drafting this joint report. As he mentioned, the report marks an important milestone in demonstrating how the experience of the EU could be shared with the spirit of the New Urban Agenda with other parts of the world.
During the last meeting of the URBAN Intregroup, which took place in Strasbourg on 7 July, Mr Hilmar von Lojewski from the German Association of Cities, raised the issue of norms and standardisation in relation to cities.
In the introduction, he shortly explained what is a standard and what does standardisation mean. He stressed at the same time that standardisation is not only a technical issue but political as well. Moreover, standards attempt to be compulsory. Example of standard “sustainable development in communities” and standards on Smart Cities showed that very often European indicators such as The Reference Framework for Sustainable Cities (RFSC) or global indicators like those linked to Sustainable Development Goals are not taken into account. During the discussion it has been mentioned that differentiation between standards for products and services is needed as soon as standards have impact on public budget.
In conclusion, participants agreed that careful monitoring of standardisation processes in relation to cities is needed and standards should be understood from the political perspective. MEPs stressed that in the near future, it will be necessary to check the indicators for example (Which kind of indicators do we use? Are they European? Do they take into account SDGs?), while the EC will present a performance based budget.
The Joint meeting of the URBAN Intergroup and the Intergroup on Active Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity took place on Thursday May 12th at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The main point of the meeting was the discussion on how to apply the Right to the City to older persons and seizing the opportunity of the EU Urban Agenda. Ms Julia Wadoux, policy and project coordinator for Health, New Technologies and Accessibility at AGE Platform Europe presented a broad picture of ageing in the EU, especially in the context of urbanisation. It has been stressed that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the adaptation of physical and social environments to the needs of the ageing population empowers people to age in better physical and mental health. It also promotes their social inclusion and active participation as well as helps them maintain their autonomy and a good quality of life. Moreover, WHO’s “8 areas of age-friendly environments in city” was quickly presented. During the presentation, the problem of age stereotypes and discrimination of old people in society was linked to the right to the city to older persons. The need for solidarity between generations and monitoring ageing has been stressed.
During the discussion, participants agreed that the EU Urban Agenda is a key opportunity for cities to design their age-friendly social and physical environments. MEPs underlined that ageing should be horizontally presented in different partnerships. However, it seems that actually the problem of mobility is central, not only in urban but especially in rural areas. Access to transport would allow older people social inclusion, improve health care, etc.
In conclusions, participants agreed that, in the short term, European and national policies could help to resolve some problems for older people leaving not only in cities. Moreover, long term investments are needed: for example pro-nativity policies to try to stop the consequences of ageing European pollution.
Frank Lee, Head of Financial Instruments Advisory Division from the European Investment Bank, made the presentation “What next after JESSICA? The urban dimension of financial instruments in 2014-2020“. At the beginning of the meeting some reasons of using FI was underlined which are: a more efficient use of public sector resources, especially for revenue generation or cost saving projects; good leverage potential, also through recycling of funds; added financial discipline into the project; possibility of combining them with technical support and/or capital grants to overcome market barriers. In reference to the last point, it has been stressed that particularly in the urban environment there is a need to combine grants with FI and the balance between both is very important.
During the presentation JESSICA initiative was summed up as well as different urban models of using FI in the 2007-2013 financial perspective. Lithuanian case study was highlighted in which combination of loans and grants let renovate multi-apartment buildings. Moreover, Northwest England case study showed how 16 local authorities run Urban Development Fund which provides debt funding for urban regeneration projects. During the debate, MEPs agreed that the FI must be tailored into the local needs. In conclusion, Jan Olbrycht, President of the URBAN Intergroup, underlined that ex-ante conditionality is the way to choose best instrument for concrete challenge and that in general there is a growing debate about the financial instruments inside the cohesion policy.