3 July 2023

Manifesto for Metropolitan Europe

On 27 June 2023, the Urban Intergroup welcomed METREX to an event to discuss a manifesto that it is developing to promote the concept of a new, metropolitan approach to Europe. 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.


MEP Andreas Scheider, Vice President of the Intergroup, introduced the event and highlighted the knowhow within the Intergroup in terms of urban and metropolitan issues. The Intergroup speaks often about the deep crises we are in, from finance and refugees through to Covid and the climate. Mr Scheider highlighted the intense and ongoing discussions that take place in the European Parliament on issues such as the Nature Restoration Law, and the impact of these changes on citizens.


Jakub Mazur, First Deputy Mayor of Wrocław and President of METREX, welcomed guests to this discussion which he said was critical to the future of cities, regions and the organisations that are shaping Europe. Mr Mazur spoke about the Manifesto in the context of the 27-year life span of METREX, during which Europe has changed significantly. The Manifesto, Mr Mazur said, is about presenting a new vision of Europe, that is supplemented with the metropolitan dimension.


Łukasz Medeksza, the Deputy Director of the City Development and Strategy Department for the City of Wrocław and Managing Committee Member of METREX, gave a briefing on the Manifesto and an introduction to metropolitan areas. With over 60% of Europe’s population living in them, 70% of Europe’s GDP generated in them, and 81% of migrants choosing them as their destination, metropolitan areas are an important component in Europe’s DNA.


The metropolitan agenda is on the rise globally, demonstrated three weeks ago by the United Nations’ adoption of a resolution that underlines the role of metropolitan governance in addressing the Sustainable Development Goals. The resolution openly calls on national governments to strengthen the metropolitan dimension. This is what the Manifesto calls for in Europe. Above all, it is about urban and rural balance.


During the drafting of the Manifesto, the term “metropolitan partnerships” has been adopted to represent the “metropolitan state of mind”, which METREX says includes cross-border, multi-actor, multi-level approaches.


Within the Manifesto is a series of 12 demands. Six are aimed at the EU and include attaining a greater say on the direction of policies, a dedicated ‘metropolitan programme 2050’ in the MFF (Multi Financial Framework), and a Commissioner with Metropolitan Partnerships within their portfolio, amongst other things. The remaining six are aimed at national governments, which calls for capacity building and benchmarking, regulations to be adopted on things such as spatial planning, and national programmes dedicated to metropolitan regions and areas.


Markku Markkula, Vice President of the Committee of the Regions and President of the Helsinki-Uusimaa Region, spoke about how the Helsinki-Uusimaa region coordinates action in partnerships with the participating municipalities. Helsinki-Uusimaa has three measurable targets as a region: to hit carbon neutrality by 2030; reach 5% GDP in research and development; raise employment to 80%.


Mr. Markkula spoke about the metropolitan level taking on the role of ‘future planners’ to work out what sort of places are wanted, and what is required to deliver them. While the city is a platform tackle specific agendas such as the circular economy and data economy, the regional level is about collaboration between places to share and amplify the best instruments to reach the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Emiel Reiding, Secretary Director of the Metropolitan Region of Amsterdam (MRA), explained about the informal nature of the newly formed MRA, which is a collaboration of 30 municipalities, two regions and a transport authority. It is a voluntary agreement, but collaboration is growing. Their focus includes spatial planning, and within that some specific areas such as mobility, housing, industry and energy. Their goal is to create a sustainable economy. The size of these challenges necessitates that they work and think at a larger, metropolitan scale. When problems are intertwined, solutions should be too.


The informal nature of the MRA is an advantage and allows flexibility to incorporate differing goals between the partners. The MRA does not have any decision-making powers – this is left to the municipal level – but it does advise and influence direction. The importance of the MRA to its partners is demonstrated by the new addition of a permanent member of staff in Brussels.


Discussion with the audience


Greater collaboration
Mr. Markkula suggested that the scale of the challenges faced, and indeed the aspirations that are called for, will require greater collaboration. Whether it is Amsterdam’s move towards a circular economy, or Helsinki’s regional masterplan covering urban to rural areas, big transformations are required where multiple actors in the region, such as universities, can be mobilised.


It was questioned what type of stakeholders are being included and whether this has already extended to industries such as retail and wholesale, particularly as they will play a big role in actions on circularity. Metropolitan Partnerships such as the MRA can be described as a quadruple helix as it already includes society, industry, government, academia.


A fair and equitable system
It was questioned to what extent human rights features within the manifesto and therefore at the metropolitan level. In response, Mr. Mazur commented that reaching all SDGs, including human rights, is the foundation of the Manifesto. And behind this, social prosperity and equality is at the heart of the policies of all Europe’s Metropolitan Regions and Areas.


Mr. Mazur gave the example of his city Wrocław, which has welcomed 250.000 Ukrainian refugees, often learning in the moment what is required. The ability for Metropolitan Regions and Areas to respond to human rights is however decided at the national level. Defining ‘metropolitan citizenship’ is becoming a challenge, with circa 30% of Wrocław’s population, who as Ukrainian immigrants are unable to vote, not having a say in city decision-making. This has a huge implication on not only service provision but also the making of a cohesive city.


Basic human rights are also linked to provision and access to vital services such as water, energy and food. This will become increasingly difficult as resources become ever scarcer. It was suggested that collaboration at the metropolitan scale – the ‘metropolitan partnership’ approach’ – can provide a fair approach to ecosystem management and thus avoid conflict.


Within this approach, collaboration between urban and rural areas will also play a big role in a fair and equitable system. Each has a role to play in providing what is collectively needed to sustain and enhance life; the rural area could provide water, food and energy, while the urban area can provide human capital and more concentrated services.


Spatial planning to solve big issues
How spatial planning – the likes of which is done at the metropolitan level – can be leveraged to address crises facing Europe is an issue being explored by Eurocities. METREX through the Manifesto was urged to look in particular at how spatial planning can be used to reach climate neutrality, a subject which the commentor believed that the metropolitan level can do more to address.


The right governance in the right place
A representative of the Covenant of Mayors questioned adding further levels of governance and stressed the importance of connection to national-level governance. Cities are often said to be in the driving seat in the response to challenges and therefore they need support. But they need the right conditions to scale and accelerate, which are often set at the national level. Effective legislation should therefore be set to enable more effective collaboration between all levels of governance. It was clarified that the Manifesto calls for better use of existing layers – not the addition of new layers. Helping each other by coordinating resources and bringing stronger collaboration.


As formal, or not, as required
Not all metropolitan regions and areas seek greater formalisation and Metropolitan Partnerships are about employing the right system for the partners involved and according to the goals at hand. Some will respond better to a formalised partnership, while others will work better within a looser structure. The MRA, for instance, has established an informal and flexible approach, where its role is to advise the partners on decisions, not take decisions itself. However, in the Italian context, a formal structure led to a national metropolitan programme, which otherwise would not have happened.


Metropolregion Rheinland supported the notion that installing a new layer of formal governance would not bring additional solutions. However, what is important is to provide a platform for many and diverse actors to work together towards solutions. Metropolitan Partnerships offer this and the possibility for playing a greater role in shaping Europe by offering views and solutions from both urban and rural areas.


Funding was raised as a potential issue with informality, where funders seek assurances from contracts and formal bodies. The METREX Secretary General called for help in defining the undefinable: to close the gap between tightly defining a project or partnership to win funding yet retaining informality. One answer, provided by Metropolregion Rheinland, was to establish a firm mandate as a region, backed by either a formal or informal partnership according to the context.


Metropolitan Partnerships are on a basic level also about pooling knowledge on how to work towards the SDGs. From different sectors, such as academia, the private sector and civil society. This link to the SDGs, including human rights, should be stressed in the Manifesto.


Specificity, realism and taking a risk on uniting big and small
Summing up the meeting, Jan Olbrycht MEP proposed the Urban Intergroup as a bridge to the European Parliament. In winning support for the Manifesto, Mr Olbrycht urged for the most appropriate and efficient tactics, rather than courting the ceremony that accompanies the European institutions.


Mr Olbrycht urged realism in terms of what the Manifesto calls for, and to be precise in terms of what it calls for. For example, the Manifesto promotes partnerships, rather than contracts. This is the more difficult approach, especially as is tried to marry big and small, urban and rural – and within this, different functions. However, this complex aspiration is what can set the Manifesto apart, by taking the risk to link big cities and rural areas. Afterall, everyone claims that this is an important goal, but no one is doing it.


Finally, Mr Olbrycht urged the Manifesto to focus on more than cohesion as this will only lead to a limited view and influence. A wider focus that includes all SDGs such as energy and climate will lead to greater impact. This point is especially true as in some member states, cohesion policy is simply not a priority.


Please find the full text of the Manifesto here.

9 March 2023

New Urban Mobility Framework: What’s new for active and micro-mobility?

On March 7th 2023, the European Parliament’s Urban Intergroup and Micro-Mobility for Europe jointly organized a debate about active and micro-mobility in the context of the New Urban Mobility Framework. The event aimed to discuss the challenges and opportunities of these alternative modes of transportation in urban areas and their potential to improve the sustainability and efficiency of urban mobility.


The debate brought together various stakeholders, including Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), representatives of the micro-mobility industry, urban planners, and experts in sustainable mobility. Participants highlighted the importance of active and micro-mobility in achieving the goals of the New Urban Mobility Framework, which seeks to promote sustainable, low-emission, and efficient mobility in urban areas.


One of the main topics discussed during the debate was the need to provide dedicated infrastructure for active and micro-mobility, such as cycling lanes and safe spaces for pedestrians. Participants also emphasized the importance of harmonizing technical standards for personal mobility devices to ensure safety and prevent high-speed accidents.


Members of the European Parliament: Andrey Novakov, Andreas Schieder, Ciaran Cuffe, and Marcos Ros Sempere spoke at the event, highlighting the role of public transport as the backbone of urban mobility and the need for a modal shift towards more sustainable and active means of transportation. They also called for the allocation of more funds for active and micro-mobility infrastructure and the promotion of a variety of mobility solutions to improve citizens’ quality of life.


Representatives from the micro-mobility industry, including Pedro Homem de Gouveia from POLIS and Pauline Aymonier from Micro-Mobility for Europe, emphasized the importance of micro-mobility as a complement to public transport, walking, and cycling, and as a ,,gateway drug” to active mobility. They also highlighted the potential of shared micro-mobility services to replace car trips and reduce emissions, as well as the need for a level-playing field among different modes of transportation. The audience also participated in the debate, raising concerns about the lack of technical specifications for personal mobility devices and the need for more data on the modal shift towards active and micro-mobility. They also called for applying sustainable urban mobility indicators to shared mobility services and addressing the challenge of providing sufficient space for micro-mobility infrastructure in cities.


Speaker’s statements


MEP Andrey Novakov (EPP, BG) stated that “we need to create a common standard for micro-mobility which is in the interest of the industry. These standards would make everybody safe and tolerant of the vehicle”. Furthermore, he acknowledged the role micro-mobility can play in particular for first and last-mile trips and called for the coexistence of modes. MEP also said that we need to make all types of transport affordable and safe recognising the needs of every citizens in urban area. Mr Novakov highlighted that we need to focus on using EU funds to reorganise public space, stating that new EU fund are needed in order to make a long lasting change in urban areas. ,,Petrol cars are now the only way to access remote and rural areas especially” – MEP said, proposing that all kinds of transport should be included in cities. He also stated that micro – mobility can support physical activities, especially bikes, electrical or non – electrical. MEP Novakov thinks that it is the future of the railway and other ways of transport to seal CO2 emissions. MEP believes that in order to push forward the micro-mobility industry we have to make the users feel safe. Member States should invest a lot in the infrastructure, which is safe, and that will let people to get much easier access to use for example bikes or scooters. And for that we need some common standards.


MEP Andreas Schieder (S&D, AT) identified public transport as the backbone of urban mobility and agreed that we want to have a strong modal split between the different modes of transport and emphasised his commitment to decarbonise urban mobility and working towards the implementation of sustainable urban mobility strategies. MEP Schieder also said that there is a big need of discussion on European Policies and Frameworks, encouraging to a large discussion about EU Policies in urban areas. He also stated that ,,there is not only one unified approach to those issues, sometimes there are different realities and different approaches, and we need to look onto those issues deeper”. He also added that New Urban Mobility Framework work – in – progress final negotiations are getting closer to the end in the European Parliament. At the end of the discussion, MEP expressed that the New Urban Mobility Framework is a way to implement better changes for cities – less noise, less pollution, more mobility and also better life conditions.


MEP Ciaran Cuffe (Greens/EFA, IE) acknowledged that there is an absolute potential for micro-mobility as part of the solution for cities. We need a modal shift, away from more harmful modes to the modes which are good for cities and neighbourhoods. Furthermore, regarding urban space, Cuffe noted that the dimensions of private vehicles are increasing, which adds to the scarcity of space available for other modes. MEP Cuffe expressed that ,,This are exciting times for cities, for mobility. Explosion of micro – mobility is astonishing”, adding that the role of the EU in the process is to set a regulation framework which will encourage an update on a more sustainable mode of travelling”. MEP also added that the explosion in micro – mobility is a transformational change for our cities. ,,There are also challenges” – he said. Challenges, coming for those who use traditional models of transport, who feel threatened by new form of transport. There are also challenges in the marketplace, new companies rise and fall  with new devices that are in competition with each other in the marketplace. The danger of speed was also highlighted – ,,There is a significant new number of accidents from people traveling on scooters” – MEP said. The suggestions that we had seen from the European Transport safety Council are positive – that we should look for reducing the speed that will be 20/25 kilometres per hour. Not only would that reduce the danger for the accidents, but will also allow micro – mobility users to share space more comfortably with bikes. ,,As we move into the 21st century, we want to have cities that are safe, attractive and  clean not only to work in, but also to rest in and spend our free time” – MEP Cuffe stated.


MEP Marcos Ros Sempere (S&D, ES) highlighted the need to reorganise public space in European cities by allocating more funds for active and micro-mobility to be accessible to all levels of society. MEP said that we are clearly facing a big transformation of our city models. ,,We need to change from our 20th century model cities where we gave all the public space to cars. Now, we need our streets with less cars” – MEP stated. A new way to travel in cities would be a combination of all models of transportation, starting from public transport, then pedestrian movement, then active mobility, with micro – mobility. But there are differences in importance of those ways of transport – the private transport should not be as important as public transport. ,,We need to find a way in which we will incorporate active mobility and also micro – mobility” – MEP said. ,,We need to reorganise public space in European Union cities” – he added. MEP Ros Sempere, also highlighting the need for investments in order to reorganizes urban areas. According to Ros Sempere, rethinking urban space and promoting a variety of mobility solutions will have a positive effect on citizens’ quality of life.


Pedro Homem de Gouveia, POLIS, called micro-mobility the ‘gateway drug to active mobility’. He stressed that we cannot have coexistence without lowering speed limits on our streets, not only for micro-mobility but also for private cars. Furthermore, he noted that we have a disappropriate allocation of space but we also have a completely disappropriate allocation of speed. He suggested sharing more space in cities for all modes of transport while lowering the speed. ,,We need to get the balance right across all sections of transport”, stated, highlighting that we need to coexist, we need to feel safe in urban areas. He also stated the importance of new technologies, such as geolocation, which can have a great potential in reducing accidents on streets and improving overall travelling. ,,Cities are stepping forward to promote sustainable mobility – we can’t just ask their mayors to be brave and stand alone – it is critical that the European Parliament steps forward to support those politicians promoting sustainable mobility by any means possible”. He also added that current infrastructure does not allow any micro – mobility businesses to have a fair competition in order to deliver the best type of sustainable transport. This needs to be changed.


Pauline Aymonier, Micro-Mobility for Europe, emphasised that active and micro-mobility are two sides of the same coin. Micro-mobility is not only about e-bikes and e-scooters but it is about creating a multimodal transport network that is more sustainable, safe and offers an alternative to car-dominated mobility. She also said that even by guiding Member States and cities on how to adopt the safe and sustainable we can set new good practises. ,,The priorities for us is to talk about micro – mobility and look on the transport systems more holistically, to regulate more holistically. I think that it’s about how we can create  multi – modal transport network that is more sustainable, more safe and that can provide more area for electro mobility usage” – she stated. She also added that up until now there has been a tendency to look at  micro – mobility and regulate micro – mobility separately from other means of transport. But that is changing. Apart from that, Aymonier highlighted that shared e-scooters show a twice lower fatality risk than private e-scooters, based on data of 200 million trips from 2021. Moreover, she stated that between 25% and 55% of shared micro-mobility users report regularly using shared e-scooters to go to or from a public transit station, with 12-17 % of trips replacing car rides. ,,We are absolutely convinced of the big role that EU can play in sustainable mobility” – said Aymonier, also stating that ,,The role of the EU in the process is to set a regulation framework which will encourage an update on a more sustainable mode of travelling”.

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