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.