Paris, France, April 2021 – Representatives of the European Commission presented new EU initiatives and funding opportunities aimed at supporting local and regional authorities (LRAs) in the area of urban security, while representatives of Efus member LRAs called for better and more flexible access for small cities to EU-funded projects, during a web conference organised by Efus on the occasion of its General Assembly meeting, on 19 March.
A new financial period and new opportunities
Introducing the session, Carla Napolano, Efus Deputy Executive Director, said that this year marks the start of a new, seven-year financial period (2021-2027), which provides new funding opportunities for local and regional authorities. She emphasised that Efus has contributed to promoting the role of local and regional authorities in urban security among European institutions, and to framing it as a transverse, cross-sectoral and multi-level matter that requires the intervention of multiple stakeholders. She welcomed the fact that this holistic approach is also reflected in the new EU initiatives.
EU support in the protection of public spaces
Andrea Volkmer, of the Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG Home) of the European Commission, said that “the role of cities in the protection of public spaces has been recognised as key and central in a number of documents from our side and from our partners,” notably the 2017 Nice Declaration, the 2017 Action Plan to support the protection of public spaces and the Partnership on the security in public spaces of the Urban Agenda for the EU (2019-2021), which is co-led by Efus and the cities of Nice and Madrid and is currently implementing its 6-point Action Plan.
The European Commission has published a number of guidance material and good practices, and organises trainings and workshops with cities on the protection of public spaces. It also has developed a ‘vulnerability assessment checklist’* and has ‘Protective Security Advisory Teams’ that can directly assist cities in using this checklist.
The role of cities under the new Counter-Terrorism Agenda
Regarding the issue of the prevention of terrorism, which affects European cities of all sizes, Ms Volkmer said that the new Counter-Terrorism Agenda was published on 9 December 2020 and that the DG Home “is very interested in hearing feedback, questions, ideas and suggestions from local and regional authorities.” The European Commission will propose an EU Pledge on Urban Security and Resilience that will serve as a political statement, a manifestation of interest and a starting point for a new EU Cities Against Radicalisation and Terrorism initiative.
A Europe closer to citizens: supporting local-led sustainable development
Gabriel Onaca, of the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG Regio), explained how the new 2021-2027 Cohesion Policy, which is the European Commission’s “main investment policy and one of its most concrete expressions of solidarity,” takes into account the territorial dimension, including security.
In particular, the policy objective nº5, “A Europe closer to citizens”, seeks to foster “sustainable and integrated territorial development in urban and non-urban areas.” Furthermore, its first specific objective aims at “fostering the integrated and inclusive social, economic and environmental development, cultural heritage and security in urban areas.” All EU funding under the Cohesion Policy is allocated in response to its core five objectives, and at least 8% of the European Regional Development Funds (ERDFs) will go to sustainable development strategies, including the security dimension, in each Member State.
Mr Onaca stressed that the EU favours multi-level governance and multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral engagement, meaning that local and regional authorities are encouraged to work in a transverse manner, in synergy with other levels of governance and involving all relevant actors, including local ones.
The new European Urban Initiative
The central role of cities is further recognised by the EU through the new European Urban Initiative (EUI) for the period 2021-2027, which should be further detailed later this year. This overarching initiative notably aims to respond to concerns about the fragmentation of the array of EU tools and policies related to cities and regions, which hampers the delivery of European support on the ground. “An important aspect is that all urban areas will be concerned,” said Mr Onaca.
Facilitating small cities’ flexible and agile access to EU funding and support
Reacting to the DG Home’s and DG Regio’s presentations, Angel Vila Muntal, of the City of Barcelona, stressed the need for facilitating the access of small and medium cities to EU funding and support in an agile and flexible manner.
Monica Visentin, of the Unione Romagna Faentina (an association of six municipalities of the Emilia Romagna region in Italy), noted that both the DG Home and the DG Regio insist on the value of prevention to counter crime, and that “this is an aspect in which local authorities can do a lot, because it is linked with social cohesion and inclusion.”
Representative of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and CoR rapporteur on the Urban Agenda, Kieran McCarthy, who is also a Councillor for the City of Cork, said that “one of the great things of the Partnerships of the Urban Agenda is that they allow for EU funding to get to the ground.” He added that “the green and digital economy objectives will have a major role in the new cohesion package” and that local and regional authorities, in particular the smaller ones, need support to make the transition. “The big question is funding: how to connect the local level with the EU level.”
The web conference concluded with an intervention by Efus Vice President and Deputy Mayor of the City of Mannheim, Christian Specht: watch the video here.
*The PRoTECT project, in which Efus is a partner, has published a factsheet on the EU’s vulnerability assessment tool, which is available for our members on Efus Network here.
> Read the minutes of the conference
> Efus invites all its members to discuss these and other issues at the international Security, Democracy and Cities conference on 20-22 October 2021