Brussels, June 2015 – The European Commission organised a “Cities Forum” on 2 June in Brussels to consult representatives of European cities and civil society on the future urban agenda of the European Union. Represented by Véronique Ketelaer, Project Manager, Efus took part in this meeting together with some 500 people including several MEPs as well as representatives of the European Commission, of numerous non governmental organisations and of local authorities.
The Commission has not yet defined its priorities concerning urban and territorial development. It conducted a public consultation among stakeholders throughout Europe prior to organising the Cities Forum.
Presided by Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu, the conference was an opportunity to emphasise the key role played by cities and their creativity in Europe’s territorial development but also their lack of means and the difficulties they face because of the administrative complexity of some EU decisions and action programmes. The Commission reaffirmed its commitment to collaborate with cities and local partners by simplifying procedures and eventually adapting working methods.
All the speakers called for a clear European urban agenda and for having one single Commissioner leading this agenda, which could be Ms Cretu. Indeed, there are currently six Commissioners working on the urban agenda, which makes proceedings quite complex. Several representatives of local authorities stressed the importance of having a “one stop shop” that would facilitate the administrative processing of European subsidies and be a point of contact for cities and local partners.
Representatives of the Commission gave information about the financing of regional development: 80 million euros will be invested in European cities between now and 2020. The Commission also outlined its priorities in this respect.
Even though these are still being discussed and not yet validated by the College of the President and Commissioners, the Commission said that the five priority areas for investment in the urban agenda are:
- Jobs and investment
- Energy and climate
- Single digital market
- Democratic change
The Commission is determined to promote knowledge and exchange among cities of all size and will not discriminate between large and smaller cities. It will also design evaluation tools to assess the progress of projects and the impact of investments, and gain knowledge through synergies (existing or to be strengthened) between universities, cities and other local stakeholders including the private sector.
Aware of the need to simplify European legislation, the Commission is favourable to adapting the existing legislation rather than drafting new regulations and to do so through consultation with local stakeholders.
Furthermore, the Director General Regional and Urban Policy, Walter Deffaa, presented the new call for proposals on “innovative urban actions”, which is based on a total EU budget of 371 million euros for the period 2015-2020 and will be reserved to cities with a population of 50,000 or more.
The selected projects (with a maximum of €5m per project) will be funded up to 80% by the European Commission for a duration of three years. Among the selection criteria are the innovative character of the project, its transferability, the quality of preparation and evaluation (measuring the objectives and results) as well as the existence of partnerships.
According to the Commission, this call will be an opportunity to test new actions carried out in cities. There will be a consultation with local stakeholders in October 2015.
The fund will be managed by the Europe Region Nord Pas de Calais department, which already managed the European Regional Development Fund.