Cities’ perspective on an EU urban agenda

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In our latest policy paper, we make recommendations for an EU urban agenda.

We believe an EU urban agenda must be about empowering cities to deliver the Europe 2020 objectives. It must promote a joined up approach to policy making, and engage cities directly and alongside member states in EU policy development.       

Our executive committee politicians met in Warsaw on 13 June to discuss the proposals for an EU urban agenda launched by commissioner for regional and urban policy, Johannes Hahn, in February. They agreed on a number of concrete suggestions as a basis for the European Commission to develop an EU urban agenda, including:   

  • Appointing an urban envoy, who should strengthen the current practical coordination of policies with an urban dimension within the Commission. An urban envoy should become a driving force in joining up policies and different levels of government, and ensure the ambitions are backed by sufficient resources.

  • Strengthening the direct involvement of cities in EU policy development. Priority should be given to collaboration and partnership work with cities, moving beyond basic stakeholder consultations.

  • Meetings with city mayors and study visits to urban areas should be included in commissioners’ programmes when they travel to member states, to increase awareness of the urban dimension of a wider range of policies.

  • Holding biennial urban summits at EU level, involving stakeholders from all levels of government and different sectors. The summits should include real working sessions, providing opportunities for cities to contribute to EU policy developments at both political and expert level.

  • An EU urban agenda will also require engagement from all levels of government and other stakeholders.

The newly elected European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions must both continue to support efforts at EU level to engage cities directly in policy development and to join up EU policies with a direct or indirect impact on cities.

Respecting subsidiarity, an EU urban agenda will not and should not affect member state competences on urban development. Nevertheless, our national governments must play their role in facilitating the joining up of policies both at EU level and at home. Developing coordination structures - where these do not already exist - for policies with an urban dimension across relevant ministries would help ensure a joined up policy approach at national level. National governments should also increasingly involve their main cities in strategic policy development and programming.

Cities themselves have a lot to offer in taking forward an EU urban agenda. As the level of government closest to citizens and home to 75% of the population, cities connect EU strategies and policies with the local level. They hold the knowledge of what is needed and what works on the ground. And through our network, cities build capacity and share knowledge of good practice on tackling urban challenges and implementing EU policies across Europe.

An urban agenda is ultimately not just about cities, but about the ability of the EU to reach its strategic objectives. Empowering cities and their surrounding areas to perform better will support Europe’s overall competitiveness and strengthen territorial cohesion.

We will continue to engage in further debate around an EU urban agenda. We want to make sure that an EU urban agenda reaches beyond member state level and is both relevant to, and supported at, city level.

Our new policy paper on ‘An EU urban agenda – engaging cities for a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe’ is available at the link below. 



EUROCITIES staff contact

Dorthe Nielsen