Anna Koenig Jerlmyr, mayor of Stockholm, has been elected as EUROCITIES new president, for the next two year term. We’re eager to start working more closely with her, but before that, we put aside time to get to know her a little better:
1. As the new mayor of Stockholm and president of EUROCITIES we can hope to see and hear a lot from you. For now, why not tell us something about yourself: what is your favorite part of the job, and how have you prepared for these roles?
“The most important and rewarding part of my job as mayor of Stockholm is the possibility to improve the living conditions of our citizens in a really meaningful way. To provide our children and elderly with the quality education and care they deserve, to actively contribute to a more inclusive society with equal opportunities for all and to ensure that our citizens can feel safe and secure in public spaces. That is why I got into local politics, and why I find this job so rewarding. And after many years as vice mayor for social affairs and opposition vice mayor, I am very familiar with both the challenges Stockholm faces and the enormous potential and opportunities we have in our city.
“Digital solutions are becoming increasingly important and in Stockholm we are home to some of the most innovative companies and universities in the world. To actively work with them to develop new solutions for our city is something that I also really look forward to. Be it to improve the flow of traffic on our streets, reduce our carbon footprint or make it easier for all our citizens to take an active part in public life.
“Today we live in an interconnected world, and Stockholm has benefitted tremendously from Sweden’s membership in the EU. We are a growing city and we rely on an open and integrated European market. The EU has enriched us both economically and culturally and to solve our challenges we need to work together. But to make sure that EU policies benefit as many citizens as possible the EU also needs to recognise the crucial role of cities for Europe’s development. That is what EUROCITIES is all about, and this coming year will be vitally important for both Europe and EUROCITIES – from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU to the European Parliament elections and our own internal review. I look forward to working with all our members to make sure that our voices are heard in the political discussions at EU level and build a network that is fit for the future!”
2. And what would you tell a first time visitor to Stockholm?
“There is so much to experience in Stockholm, but the thing that will probably strike most first-time visitors is the mix of vibrant city life and unspoiled nature. As a city built on 14 islands, in a country with more forest cover than any other in Europe, we have water and nature all around us. One place I would recommend in particular is the open-air museum Skansen on the island Djurgården. It is a perfect place for both children and grown-ups to learn more about our flora and fauna, and the Swedish way of life before the industrial era. Plus you have a truly fantastic view of the city from here. But I also have to recommend a visit to our city hall of course, which is home to the annual Nobel banquet, and truly worth a visit for its exterior architecture and interior design!
“But Stockholm is about so much more than just one place. It is about a way of life. Our city consistently ranks as one of the most innovative in Europe, and I think that you can see and feel that everywhere you go. From the lasting stamp that music and design have left on our city to the imagination of authors like Astrid Lindgren and Stieg Larsson, the openness of our citizens and their willingness to look forward and try new things. I love Stockholm and I really do invite everyone to come and visit!”
Thank you. And now onto more serious matters:
3. Ahead of the European elections, what needs to happen now to ensure results for cities and citizens in the next cycle?
“Climate change, rising inequality or threats to our security are challenges that are bigger than all of us. And they require cooperation, at all levels. No one will be able to solve them on their own. That’s why we and cities from all over Europe work together within EUROCITIES and with EU institutions, civil society, academia and the business sector. To find solutions to common challenges and share experiences.
“EUROCITIES has been a symbol of European cooperation for over 30 years and I believe its core values of collaboration, tolerance and openness are as meaningful and important today as ever. Citizen engagement has been a key focus of our network in recent years, and rightly so. After all, a stronger EU has to start at the citizen level. That is also why EUROCITIES will continue to do what it has always done: Making sure that the urban voice is heard at EU level. Because working with cities, means working with citizens.
“But to ensure results for our citizens, we also need to have a more honest debate about the EU. I believe the tendency of some national politicians to shift blame for sensitive decisions to the European level is dangerous. The same is true for the tendency of many of us to look to the EU for solutions that it cannot possibly provide under the current division of competences. So, to ensure results, in my opinion, we also need to the change the general discourse on European cooperation.”
4. At a time when the EU is facing growing scrutiny, what role is there for cities to contribute and lead in Europe?
“As the mayor of an EU capital and one of Europe’s fastest growing cities I know how important the EU is for cities, and how beneficial it has been for our development. So at a time when many turn their backs on the EU, and on the values that we hold dear as a network, I believe city leaders have a responsibility to act. To stand up for a Europe built on tolerance and collaboration, and to be appreciative of the longest period of peace and prosperity that Europe has seen in over 2000 years.
“Standing up for the EU, however, does not mean that you should be uncritical towards it. In fact, I believe the opposite to be true. It is vitally important that we address issues of concern if we want to see a better future for the EU and, most importantly, for our citizens. And it does concern me that the EU is still not using the full potential of its cities.
“As the level of government closest to citizens, cities can provide national and EU leaders with crucial insights on challenges and opportunities on the ground. That is also why I call for a more open dialogue between cities, member states and the EU, building on the EU urban agenda framework. With our expertise, we can help develop better and more effective legislation that delivers real results. And more than anything else, that is what I believe will help the EU regain the trust of its citizens.”
And let’s cast ourselves into the future:
5. In two years’ time, when you look back on your EUROCITIES presidency, what do you hope to have achieved?
“The past decade has been a period of great success for our network, but for Europe it has been a period of prolonged uncertainty. We can see a growing polarisation across the EU, and it seems likely that eurosceptic parties will make significant inroads in the coming European Parliament elections. With that in mind, I believe it is more important than ever that the voice of our cities is heard in the political discussions at EU level. Making a case for European cooperation and re-asserting EUROCITIES’ position in the new political environment at EU level will therefore be one of my key priorities as president.
“Like any organisation, we need the right structures and tools to be successful. Our ongoing internal review has provided us with many ideas and insights and in 2019 we will need to take some important decisions. Given the political challenges at EU level, I believe the review could not have taken place at a better time. And I will work hard to ensure that EUROCITIES is as effective and resilient as it can be when I hand over the presidency to my successor in two years’ time.
“One key issue that I also want to mention in this context is climate change. Cities are already frontrunners in this fight, but I believe we can do even more. We also have to, given that only a few EU member states are on track to reaching the targets of the Paris agreement. And that is something that I cannot accept, either as a mayor or as a citizen.”
Thank you Anna, we look forward to working with you!