In view of the Forum on the EU Urban Agenda, which will take place in Amsterdam on 30 May, we are publishing contributions from CoR members on different priorities of the Urban Agenda. This article is written by Yoomi Renström (SE/PES), chair of the SEDEC commission.
Towns, cities and urban agglomerations are home to nearly 70% of the EU's population and drivers of economic growth, generating over 80% of Europe's GDP. Their importance in economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development is incontestable. So is the fact that they are systematically confronted with transversal challenges with a far-reaching social impact, such as demographic change, migration, integration, unemployment, housing and poverty, to name a few.
In fact, the urban fibre brings all too often together social opposites: wealth and poverty, employment potential and long-term unemployment, labour demands and shortages, educational deprivation and educational excellence. Moreover, towns and cities play a major part in coping with the current refugee flows as well as with the intra-EU migration and they are called to act as catalysts of integration. This multi-faceted urban reality, together with all the challenges mentioned earlier, creates social tensions, putting inevitably pressure on urban administrations that must be prepared to tackle them adequately.
Although job creation very much depends on the extent to which a given urban environment is conducive to entrepreneurship, ever-changing labour market needs require education, training and retraining systems and infrastructures that are able to respond to such needs. The digital revolution also calls for the acquisition of digital skills from a very early age. Ensuring universal access to good quality education, combatting early school leaving and meaningfully accompanying people in their efforts to enter or re-enter the labour market are vital for the social sustainability of towns and cities.
My municipality, Ovanåker, is situated on the outskirts of an urban region. Education and skills, including digital skills, remain a top priority for me and we invest a lot in broadband infrastructure and ICT in our schools from an early age. Innovation happens where the entrepreneurs are, but universities and R&D are vital for the growth and development of cities. It is therefore important that urban areas pay particular attention to the wider concept of smart regions because the cooperation between big cities and the whole of their regions is essential for sustainable urban development.
Yoomi Renström (PES) Mayor of Ovanåker (Sweden) Chair of the SEDEC commission