The improvement of key aspects of Europeans' daily life was the focus of a meeting of the Commission for territorial cohesion policy and EU budget (COTER), on 9 February. Local and regional leaders adopted two draft opinions with recommendations to EU institutions on affordable and sustainable housing and on make cities friendlier and safer for cyclists.
Gentrification and "touristification" (short-term letting for tourists and co-living) are pushing up prices and energy poverty is affecting around 34 million Europeans, increasing the risk of evictions and homelessness and threatening social cohesion. This worrying trend is affecting not only low-income, but also middle-income households. Local and regional authorities are primarily responsible for addressing the housing demand and for managing large stocks of local public buildings and public spaces, with a primary role in planning and funding. In the draft opinion adopted on 9 February, cities and regions take a first step in asking the EU institutions to establish a structured dialogue on the issue and to provide more support for local and regional governments' efforts to provide affordable and sustainable housing.
Andres Jaadla (EE/Renew), Member of Rakvere City Council and rapporteur of the opinion, highlighted that "in the last couple of months since I became the CoR rapporteur on Housing, it became clear that this has become a problem on an unprecedented scale at the EU level and it needs a European approach. This is a very timely opinion, the momentum is growing, and paradigm on housing policy at the EU level is shifting. We are calling for a European housing agenda that would look at the issue holistically and ensure our future generation can afford healthy, sustainable, and functional homes that meet their needs and allow them to lead a healthy, safe and accomplished life."
European declaration on cycling
In a second draft opinion adopted during the meeting, COTER members welcomed the publication of the European declaration on cycling by the European Commission, which aims to promote cycling as a means of transport. They stressed that, in addition to its fundamental contribution to decarbonising the transport sector, cycling promotes healthy lifestyles and reduces congestion in urban centres. Local and regional leaders also underscored that there is an urgent need to invest in better infrastructure, arguing that safety concerns remain a major obstacle to wider take-up of cycling as a means of transport.
The rapporteur Arianna Censi (IT/PES), Minister for Mobility of the City of Milan, said: "It's time to be ambitious when it comes to mobility policies in our cities. Promoting the use of bicycles in cities contributes to the reduction of traffic congestion and pollution and promotes the well-being and centrality of people. Public space and roads are a common good and as such must be redistributed: fairness of spaces and road safety for those who choose to be on the side of sustainable mobility and cleaner air."
Both opinions are scheduled for final adoption at the CoR's plenary session in April.
The future of Cohesion Policy
Last week, on 6 February, the Chair of COTER Commission and Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, Emil Boc (RO/EPP), attended the informal meeting of Ministers responsible for Cohesion Policy on behalf of the European Committee of the Regions. “Cohesion Policy is the glue that keeps Europe together and the cost of non-cohesion is the cost of non-Europe. Cohesion Policy is a powerful driver of transformation in EU territories, it is indispensable to strengthen the Single Market, to successfully deliver the green and digital transformation," underlined Mr Boc, who is also co-rapporteur – together with the CoR President Vasco Alves Cordeiro – of an opinion on the future of Cohesion Policy recently adopted by the Committee.
Also during the meeting
Regional and local leaders debated the future of the Common agricultural policy with the rapporteur of the opinion on the topic Piotr Całbecki (PL/EPP), President of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Region. They highlighted their concerns about the protests of the agricultural world that are taking place across Europe, and shared possible responses to these protests, notably about possible cuts to bureaucratic procedures. The opinion is scheduled for adoption at the CoR's plenary session in June.
Magali Altounian (FR/Renew), member of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Regional Council, was nominated as rapporteur-general on the new Cross-Border Facilitation Tool proposed in December 2023 by the European Commission. The proposed instrument updates the one previously known as European Cross-Border Mechanism (ECBM), on which the CoR adopted an opinion in October 2023, also drafted by Ms Altounian. The new CoR opinion - scheduled for adoption in April - will assess the European Commission's proposal from cities and regions' point of view.
Finally, members of the COTER commission appointed three new rapporteurs: Zdeněk Hřib (CZ/Greens), First Deputy Mayor of Prague, on the creation of a common European mobility data space; Karsten Uno Petersen (DK/PES), member of South Denmark Regional Council, on the future of European Territorial Cooperation; and Marco Marsilio (IT/ECR), President of Abruzzo Region, on a just transition for all EU regions. All the opinion are scheduled for adoption at the CoR's plenary session in October.
The proposal for a European Declaration on Cycling was adopted by the European Commission in October 2023. EU institutions reached a provisional agreement on 31 January 2024 on the final text, that will be signed by the European Parliament, the Council, and the European Commission once negotiations are officially over.
Factsheet on the content of the opinion on the future of Cohesion Policy
Re-watch the meeting
Video statement of Emil Boc ahead of the Informal meeting of Ministers responsible for Cohesion Policy – Mons, 6 February