Interview with Markku Markkula (FI/EPP), rapporteur for CoR opinion on European missions
It offers enormous opportunities. What marks the mission out in particular
is that the cities must pledge to achieve carbon and climate neutrality by
2030. Steps must therefore be taken without delay. As Commission President
Ursula von der Leyen has pointed out, these 100 chosen mission cities are
trailblazers and pioneers for others. Already this year and in the course
of next year, the EU will provide EUR 360 million to launch new measures in
the selected cities. The amount of EU funding is augmented with the
addition of private funding and cities' own and national funding sources,
allowing to multiply the measures. These 100 pioneers are now likely to
move full steam ahead towards a greener, better future. This will also
benefit everyone else, in Europe and elsewhere in the world.
In total, there are five missions. Could you say a few words about
European missions and the important role they play?
The missions have been compared with the decision by John F. Kennedy in
1961 for the US to put a man on the moon within a decade and to get him
safely back home again. At that time, the impossible was made a reality,
without compromising on safety and quality. All five missions set
qualitative and quantitative targets to be achieved by 2030. Four of the
five missions focus directly on the climate or clean soil, air and water.
The fifth is also closely connected: the health-related cancer target. We
will work together with the EU to deliver results through bottom-up action
which can be replicated across the globe. The EU is leading the way and
helping others too.
Missions are an entirely new instrument. What is their added value
compared to the EU's various funding programmes?
The importance and scope of the missions is illustrated by the fact that
almost ten different Commissioners were involved in the Commission's press
conference and press release. Missions are a new and important tool to
focus resources on tackling the pressing global challenges ahead. Putin's
war against democracy and freedom in Ukraine and across Europe has prompted
us to find solutions more quickly and, more than ever before, to use shared
resources to overcome these pressing challenges. However, this cannot be
achieved by decision-making in Brussels or the Member States alone. It must
be achieved from the bottom up: through cities and regions, cities and
Your opinion was adopted at the Committee of the Regions plenary
session on 27 April. What are the key messages for regions and cities
regarding the implementation of missions?
This exceptionally important opinion came about as part of a broad process.
As rapporteur, I had the opportunity to meet in person the leaders of all
five missions and their teams. I was also able to consult experts from the
French EU Council Presidency on how to achieve these ambitious objectives.
The main task now is to tell everyone openly what we want to achieve, and
what resources and funding are available. This type of policy package is
needed both across the EU and at local level. The key word here is
coordination: not stand-alone measures in their own silo or sandbox, but a
resolute shared approach and a desire for synergies and more determined use
of the knowledge and know-how of the various stakeholders. Learning from
others, acting together.
Another key element of the opinion is the need for significant additional
funding and investment in R&I. This is to be achieved through
public-private partnerships. Today, roughly one third of the technologies
needed to deliver energy and non-energy solutions by 2030 are available.
The second third is in the testing and pilot phase, while the final third
of these technologies and know-how is currently still the subject of basic
research at universities and research institutes. So much needs to be done.
We need this information at local level and it must be put into practice
there. The local level, as well as cities and their partners, are therefore
You also presented your opinion at the Zero Pollution Stakeholder
Platform meeting on 25 April. How do you see the role of missions in
this context and, more broadly, in achieving the EU's climate
It is an honour for me to take part in this forum as a second member of the
European Committee of the Regions. The
Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform
is a joint project by the Commission and the CoR, involving around 30
European networks and leading organisations in their respective fields –
all key players taking practical steps every day for the climate and for
clean air, water and soil. Under the missions, these actions will be
implemented with EU funding, and priority actions must now be identified.
If we take the example of Finland, the 1000 researchers from the Natural
Resources Institute Finland (LUKE) must be more closely involved in this
kind of cooperation, which cities and regions put into practice in their
own decision-making in cooperation with businesses – not only in Finland,
but across the EU and also globally. Together, we can ensure that the
results and findings of research are put to use more quickly. I have made
it my task to support researchers in this regard. Here, too, this Zero
Pollution platform creates the relevant conditions and missions are a tool
for practical implementation.
Missions are also closely linked to the digital transition. How can
innovation in this area help achieve the EU's objectives and climate
All missions must be linked to the day-to-day workings of municipalities
and cities and, of course, to their renewal. Today's processes require big,
even radical changes, with digitalisation and artificial intelligence
playing a crucial role. In my view, the most important topics will be
phenomenon-based future trends, effective digital infrastructure with a
focus on interoperability, digital security, MyData and digital identity, and a data economy
that accelerates sustainable development. All of these measures are needed
to support the central role of human capital in sustainable social
development. Knowledge and good practices from around the world must be
passed on to Espoo and other cities, and tailored to local needs. This is a
huge learning process in which the full exploitation of the potential of
knowledge and technology, as well as lifelong learning and innovation, are
key concepts. These concepts need to be put into practice in a way that we
may not have yet fully realised. There is also a need to learn from the
COVID-19 era and to create a new normal that emphasises a wide range of
intellectual, physical and virtual cooperation – on a global scale.
Could you provide a few examples of how European missions can support
the green and digital transitions in practice and improve people's
quality of life, say in your city of Espoo?
First of all, it's great that Espoo and five other Finnish cities are among
the 100 mission cities. To take the example of Espoo, I can say that the
use of coal in Espoo will be phased out within about three years. Around a
dozen major investment projects have been launched with Fortum – the
company operating the heating network – and other businesses, with a view
to putting a complete stop to the use of coal and improving the use of
renewables and energy sources. Another example is that new solutions are
being sought together with the VTT research centre, universities and
polytechnics. Take urban planning, for instance, with the development of
compact urban villages with small houses, serving as an example across
Europe of how to ensure sustainable housing, jobs and mobility. These are
the pioneering solutions called for by European Commission President Ursula
von der Leyen and which are needed in every city. It is important for
cities to work together, to be more involved in EU policy-making and to
observe how good solutions are taken forward elsewhere.