We need a long-term political commitment and resources to cater to the needs of cities of all sizes
The strengths and weaknesses of the implementation of the Urban Agenda for the EU is the subject of an opinion adopted during the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 4 July in Brussels. Rapporteur and Cork city Councillor Kieran McCarthy (IE/EA) calls on the EU institutions to reaffirm their commitment to urban matters and place the process on a formal footing. He welcomes the early signs in this direction proposed in the framework for regional development and cohesion policy beyond 2020.
The Urban Agenda for the EU seeks to mobilise the experience and expertise of local authorities and enable them to contribute to the development and implementation of EU policies and instruments which most impact cities. It is based on a multi-level governance working method across twelve key urban themes. In November 2017, the European Commission presented its initial assessment of progress and results arising from the first year of the implementation. The local and regional representatives in the CoR are pushing to go a step further.
"The Urban Agenda offers too much potential to improve the way in which our cities will work in future to be restricted to a mere high-quality networking exercise. It must instead be recognised as a binding political commitment, with tangible investments and outcomes, which have real legitimacy and an impact on legislation. The European Commission's move to dedicate 6% of the European Regional Development Fund to investments in sustainable urban development proposed in the framework for cohesion policy beyond 2020 presented on 29 May is a step in the right direction. The same is true for the European Urban Initiative, a new instrument for city-to-city cooperation, innovation and capacity-building across all the thematic priorities of the Urban Agenda for the EU", said Cork city Councillor Kieran McCarthy (IE/EA), CoR rapporteur on the Implementation assessment of the Urban Agenda for the EU.
The main concerns so far have been the lack of resources, particularly to cover the costs of smaller cities participating in the twelve partnerships, the lack of ownership due to the voluntary profile of the governance structure and the passiveness of certain Member States due to a lack of rules on distributing tasks. The rapporteur also points out that a key aspect of the Urban Agenda for the EU was to establish the link with better regulation in the EU and to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.
"In the progress reports so far it is hard to detect whether and in what way the partnerships have contributed to better EU regulations, to improving access to funding and to the exchange of knowledge and best practices for an inclusive and sustainable urban development. Any future assessment needs to focus on these key outcomes and should be accompanied by an own assessment of the partnerships giving feedback and suggesting possible improvements", said Mr McCarthy.
The rapporteur further calls for the Urban Agenda to be featured prominently in future Commission's annual work programmes and for cities and regions to have access to the European Council working groups and the European Parliament on urban matters. He also advocates for the proposal to set up a steering committee to discuss future developments of the Urban Agenda on key messages and possible new thematic partnerships.
After many years of discussion, the Urban Agenda for the EU has at last become a reality with the signing of its founding document, the Pact of Amsterdam, on May 2016. It is composed of twelve priority themes essential for the development of urban areas. Each theme has a dedicated partnership and the partnerships are the key delivery mechanism within the Urban Agenda for the EU. The aim of the partnerships is to develop a multi-level (vertical) and multi-dimensional (horizontal) approach involving all relevant bodies at all levels of government. The results of the discussion are supposed to be taken into consideration by the EU institutions and Member States to improve urban-related policies and regulations by eliminating existing overlaps and inconsistencies.
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