EU Commissioner gives strong backing for cities

Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn has said he is convinced that cities need to play a key role in the EU’s future policy: “We need cities and local authorities as full partners for achieving smart, sustainable and socially inclusive growth”.


Responsible for the EU’s cohesion policy, which makes up a third of the EU’s budget, the Commissioner was addressing the recent European Sustainable Cities & Towns Conference in Dunkerque. In particular Commissioner Hahn expressed support for a new integrated approach for urban development, which cities would be best placed to lead: “The tendency towards simple sectoral solutions is strong. Therefore, we need to create an understanding that urban issues cannot be seen in sectoral isolation. If a city wants to be more energy efficient and more sustainable, it should not only look at its energy sources and emissions, but also at the social, economic, or cultural side of things.”
Furthermore “It appears that existing governance models do not coincide with functional realities…The level of intervention needs to correspond to needs and related tasks”, he said. “While the neighbourhood level might be the most appropriate level to intervene on urban deprivation, the level of the functional urban zone might be the best scale to plan energy savings or organise urban transport”. The Commissioner reflected the changes to EU governance introduced by the Lisbon Treaty – the new objective of territorial cohesion and the new weight given to the role of local authorities: “What the debate has told so far is that our regions should make better use of the cities’ potential for boosting the overall socio-economic performance at regional level…I believe [the Lisbon Treaty] could result in a better defined role of urban stakeholders…it is clear to me that European cities must be recognised as key players in implementing the core European policy priorities of EUROPE 2020.”
On EUROPE 2020, the EU’s new strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, Commissioner Hahn said:  “Cities have a unique potential for green potential for green inclusive growth…It is a question of scale. For example the impact of measures taken in a single metropolis like London is much more important than the effect on several EU Member States put together.”  He added: “As the first contact point between the citizens and the administration, activities at city-level are also more effective and visible to citizens than initiatives at higher level. I believe that – in addition to this – networks of cities have a crucial role to play in disseminating ‘models of governance and policies’ which address these issues.”
The Commissioner’s regional directorate is expected to publish a Fifth Cohesion Report later this year, along with a ‘Cities 2020’ analysis and strategy. EUROCITIES will continue to be closely engaged with the Commission on this work.