To you, why is the Council Presidency important for furthering urban matters in the EU? What role does the Trio Presidency play in this regard?
Urban development and policy is not an official competence of the European Union. So, instead, urban development is organised via informal intergovernmental cooperation. And here the rotating Council Presidencies have a core role to play. They are responsible for organising the regular meetings on a working level (Urban Development Group) and on DG level (DGUM). And it is up to Council Presidencies to put a special emphasis on urban development issues or highlight a dedicated theme and “upgrade” their Presidency by organising an Informal Ministry on Urban Matters.
The themes for the discussion in the intergovernmental cooperation are set by the Council Presidencies – and by highlighting certain themes the Presidencies can push forward and influence the discussion on urban matters in the EU. This agenda setting can also be linked to global (e.g. UN Habitat) and European policies (e.g. Urban Dimension of Cohesion Policy). Since the establishment of the Urban Agenda for the EU it is also a major task of the Council Presidency to follow the discussion around the partnerships and to steer the Urban Agenda process.
The main function of the Trio Presidency is to organise a consistent discussion around themes with a longer time frame and to avoid that we “jump” from one theme of a Presidency to the next one. A well organised Trio programme safeguards that three Presidencies follow the same narrative and that each Presidency builds on the achievements of the previous one. This can also facilitate the strategic further development of urban matters and should result in strengthening the intergovernmental cooperation in urban development in general.
What was the German Presidency’s biggest achievement?
The biggest achievement of the German Presidency was the adoption of the New Leipzig Charter as the new strategic framework for integrated urban development in Europe at the Informal Ministerial in November 2020.
Very early on – already in 2017, when 10 years of the Leipzig Charter were celebrated – Germany decided to make integrated urban development a major backbone of its 2020 Presidency. In the preparatory process for the New Leipzig Charter that started in 2018 (and that included stakeholders from all Member States, Partner States, European institutions and organisations), we managed to agree on one very clear political message: “the transformative power of European cities for the common good”. The notion of the common good is a novelty in the context of European debates related to urban development and at the beginning of the process there was no guarantee that we could agree on this idea. The introduction of the common good as the red thread through the whole document should be regarded as a major achievement. The pandemic has demonstrated, more than ever, the relevance of the common good.