In Europe
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A European urban policy fit for the future

On 24 January, mayors and representatives from nearly 40 European cities met in Brussels at the invitation of Minister-President Rudi Vervoort and State Secretary for European Affairs Ans Persoons. They took part in a summit organised by the Brussels Region as part of the Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The summit, titled “A European urban policy fit for the future”, was of particular importance, highlighting the crucial role of cities in Europe. It urged the European institutions, represented by the European Commission and the European Parliament, to give greater consideration to cities and to involve them more closely in defining European policies.

Cities are on the front line when it comes to tackling major societal challenges, and they often provide innovative solutions. By 2050, they will account for 80% of Europe’s population, playing a central role in achieving Europe’s environmental, economic and social ambitions.

Speakers at the summit stressed that urban areas, with their higher densities and more diverse needs, are facing ever-increasing environmental and health problems, compounded by significant social, economic and territorial inequalities. Despite this, cities all too often remain the forgotten and unaddressed areas of European policies and funding, in a context where the tendency to pit rural and urban areas against each other is intensifying.

People sitting around a table in a meeting
A round-table discussion brought together the Mayors of Ghent, Mathias De Clercq, Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, Strasbourg, Jeanne Barseghian, Tallinn, Mihhail Kõlvart and Saragossa, Natalia Chueca. Strong mayors with strong opinions on the role of cities in providing solutions to societal challenges.

During the event, the mayors signed the Declaration of European mayors, which aims to highlight the importance of cities as partners and drivers of European objectives. In it, the mayors call for a strong urban dimension in the next European policy programme.

Two mayors sign a register.
Signing of the Declaration of European mayors by the Deputy Mayor of Ljubljana, Dejan Crnek, and the Mayor of Saragossa, Natalia Chueca. ©

By endorsing this declaration, which is the result of a genuine co-creation process with cities, led by and supported by Brussels International, the mayors press for an ambitious European urban policy. They call for a systematic dialogue between European institutions and cities, and for better integration of the urban, metropolitan and territorial dimensions in all relevant European policies. The political representatives are also advocating for a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable model, with greater involvement of cities and local governments in governance, regulation, programmes and funding.

Armed with this ambitious text, and supported by European mayors, the Brussels-Capital Region has endeavoured to promote and defend these recommendations throughout the Belgian presidency of the Council of the EU and beyond.

For cities unable to attend the event, the opportunity is offered to join the declaration by signing it online.

We will revisit the declaration itself in a future edition of the newsletter.

Seven people sit next to each other at a table.
From left to right: the Mayor of Trier, Wolfram Leibe, the Mayor of Wroclaw, Jakub Mazur, the Secretary of State, Ans Persoons, the Minister-President, Rudi Vervoort, the Mayor of Ghent, Mathias De Clercq, the Mayor of Haarlemmermeer, Marianne Schuurmans-Wijdeven, and the Mayor of Aalborg, Lasse Frimand Jensen.