Urban Agenda (UA) and the Urban Partnerships (UPs)

Urban involvement in EU2020 strategy

As the majority of the European population lives in urban areas, European legislation and policies impact the urban level. The EU therefore wishes to involve cities and urban areas more actively in the implementation of the EU2020 strategy.

1. Urban Agenda (UA) of the European Union: Context and genesis

When the European Commission (EC) took office in November 2014, it noted that the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy were not on track. A public consultation revealed that the goals would probably not be achieved without the involvement of cities. Subsequently, the EC published a communication on “the urban dimension of European policies - key features of a European Urban Agenda”, which sets out the importance of a European Urban UA. With the Riga Declaration (06/2015), the EU Member States confirmed the importance of an UA.

The UA was made concrete under the Dutch Presidency (01-06 / 2016) via the Pact of Amsterdam. This Pact forms the operational framework (priorities and working method) for the UA.

2. Urban Agenda (UA) of the European Union: content

The Urban Agenda (UA) links the urban challenges to the European 2020 strategy and goals. The UA aims to strengthen the urban dimension of EU policies, not to develop national policies. The UA must ensure coordination and coherence between the European (subsidy) programs and objectives on the one hand and their urban implementation on the other.

The UA first contained twelve, and since the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU (01-06 / 2018), 14 themes: 1) Jobs and Skills in the Local Economy; 2) Urban Poverty; 3) Housing; 4) Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees; 5) Sustainable use of Land and Climate-friendly Solutions; 6) Circular Economy; 7) Climate Adaptation; 8) Energy Transition; 9) Urban Mobility; 10) Air Quality; 11) Digital Transition; 12) Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement; 13) Public Safety, and 14) Culture & Cultural Heritage.

3. Urban Agenda (UA) of the European Union: Actions

Via the UA various actions are set up at different policy levels. For example, the Member States, together with the European Commission, update the Urban Regulatory Framework (Urban Acquis) and give shape to the Global Urban Agenda. In this context, the EC annually launches a call for grants for Urban Innovative Actions (UIA). Moreover, in consultation with cities, inter alia, EU platforms and EC support networks are being better aligned with urban needs, and Urban Partnerships (UPs) have been established.

4. Urban Partnerships (UPs)

An UP has been set up for each theme of the Urban Agenda (UA). Each UP aims to develop an approach at the various policy levels (vertical) and dimensions (horizontal) of the theme. Specifically, each UP elaborates an action plan and implements its actions within a three-year period. Each UP starts from urban bottlenecks and opportunities to arrive at EU rules, knowledge and EU funding that are better aligned with local needs and realities.

Around 15 people take part in each UP: 1/2 European Commission staff – 4/5 Member States – 4/5 cities – 4/5 stakeholders (experts, European interest groups, etc.). The process of each UP consists of 4 phases: 1) identifying the existing situation; 2) identifying possibilities and limitations; 3) defining goals and outputs (action plan); 4) implementing the action plan.

5. The Urban Partnership (UP) Jobs & Skills in the Local Economy

The UP Jobs & Skills in the Local Economy is coordinated by Romania (RO), Rotterdam (NL) and Jelgava (LV). The Member States Greece and Italy, the cities of Ghent (BE), Kielce (PL), Miskolc (HU), Porto (PT), Turin (IT) and Berlin (DE) also participate in this partnership. In addition, the following European institutions and interest groups are involved in the UP Jobs & Skills: European Commission DG Work and DG Regio, European Investment Bank (EIB), EUROCITIES, CEMR and URBACT.

Six themes are addressed within this UP: 1) valorisation of Research and Development; 2) Business Locations; 3) Public Services; 4) Effective Local Government; 5) Next Economy; and, 6) Education and Skills.

The UP met for the first time on 22/2/2017. This meeting led to an orientation paper and then to the UP's Action Plan. Ghent has the lead in Action 3 "The European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR): a framework for the reconversion towards a sustainable economy" and implements this action in 2019, together with Berlin, CEMR, Eurocities and the European Commission. An initial result of the action is an analysis of urban practices on multi-level governance with regard to "education, training and lifelong learning" (Principle 1 of the EPSR) and "safe and flexible work" (principle 5 of the EPSR). A second realisation is the organisation of a Participative Lab on Action 3 on October 10th 2019, during the European Week of Regions and Cities. A third output is a Guide on how to deliver the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) at the local level in the framework of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and its associated funding instruments.