February 19th 2014 – Brussels
The Vice Presidents (Shiedam and Sindelfingen) with the Secretariat (Reggio EMilia), last February 19th took parte at the URBACT III Consultation Meeting in Brussels.
Eurotowns is very pleased to be invited for the URBACT consultation.
This invitation reflects the opinion that there is not such a thing as an one-size-fits-all-strategy for the European cities. Medium sized cities can not just copy paste the solutions of the big cities. We are looking for tailor made transfer of solutions and we are developing strategies ourselves. The knowledge is there, we think, it is more about HOW than about WHAT.
As an European network of medium sized cities we share similar challenges, needs and qualities because of our size. We are not a specific thematic network; we look for partnership in sharing knowledge, exchanging expertise and experiences.
We work together in so called Task Teams on specific topics. Our challenges fit very well in the EU2020 strategy. For several years we have task teams dealing with innovation, sustainability, mobility and social inclusion.
1.From your policy perspective, what are the biggest challenges facing cities in the 2014-2020 period and how can URBACT III help to address them?
- Thematic challenges (they are integrated)
- 1. Further progress towards a climate-neutral city
- 2. The relations between the historical city centre, heritage protection (local identity) and new big infrastructure (such as high-speed train station)
- 3. Focus in walkability and cycling policies as urban design tools (not only public transport)
- 4. Finding ways to relate the city with the river and boost its potential
- 5. Face growing social exclusion, segregation and associated urban decline of the city centre
- 6. Ensure social cohesion against the background of the crisis
- 7. Youth at risk (unemployment, mismatch education and labor market, dropouts, poverty)
- 8. To offer more qualitative service to the inhabitants
2.What capacities are lacking in cities and how can these be strengthened?
Many cities now face austerity measures of national governments. The role of local authorities is changing; there is a shift from offering services towards inviting stakeholders to contribute more in problem solving. It is more about facilitating initiatives from the stakeholders than delivering services on demand.
We need a change of mindset to be more effective as facilitator.
We need to strengthen public participation and citizen engagement for developing a realistic strategy. The public administration has tob e adapted to the changed circumstances (role of city management, civil servants, capacity building).
It would be helpful as we have the proper language to address this: words as managing and delivering do not reflect the co-creation and co-production we are looking for.
3.URBACT III aims to go beyond the planning stage, and assist cities in implementing integrated sustainable urban development. Do you have any advice about how URBACT can provide this support effectively?
Eurotowns is not so experienced in URBACT yet. Reggio Emilia, Girona and Ulm are participating in ENTER-HUB, Gävle in ESIMEC (demand led workforce development).
As a network we like to improve our output: we like to become more balanced (we need some members from eastern Europe), we prefer to grow not too much (max 25) and work together with other medium sized cities networks like MECINE. URBACT can support us to become a more effective network; URBACT can provide us also with methods to improve the involvement of the elected citizens (our politicians).
4.What have you found to be the most effective and practical ways to share knowledge among EU urban practitioners-at national level/ at transnational level?
A mix of sharing concepts seems to be most effective: it seems to sound old fashioned but a strong relation is the most important success factor; study visits, expert meetings, active stakeholder/citizens participation. The quadruple helix approach has an added value to the triple helix, but is not very common yet.
5.How could EU level organisations such as yours contribute to the successful delivery of the URBACT III programme?
The emphasis on implementation in URBACT III is very important. Although our network is relatively small (17 cities from 8 countries), there is a secondary network of more than 100 cities. We need a good method to disseminate results to this secondary network.