The 2017 Cities Forum, organised by DG REGIO and myself, and hosted by the city of Rotterdam, took place on 27 and 28 November, bringing together over 500 participants from Europe's cities.
Three Europeans in four live in a city. In other words, over 450 million Europeans live in a city, and this number is bound to increase in the future.
Furthermore, cities are where literally everything takes places: where you encounter today's most pressing issues, and where solutions to these issues are often found and implemented.
This is enough to see why I was committed to attend the third edition of the cities Forum.
The way I see it, the two main moments of the forum, beyond the parallel workshops, were the debate on the recently publish report on the urban agenda for the EU and the launch of URBIS.
Let us have a closer look at both.
On 20 November, the "urban report" was published.
The Pact of Amsterdam, agreed by the EU Member States in May 2016, establishes the Urban Agenda for the EU, a historic step that gives cities an opportunity to come up with concrete actions in favour of better regulation, better funding and better knowledge of EU and national policies. The agenda is jointly steered by all involved partners on a voluntary, inclusive and equal basis.
The report allows us to assess what has been achieved over the last year and what to do over the next year.
I am pleased that after only one year the Urban Agenda for the EU has already delivered its first tangible results:
We have 12 working groups called "partnerships" up and running and four Actions Plans that should be finalised in the coming days.
The working groups are made up altogether of 22 Member States, 84 cities from all over Europe; besides 13 Commission departments are involved in them.
This is one of the points I want to highlight: The full cooperation between member states, cities, stakeholders and the European Commission.
The impact of the Urban Agenda on improving our policy-making is clear: cities have a bigger say both at national and EU levels, several Member States now have a national urban policy, EU legislation is more urban-friendly and a one-stop-shop has been established to present all the EU initiatives for cities.
Not to mention that 15 billion EUROS from European Regional Development Funds are directly allocated for cities...
URBIS: helping cities in their investments
Launching URBIS with EIB Vice President Vazil Hudak
The forum also saw the official launch of the Urban Investment Support platform: URBIS.
In a nutshell, URBIS will provide technical and financial expertise to Europe's cities to help them find the best investment programmes and use them the best possible way; it will also help them assess project pipelines and pick key projects.
URBIS can advise cities in new areas of urban financing such as risk capital, financing of municipal companies or financing for social enterprises.
Every EU city can apply for this support, regardless of their size and from which part of Europe they are.
The biggest added value of URBIS is that it complements very well what the Commission is already offering to cities.
Looking back at the forum, I feel the third edition of the CITIES forum was a big success: not only could we debate the conclusions of the first report on the Urban Agenda for the EU but we provided our cities with a new tool to make the most of their future investment potential.
The urban dimension of Europe is definitely growing and growing...