In a speech at the URBACT Annual Conference in Copenhagen this past December, Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, highlighted the crucial role of cities in the EU's regional policy.
Mentioning a '20% increase in energy efficiency' as one of the main priorities set out in the Europe 2020 strategy for 'smart, sustainable and inclusive growth,' Hahn spoke firmly about the important role of cities in acheiving these ends:
'There has been much talk in Brussels in the past couple of years about these objectives and how to achieve them,' said Hahn. 'I can tell you one thing very clearly: we will never achieve them without Europe's cities.
'Over two thirds of Europeans live in cities, where the concentration of population means we see the greatest risks of social deprivation, and the greatest opportunities for prosperity...
'In cities we see the worst of our problems, and the best chances for solving them. To achieve the goals of Europe 2020 we need to nurture our small and medium sized enterprises, and foster innovation. Cities have a special potential for both.'
Referring to the issue of climate change, Hahn said 'cities are places where up to 80% of CO2 emissions are produced due to transport, housing and modes of consumption. But they are also the places where policy changes can bring greatest impact.'
'We need to translate Europe 2020 into clear urban objectives. Cities have to be at the heart of our planning for the next period,' added Hahn.
Read Commissioner Hahn's full speech here.
URBACT is a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development. They enable cities to work together to develop solutions to major urban challenges, helping them develop pragmatic solutions that are innovative and sustainable, and that integrate economic, social and environmental dimensions.