Over the past decades, European cities and regions have been an important driver of the European economy. With major societal transformations such as the energy transition and digitalization looming, cities are expected to become even more important enablers, while regions are challenged to keep up. As such, EU policies and funding initiatives become increasingly important for cities and regions. In this blog post, Dr2 Academy, Dr2 Consultant’s educational institute, highlights the three main opportunities for European cities and regions across Europe to act upon.
1. European cities and regions at the heart of the EU budget
On the eve of the new EU’s seven-year budget cycle, and in the political context of a major economic recovery from COVID-19, the EU’s co-legislators have to make important decisions regarding the dispersion of EU funds. With EU initiatives increasingly materializing in cities and regions, more financing instruments come at the disposal of local authorities.
The grants from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility will be linked to national and regional investments in sustainable and smart solutions, such as clean energy technologies, charging stations, building renovations, scale-up of data cloud capacities, and the rapid roll-out of broadband services. In the execution of the national recovery plans, Member States are required to spend 30% of its investments via the Recovery Fund on climate action, while another 20% will have to be spent on digital projects. This presents opportunities to cities and regions to inform national administrations about the needs at a local level in order to unlock funding.
Moreover, during the next EU budget cycle, the Commission will aim to modernize Regional Development and Cohesion Policy. Sixty-five to eighty-five percent of European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund resources will be allocated to the five different priorities (in the areas of digitization, climate, transport, social policy, and urban development) that the Commission has formulated, depending on Member States’ relative wealth. Developing regions and cities in the EU have the opportunity to obtain financing via the managing authorities in the Member States, especially when the region shows its added value to one of the priority areas.
In addition, in order to ensure that all cities and regions across the EU can overcome the preconditions for the transition towards a climate neutral Europe, the EU has established the Just Transition Fund, earmarking funds for cities and regions to ensure a fair transition. With new project calls coming up early 2021 for various funding programs, it is crucial that European cities and regions are aware of the funding opportunities and subsequent eligibility requirements.
2. The EU ecosystem: fertile environment for coalition-building and partnerships
For European cities and regions, the EU ecosystem provides par excellence opportunities to broaden their networks, exchange best practices and form coalitions to effectively influence EU policy. For example, in the context of the Urban Agenda for the EU, which brings together the Commission, national ministries, city governments and other stakeholders to promote better regulation, easier access to funding and more knowledge sharing on issues relevant for cities, an umbrella project of the EU smart cities policy called the European innovation partnership on smart cities and communities (EIP-SCC) was set up. It provides a platform that aims at delivering practical knowledge and capacity-building opportunities, facilitating access to financing, and introducing potential partners to each other.
Besides these programs, stakeholder communities such as EUROCITIES and the institutionalized representation in the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) also provide ample opportunities to build a European wide network and share best practices. Moreover, these networks can enable cities to engage with policymakers, receive information, and access EU funding.
3. Cities as frontrunners and active shapers of EU policies
Given that most of the EU citizens live in cities, they play an important role in the implementation of EU policy. While EU’s urban areas are important contributors to the EU’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, they are at the same time considered important drivers of the EU’s climate ambitions. Through the greening and digitalization agendas of the EU there are plenty of opportunities for cities to fulfil a leading role. Initiatives that have been recently published, such as the Circular Economy Action Plan, the EU Strategy for Energy System Integration, the expected Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility (9 December) and the Renovation Wave initiative are expected to have a profound impact on European cities.
To make the most out of these opportunities at EU level in terms of financing, coalition-building and policy influence, Dr2 Academy offers a wide range of tailor-made services targeted to organizations and professionals whose work is impacted by EU policies. To accommodate the needs of European cities and regions, Dr2 Academy has developed a dedicated curriculum combining theory and practice, that teaches civil servants about the working of the EU institutions, the impact of EU policies at regional/local level, coalition-building, and the execution of effective Public Affairs strategies. In case of questions, do not hesitate to get into contact with us.
Dr2 Academy also organizes an EU Public Affairs training on Thursday 28 January 2021, more information can be found here.