Cities4Europe inspires governments to put people first
11 May, 2018
How to involve more closely the citizens in a dialogue about the future of Europe, so they can better impact the way political decisions are taken, is in the core of the 'Cities4Europe - Europe for citizens' undertaking, launched with a public debate at the iconic BOZAR in Brussels on 7 May. This EUROCITIES campaign brought together more than 80 of Europe's major cities with the aim to explore and promote new forms of democracy across Europe, such democracy that makes towns and cities more sustainable and liveable for all the citizens. But also prompting governments to put people first.
Mentioning the UN's international day of happiness, Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, stressed that happiness and well-being are essential for a sustainable future. Friendly people are happy people, and happy people are those who are proud of their city, proud of their achievements, proud that they are part of the city's decisions - in other words, they are listened to, he said. According to him, namely this is the secret to a good city.
Commissioner Vella underlined that over the last 10 years the EU has been slowly but steadily building a network of European Green Capitals, making reference to Stockholm, Hamburg and Nijmegen in 2018 and Oslo - in 2019. The stories of each of the Green Capital winners, and since 2015 each Green Leaf winners for smaller cities, is a story of involvement, he added. The commissioner underlined as well the need to work with and hear from citizens across Europe and “make our cities fit for the future”.
It's time to change the way we do politics in Europe, asserted the president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Ghent, Daniel Termont, who was host of the event. In his words, the EU needs to listen more and engage more with its citizens. He predicted that the role of politicians will change fundamentally, and in 10-20 years decisions will not be made in the city hall anymore, but by the people on the street, and declared that “as local leaders, we are committed to include our citizens in a dialogue about our future”.
In a video address, Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona, focused on the fact that today citizens are increasingly taking collective action locally to address challenges they experience. As local authorities, we work closely to include citizens in our decision making, and we can share this experience with other levels of government, she pointed out.
For Philippe Close, mayor of Brussels, cities have experience in doing things differently. By creating public policies together with our citizens, we tap into an innovative potential that often matches urban and European needs, he emphasised.
Philippe Van Parijs, philosopher and economist, professor at the University of Louvain, shared his opinion that the cities need enjoyable immobility no less than sustainable mobility. Public spaces must be reconquered and become again places to stroll and meet, he urged, noting that all over Europe, citizens can and must help authorities to make it.
Under the campaign this month, across Europe will be showcased a series of successful local initiatives that engage citizens, and all these ideas will be presented at the EUROCITIES annual conference in Edinburgh in November and will be shared with national and European leaders.