Annual Conference of URBACT – Cities of Tomorrow Action Today

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Urbact is and will continue to be an essential pillar of our efforts to meet this challenge. With 300 cities involved, there are many of you to thank.

For me, the key in the next period will be to ensure that the knowledge we gain is properly used and transmitted.

You have developed Action Plans. Now is the time to bring your experiences into the next programming period and lobby for their implementation.

The experiences you gather need to be linked more effectively to mainstream programmes. I want URBACT to support the development of national urban networks so that cities, line ministries, managing authorities and academic institutions can all benefit.

AND, I want URBACT to provide more practical help for cities, rather as we did with the “Support for Cities” scheme in the past, to ensure that new knowledge informs future projects. URBACT should take its place alongside other initiatives that will help us build up a new understanding of our city world.

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 crowded together. In cities we see the worst of our problems, and the best chances for solving them.

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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. In Denmark nearly half the working age population in cities has studied at college or university, while the figure is under a quarter in rural areas. Patent applications per capita are more than twice as high in metro regions compared to other regions in a number of EU countries.

Or, take climate change. 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. But curiously, cities are not at the heart of the debate.

Think away from the headline figures under discussion in the negotiations on the next Multiannual Financial Framework for a moment, and just think about where the money will be spent.

I am sure everybody here has a good idea where the greatest pressure comes from to maintain levels of spending in rural areas. But where is the lobby for urban investments? Who is making the case for the growing population in cities to be matched by a shift in our investment priorities?

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