Urban policy objectives of the EU and Territorial Agenda adopted at the Informal Ministerial Meeting
New weight to cooperation and special characteristics of regions
Making use of the individual opportunities of regions and urban development are the key means by which the EU aims for sustainable and just development and growth after the COVID-19 crisis. This is why a new emphasis should be placed on EU-level cooperation in urban policy and on a policy that highlights the special characteristics of regions and cohesion. Ministers responsible for urban matters and territorial cohesion adopted the revised Territorial Agenda of the EU and the New Leipzig Charter on urban development. The informal meeting of the ministers on 30 November–1 December was held as a video conference, chaired by the German Presidency.
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen participated in the meeting of the ministers responsible for territorial cohesion on 1 December. The new Territorial Agenda adopted by the ministers is a plan extending to 2030 on how cohesion between the different regions of Europe can be enhanced. This is how Mikkonen sums up the background for the Agenda: “Sustainability and climate challenges keep growing. We must make sure that all regions and residents stay onboard.”
The aim of the Territorial Agenda is a just and green Europe. Climate change and biodiversity will have an even stronger role in territorial development. “Towns, cities and municipalities have highly ambitious carbon neutrality targets, while rural areas have many significant assets related to matters such as emission-free energy that boost the climate objectives and a circular economy,” Minister Mikkonen says. She also reminds that policy actions must be customised according to the special characteristics of regions.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is the risk that the economic and social disparities will grow even more, and the ability of the regions to recover varies a great deal. “The different situations of the regions must also be taken into account in the use of the EU’s recovery funds,” Mikkonen says.
Among the measures to implement the Territorial Agenda are pilot projects. The purpose of the projects is to illustrate, develop and test ways to take territorial cohesion more strongly taken into account in practice. A good example of this is the pilot project on the role of small population centres for the viability of regions to be launched on Norway’s initiative. The ministers hope that the Commission will take the objectives of the Agenda into account in the legislation and programmes for the next period. The implementation of the cohesion policy objectives is followed by the Regional Policy Committee of the EU. The progress made in the Territorial Agenda will also be assessed in the mid-term review to be conducted in 2024.
Towns and cities as drivers of social reforms
“Towns and cities, both big and small, have a great role in bringing through social reforms. Towns and cities are in a key position, for example, in the utilisation of digital solutions that promote sustainable mobility and housing. Reforms such as smart transport solutions enhance the functionality and comfort of urban areas. Towns and cities are also needed for the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and getting the new growth started,” Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä said in connection with ministerial meeting organised by Germany. At the meeting of ministers responsible for urban development on 30 November, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment was represented by Director General Marja-Riitta Pihlman.
As the main item of the meeting, the ministers adopted the New Leipzig Charter that sets out the principles of the EU-level urban policy. The Charter stresses the role of towns and cities in the renewal of society very strongly.
Finland supported the approval of the Leipzig Charter. The key priority of the Charter, just, green and productive towns and cities, supports Finland’s own focus to see towns and cities as drivers of the economy, sustainable growth and positive societal change.
The meeting also approved the next stepping stones for the cooperation instrument “Urban Agenda for the EU” first launched on the Netherlands’ initiative in 2016. At the meeting, Finland stressed the need for an active approach to further developing and implementing the Urban Agenda. Based on the Agenda, Finnish towns and cities and Finland as a Member State have participated in nine Thematic Partnerships. Through the Agenda the towns and cities, Member States and the EU engage in cooperation to improve the legislation, funding and exchange of information that impact on urban development.
Timo Juurikkala, Special Adviser to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, tel. +358 40 555 4013, timo[email protected]
Marja-Riitta Pihlman, Director General, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 295 049 208, [email protected]