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Procedure : 2017/2037(INI)
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PV 02/07/2018 - 21
CRE 02/07/2018 - 21

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PV 03/07/2018 - 11.5
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Tuesday, 3 July 2018 - Strasbourg Provisional edition
Role of cities in the institutional framework of the Union

European Parliament resolution of 3 July 2018 on the role of cities in the institutional framework of the Union (2017/2037(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on European Union, and in particular Article 5(3) thereof, and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to its resolution of 7 May 2009 on the impact of the Treaty of Lisbon on the development of the institutional balance of the European Union(1),

–   having regard to the Commission communication of 19 May 2015 entitled ‘Better regulation for better results ­– An EU agenda’ (COM(2015)0215),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union(2), and in particular Article 41 thereof,

–  having regard to the Pact of Amsterdam establishing the Urban Agenda for the EU, agreed by the EU Ministers Responsible for Urban Matters on 30 May 2016,

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 September 2015 on the urban dimension of EU policies(3),

–  having regard to the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 240/2014 of 7 January 2014 on the European code of conduct on partnership in the framework of the European Structural and Investment Funds(4),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 18 July 2014 entitled ‘The urban dimension of EU policies – key features of an EU urban agenda’ (COM(2014)0490),

–  having regard to the Declaration towards the EU Urban Agenda, agreed on by the Ministers responsible for Territorial Cohesion and Urban Matters on 10 June 2015,

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 on possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union(6),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 24 June 2016 on an Urban Agenda for the EU,

–  having regard to the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities, agreed at the Informal Ministerial Meeting on Urban Development and Territorial Cohesion in Leipzig on 24 and 25 May 2007,

–   having regard to the New Urban Agenda adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador, on 20 October 2016,

–  having regard to the Commission’s State of European Cities Report 2016,

–   having regard to its resolution of 12 December 2017 on the EU Citizenship Report 2017: Strengthening Citizens’ Rights in a Union of Democratic Change(7);

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development (A8-0203/2018),

A.  whereas the Maastricht Treaty instituted the European Committee of the Regions, thus involving cities – through their representation on the committee – in its consultative role in the EU decision-making process;

B.  whereas the Committee of Regions fulfils this role by carrying out a series of activities aimed at promoting dialogue and active participation in the EU’s decision-making process;

C.  whereas Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality gives the European Committee of the Regions the power to bring action, via the Court of Justice of the European Union, against legislative acts if the principle of subsidiarity or proportionality is not respected in the case of acts for the adoption of which the treaty provides that the Committee be consulted; whereas cities thus have a tool that can be used to defend their interests in the European Union;

D.  whereas a clear distinction should be made between cities' representatives enshrined in the treaties, such as members of the Committee of the Regions, and associations representing cities' interests;

E.  whereas the majority of the EU population (more than 70 %) live in urban areas;

F.  whereas the process of de-linking power from territory, which is inherent in globalisation, does not dispense with the need for networks of European cities, in which the interests of the citizens of the Union are created and pursued;

G.  whereas most EU policies and legislation are implemented at local and regional level, including at the level of cities, and today extend to almost all political, economic and social domains;

H.  whereas the institutional architecture of the EU is based on the principle of multi-level governance and subsidiarity;

I.  whereas the Charter for Multilevel Governance in Europe, adopted by the Committee of the Regions, points to the close correlation between loyal cooperation in partnership between the European Union, Member States and regional and local authorities and to the equal legitimacy and accountability of each level within their respective competences;

J.  whereas the Committee of Regions created the Subsidiarity Monitoring Network to facilitate the exchange of information, between local and regional authorities in the European Union and the EU institutions, on Commission documents and legislative proposals that have a direct impact on regional and local authorities;

K.  whereas in its aforementioned resolution of 12 December 2017, it called on the Commission, with the aim of strengthening Union citizenship and the exercise of that citizenship, to encourage local authorities to designate councillors responsible for European affairs, since this is the level that is closest to the citizens;

L.  whereas the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities employs the term ‘European cities’;

M.  whereas the Covenant of Mayors has helped to develop integrated climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, improve energy efficiency and make greater use of renewable energy; whereas such initiatives demonstrate how cooperation among cities and exchange of best practices can help deliver the EU's policy goals;

N.  whereas, according to the Leipzig Charter, European cities are considered ‘valuable and irreplaceable economic, social and cultural assets’ and should assume responsibility for territorial cohesion, while one of the core conclusions of the Commission’s 2016 Cities Report is that cities are central to reaching key EU economic, social and environmental goals; whereas cities should, therefore, be accorded a key role in cohesion policy;

O.  whereas the Leipzig Charter acknowledges the obligation of the Member States’ responsible ministers to promote balanced territorial organisation based on a European polycentric urban structure and states that cities should be the main centres for the development of urban regions and assume responsibility for territorial cohesion;

P.  whereas the Urban Agenda for the EU (“Pact of Amsterdam”), while affirming its full adherence to the principle of subsidiarity and competences under the EU Treaties, creates a platform of cooperation between Member States, regions, cities, the Commission, Parliament, the Union’s advisory bodies, and other stakeholders in the context of partnerships, with a view to making an informal contribution to the design and revision of both future and existing EU legislation;

Q.  whereas the scope of the Urban Agenda includes in particular a pillar on Better Regulation, aimed at focusing on a more effective and coherent implementation of EU policies, legislation and legal instruments, while not aiming at initiating new legislation;

R.  whereas the Commission invites, as part of the Better Regulation Package local authorities, on an ad-hoc basis, to participate in territorial impact assessments of future legislative proposals;

S.  Whereas, in its conclusions of 24 June 2016, the Council welcomed the Pact of Amsterdam and invited the Commission, Member States, local and regional authorities, the European Parliament, among others, to take further action in this context, inviting the Parliament to consider the results and recommendations of the partnerships after guidance by the Directors General responsible for Urban Matters, in the context of the agendas of the relevant Committees when discussing relevant new and existing EU legislation;

T.  whereas the same Urban Agenda tasks the Commission, among others, with considering the results and recommendations of the partnerships when drafting or reviewing relevant EU legislation, instruments and initiatives, and with working with urban authorities and their representative organisations through the various existing opportunities for consultation and feedback offered in the development of new policy and legislative initiatives and the evaluation of existing EU strategies, policies and legislation;

U.  whereas new global challenges posed by security and immigration, demographic shift, youth unemployment, challenges relating to the quality of public services, access to clean and affordable energy, natural disasters and environmental protection demand local responses and, therefore, a stronger commitment on the part of cities when designing and implementing EU policies;

V.  whereas the value of European cities also derives from the fact that they are home to a substantial part of Europe’s common cultural heritage;

W.  whereas cities represent the level of politics best understood by the public and therefore hold great potential as places for citizens to engage in constructive discussions, for which the Committee of the Regions' experience in organising the Citizens Dialogues, in conjunction with local and regional partners, provides promising prospects;

X.  whereas, in the light of the political requirements deriving from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and from the Paris Agreement on climate change, cities have enhanced their ability to develop innovative policy solutions and instruments in the interests of social, ecological and economic sustainability and fair trading systems, and to link up within the EU, and internationally, going beyond existing formats, in order to put them into practice;

Y whereas the declaration ‘Towards the EU Urban Agenda’, agreed on by the EU Ministers Responsible for Territorial Cohesion and Urban Matters in June 2015, recognises the important role of the Committee of the Regions, EUROCITIES and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) in voicing the interests of urban areas;

Z.  whereas cities can offer an opportunity to fulfil the potential of European citizenship and to reinforce it through the promotion of active citizenship, stemming from the recognition that cities can implement intermediation structures between the EU and its citizens with greater efficiency;

AA.  whereas participation in EU policies by cities contributes to increased local ownership of EU processes, better governance through more participative European democracy, improved administrative capacity and a better quality of public services at the scale of the whole EU, thereby contributing to the implementation of the right to good administration as enshrined in Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;

AB.  whereas it is important to involve local and regional authorities at the earliest stage possible in the policy-making cycle and to enhance them as an integral part in territorial impact assessments;

AC.  whereas the current forms of cities’ participation remain unsatisfactory from the perspective of the desired impact on the design and implementation of EU policies and legislation; whereas, moreover, this impact would be magnified if the cities joined together in networks founded on shared historical, geographical, demographic, economic, social and cultural affinities;

1.  Notes that the involvement of cities, understood as towns, cities and urban and metropolitan areas, as well as small and medium-sized cities, in the EU decision-making is facilitated through their participation in the Committee of the Regions, as a consultative and advisory body; believes that the current institutional set-up allows for encouraging platforms of cooperation between cities, and between cities and their representative organisations and decision-making bodies, at both national and EU level, in line with the principles of sincere cooperation, subsidiarity and proportionality;

2.  Points out that there is no single definition of what constitutes the city in terms of population, area, function or level of autonomy, but only in terms of degree of urbanisation and concentration of residents, and that each Member State, therefore, may and will have a different approach to the term;

3.  Observes that the EU is incrementally strengthening the urban dimension of a number of its policies, as is shown, e.g., by the ‘smart cities and communities’ concept (the European Innovation Partnership) and by such initiatives as the Urban Community Initiative I (URBAN I), URBAN II, sustainable urban development (Article 7 ERDF(8)), the Urban Development Network, Urban Innovative Actions, the European Capital of Culture, the European Green Capital and the European Capital of Innovation, the Covenant of Mayors and the Urban Agenda for the EU;

4.  Recalls that cities play an important role in the implementation of certain policies and instruments of the EU, such as in the area of cohesion policy and the European Structural and Investment Funds; calls, therefore, on cities to work in an integrated way by cooperating, with all levels of administration, the private sector and civil society, in line with the partnership principle;

5.  Emphasises the key role of cities, as well as of all local authorities, in preparing, designing, financing and implementing key Union policies, e.g. tackling climate change, through an urban, economic, social and territorial development process enabling cities to address new challenges and seize opportunities within the upcoming EU funding period, with a view to mobilising available resources towards not only smart and sustainable, but also creative cities of the future; stresses as well, in this context, the importance of worldwide strategies and initiatives, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Covenant of Mayors;

6.  Underlines that since cities have proved their capacity to efficiently manage integrated actions for sustainable urban development, they should be given a greater role in the implementation of all relevant policies;

7.  Underlines the potential of giving cities an important role in the Union’s external policies as a tool of public diplomacy, bringing people from different countries together and addressing issues that, for various reasons, are absent from high-level policy agendas, and calls, therefore, for better financing of the respective Union support mechanisms;

8.  Points out, however, that sometimes cities do not have the appropriate tools and administrative capacity to participate in tendering procedures with a view to obtaining EU funds; welcomes, therefore, the establishment of a ‘one-stop shop’ for cities, the website and documents of which should be available in all the official languages of the Union; calls for better coordination and integration of the instruments and programmes dedicated to cities in various EU policies, to be achieved by designating a Commissioner responsible for taking a political lead on the matter, so as to give strategic direction to those policies – in keeping with the growing attention being paid by EU policies to urban areas – while also taking into consideration the varied nature of the differences among European local authorities and their respective potential; stresses the importance of promoting a more balanced approach towards cities, regardless of their size, with regard to access to the instruments and programmes concerned, in particular by developing advisory capacities;

9.  Welcomes the Urban Agenda for the EU as a new model of multi-level governance based on partnership by engaging cities in the review of existing legislation and reflecting on the future shape of policies; stresses the need for an integrated and comprehensive approach in the practical implementation of the multi-level governance laid down by EU acts, in keeping with the fundamental goals of EU policies; notes the important complementary role played by place-based and bottom-up approaches such as community-led local development;

10.  Calls for the Urban Agenda to be coordinated, reinforced and formalised; believes that it should not remain a voluntary process and that the Member States and the Commission should acquire more of its ownership, and should commit to carefully examining and, where possible, implementing the recommendations received;

11.  Calls on partnerships working in the framework of the Urban Agenda to swiftly adopt their recommendations and action plans; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to demonstrate how such concrete proposals are taken into consideration, in particular as regards better regulation, funding and knowledge, and to incorporate them, where appropriate, into future legislative proposals; calls on the Commission to consistently report to Parliament on these outcomes;

12.  Welcomes platforms of cooperation between cities that allow for the creation of synergies for cross-border cooperation and better implementation of EU policies on the ground; believes that the EU Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is a good example to be followed;

13.  Welcomes the establishment by the Commission of the Urban Data Platform; calls, however, on Eurostat and the Commission to gather and compile more detailed data, in particular flow data, with a view to efficiently adjusting the existing policies and shaping future ones;

14.  Considers it necessary to reinforce the early and coordinated involvement of cities in EU decision making within the current institutional set-up of the EU, particularly regarding legislation that affects them directly, in a manner that safeguards transparency and effectiveness in policy and decision making while respecting the different constitutional realities of the Member States; asks for greater transparency and for the involvement of citizens in the EU decision-making process; salutes, in this regard, the European Citizen's Initiative and calls for a better promotion of this tool within the Member States;

15.  Is convinced of the need for the role of cities in shaping future EU policies to be strengthened considerably; calls on the EU, therefore, to reassess the establishment of a European Urban Policy, especially with a view to long-term considerations;

16.  Recalls that the Committee of Regions coordinates the Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform (EUROPE 2020MP), the main task of which is to ensure that the views of cities, regions and other local authorities are taken into account in the definition of the Commission’s strategy for economic growth and innovation;

17.  Recommends strengthening the political representation of cities and municipalities in the current EU institutional framework, also by considering a reinforcement of cities’ representation by the Member States within the Committee of the Regions, without diminishing the role of regions and of rural areas;

18.  Calls on the Member States to ensure that the diversity of their territorial structures is fully reflected in their proposals for appointment of members to the Committee of the Regions, and to propose, where appropriate, the appointment of more local-level representatives to the Committee of the Regions;

19.  Stresses the importance of associations representing cities, such as EUROCITIES and the CEMR; advocates the consolidation of the involvement of European associations representing local authorities and urban interests in policy design, such as the EUROCITIES network and the CEMR and others, and considers that such associations should become key partners of the EU institutions by way of setting up a permanent structured dialogue mechanism, including through the Committee of the Regions, particularly at the pre-legislative stage;

20.  Recommends that territorial impact assessments be made of all policy measures and legislation that affect the local level; believes that a dialogue with local and urban authorities’ representative associations should enable them to contribute to territorial impact assessments, advise on preparatory studies for policy design and provide regular, targeted, technical expertise on the implementation, at subnational level, of EU legislation; recalls that the Committee of the Regions carries out territorial impact assessments;

21.  Encourages greater cooperation between the Council and local authorities; calls for the consultative role of cities and regions, and their representative associations, within the Council to be reinforced when it deals with matters affecting the local level;

22.  Considers that cities, urban centres and municipalities should be regarded more broadly than mere structures of public management under democratic control, and be seen as potential fora for public debate, the transfer of knowledge and for shaping political space in the EU, without undermining the role of rural areas; notes that it is necessary to define the elements upholding that European public space characterised by the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms, and by values such as equality, non-discrimination and justice;

23.  Stresses the importance of the role of civil society in the political life of the EU; considers that cities represent the level at which people can most readily become involved, possessing privileged access to a large sector of the population of the EU; notes that cities can thus have a legitimising role, and can contribute to awareness-raising campaigns on EU citizens’ rights;

24.  Recalls that regions and cities should be recognised as centres with a positive role to play in the development of EU strategies, in which global issues originate locally and are solved locally, contributing to reinforcing the multi-level governance system of the Union, and that this perspective has a practical consequence regarding the institutional framework of the bottom-up or top-down decision-making process of the EU;

25.  Believes that the representation of cities should not be limited to official representatives participating in the management and consulting structures, and that cities, towns and villages – and not only capitals of the countries and regions – could become centres of debate on the future of the Union and its policies;

26.  Considers that in order to become centres of debate on the future of the Union and its policies, municipalities must appoint a councillor in charge of European affairs, and that a network should be established for local councillors with such a mandate;

27.   Calls for the attribution of sufficient support to cities and local authorities to enable them to improve the urban dimension of EU policy making;

28.  Recommends harnessing the potential of EU cities for the purposes of designing and implementing EU policies by means of debates and consultations on matters of relevance to them which extend beyond urban policy in a strict sense;

29.  Insists that such an objective will only be feasible if the debates and consultations are held in urban areas other than national or regional capitals, which may constitute an easily accessible forum for citizens living nearby, including in towns and villages, the main aim being to bring the European Union closer to its citizens;

30.  Acknowledges the importance of providing for involvement models that are tailored to different contexts and urban areas of different size and importance, from European capitals to small and medium-sized cities;

31.  Considers that Parliament, together with the Committee of the Regions, are the natural promoters of such a process, as bodies with the ability to frame the questions that constitute the point of departure for discussions and consultations and to draw conclusions based on the voices, opinions and projects collected;

32.  Proposes that the citizens consultation process be arranged by Parliament and the Committee of the Regions, in cooperation with those European city councils recognised as fora for European debate, and that such fora should, in close cooperation with the Member States, be established primarily in cities the scope of which has significance for, and an impact on, most of the population of the region concerned, so as to ensure the broadest possible participation;

33.  Suggests, furthermore, that the councils of cities recognised as European debating fora should be responsible for providing universities, local schools and other educational institutions, as well as the media, social organisations and associations, and the general public, with extensive professional and public experience and free and open access, as well as the possibility to participate in debates and consultations; believes that the councils should also be responsible for inviting the representatives of all levels of urban governance, including smaller units or partner councils from the wider urban area, and that it would also be sensible to specify the territorial scope of such an obligation in the agreement concluded between relevant bodies at EU level and the council of the European forum city;

34.  Suggests the establishment of a pilot programme of 54 European debate fora – ensuring a balanced territorial representation and the representation of cities of different size – to be held in non-capital cities of the Member States, with a view of attaining a system of municipal debate and consultation on EU affairs;

35.  Stresses the need for the exchange of good practices between European cities, as some have successfully implemented migration or climate change programmes, or innovative urban management plans.

36.  Emphasises that the consolidation of the position of cities in shaping EU policies, inter alia within the Committee of Regions, does not undermine trust in other levels of governance, but rather strengthens it, as it supports multi-level governance and subsidiarity based on the bilateral trust between the EU, the Member States and regional and local authorities;

37.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ C 212 E, 5.8.2010, p. 82.
(2) OJ C 326, 26.10.2012, p. 391
(3) OJ C 316, 22.9.2017, p. 124.
(4) OJ L 74, 14.3.2014, p. 1.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0049.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0048.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0487.
(8) Regulation (EU) No 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the European Regional Development Fund and on specific provisions concerning the Investment for growth and jobs goal (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 289).

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