Tuesday, 16 March 2021 20:06

Make progressive and sustainable cities the engine of Europe’s recovery


Cities can be engines for recovery from the coronavirus crisis. But only if we revitalise them, building on the twin principles of equality and sustainability.

Three in four Europeans live in or around cities, from global metropolises to smaller centres of regional development. Now is the time to transform Europe’s urban spaces into drivers for Europe’s priorities: the European Green Deal, implementation of the Social Pillar, the digital transition and more.

This is how we kickstart the recovery. Tonight, we are proud to join fellow socialists and democrats – from the European Commission to city leaders – for a livestream setting out the path to progressive and sustainable cities. From cleaner mobility to the circular economy, and investment in housing and public services, the time has come to rejuvenate our urban areas.

Follow live from 17:00 CET to hear from European Commissioner Elisa Ferreira, Mayor of Charleroi and President of Belgium’s Parti Socialiste Paul Magnette, S&D leader Iratxe García Pérez, President of the PES Group in the Committee of the Regions Christophe Rouillon and many others.

Progressives from just about every level of government – local, national, and European – will take part. Their voices are vital: seizing the potential of Europe’s cities requires a common effort. Because our cities’ challenges are Europe’s challenges.

Across our continent, urban areas face many of the same struggles: a housing crisis, wealth inequality, underfunded public services, air pollution and the consequences of climate change. All over the EU, socialist and social-democratic mayors and city councillors are working tirelessly to address these issues. But more than that, socialist and democrats are convinced that ambitious local, national and European action is needed.

We must rethink mobility across our cities, prioritising the rollout of non-carbon-based transport and redesigning and re-imagining neighbourhoods and reconnecting cities with their surrounding peri-urban and rural areas. This means greener public transport and new models of urban development which promote health, like cycling and walking.

We must renew our local economies and move towards a circular model of production and consumption that respects our planet’s limits. This will reduce waste and create jobs. Europe can look to Berlin – whose city administration opened its own department store for second-hand furniture to reduce waste – or Sweden – which is leading the way on energy-efficient district heating – for inspiration.

Thanks to their clustering effects, cities are our continent’s drivers of economic growth and job creation. We must support them to become divers for equality too. Greener local economies must go hand-in-hand with more just local economies.

High-quality jobs, world-class education and training, strong social protections, action to end poverty, more women in better-paying jobs – these are all areas where our cities can create a fairer recovery.

And this revitalisation of cities must mean support for small business, who face spiralling rents and continuing COVID restrictions at a time when large online companies make unprecedented profits.

We must invest in housing across the EU, to make affordable and sustainable homes a right for all. There is a Europe-wide housing crisis due to under-investment in public housing and the financialisation of private housing. These have combined to limit supply, reduce quality and drive-up rents.

Our cities must be communities for all, like in Vienna which has an effective rent-control model in place. And we must ramp-up affordable housing construction and low-carbon renovation, making use of the Renovation Wave announced by Executive Vice President Timmermans.

And, we must rebuild our public services after a decade of austerity. Underfunding has substantially weakened – and continues to weaken – the capacity of Europe’s cities to deliver on the bold progressive agenda for the recovery. The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated the importance of strong public services. We must never again answer a crisis by weakening them.

From Lisbon to Budapest, from Malmö to Seville, socialists and democrats are working for progressive and sustainable cities. As we rebuild following COVID-19, we know ‘business as usual’ is not an option. From our global metropolises to regional centres, Europe’s cities must become beacons of carbon-neutrality, inclusive democracy and social equality.

Let’s grasp the recovery and make our cities engines for progressive and sustainable change.