European mayors gather in Brussels to demand stronger EU urban policy

European mayors gather in Brussels to demand stronger EU urban policy
People ride bikes in Brussels, on September 18, 2022, during the "Car Free Sunday". (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

Representatives from 40 EU cities convened in the Belgian capital on Wednesday to sign the Brussels Declaration – a document that calls for an ambitious EU urban policy and proposes recommendations for the upcoming EU mandate.

When it comes to urban policy, Brussels is in many ways a frontrunner in Europe, from making the city more accessible for cyclists and pedestrians to the progress on sustainable architecture. Accordingly, the "Brussels Declaration" sets out the political priorities of cities across the continent.

Key aspects of the text are affordable housing, combatting social and gender inequality, restoring biodiversity and developing safe, sustainable mobility. It was signed by 41 mayors from 19 European countries as part of the Belgian Presidency of the European Union.

Credit: The Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU 2024

"This presidency is an opportunity for us to recall the importance of cities and metropolises in the construction of Europe," said Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region.

Large urban populations

The stakes are high: almost three-quarters of Europeans already live in cities and this urbanisation is expected to continue. In light of this, the Declaration makes the case for better integrating the urban dimension in European policy, pointing out that cities will be central when confronting future challenges.

"This declaration puts the future of cities at the centre of the debate and ensures the voice of cities is heard," said Ans Persoons, Brussels State Secretary for Town Planning. The text summarises the main issues facing these cities and the tools they need to respond to them.

Also part of the document were six recommendations to the European institutions for the EU's 2024-2029 mandate. Among these is a call to appoint a European Commissioner for Urban Policy.

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Persoons said that in the next six months Brussels will be the "spokesperson for cities in defending their interests and priorities to the European institutions", particularly in terms of affordable, quality and sustainable housing.

"I'm convinced that a strengthened dialogue and partnership between the EU and its cities will help us to meet common challenges and objectives in terms of economic, social and territorial cohesion, the climate, innovation and housing."

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