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Cities are the living labs for the future of Europe

What impact for the EU Urban Agenda?

The EU Urban Agenda[1], as it has been decided at the June 2016 Council meeting and in the „Pact of Amsterdam[2]“, has a genesis with highs and lows, ups and downs throughout the past decades. This history is as long as cities have been demanding to get involved directly into EU policy development, a demand they based on two simple facts. First, evidence shows that about two thirds of the EU population live in cities, towns or urban areas. This provides a deeply democratic argument for direct involvement. Cities are the places where most EU citizens live and work. Second, cities are the hotspots of all major social, economic and political developments – they are the hubs for innovation and growth, it is there where new societal patterns first occur, they are the places with the highest density of people with all positive and negative effects. In brief, they constitute the living labs for the future of Europe. To leave them out of the process is simply ignoring their long time existing expertise in integrated policy making – a knowledge older than the EU itself by far.

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Cities rock Europe

Heute ist ein guter Tag für die Städte Europas. In Amsterdam trafen die für Städtepolitik verantwortlichen MinisterInnen der EU-28 zusammen, um den Pakt von Amsterdam zu beschließen. Seit langem steht damit endlich wieder die Frage, wie Europa konkret bei den Menschen ankommt, ganz oben auf der Tagesordnung der EU. Es ist kein Zufall, dass es die Niederländische EU-Präsidentschaft war, die dieses Thema so stark forciert hat. In einem der dichtest besiedelten Länder der Welt lebt ein Großteil der Menschen in Städten oder städtischen Räumen und schon immer hatten die Niederlande sich für eine EU-Städteagenda eingesetzt.

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Of course we need trade agreements. Fair, not free ones.

Cities, civil society, social partners are natural allies for a global fair trade system.

TTIP civil society meeting in Brussels July 2014Mid-July was an interesting time in Brussels. The beginning of the week saw a big gathering of civil society organisations joining forces against TTIP, TISA & co. They met in an Ixelles based, rather poorly equipped NGO headquarter, their outfit was casual and relaxing, discussions were open minded and inclusive. Some things were chaotic, like the WIFI would not work properly all the time, but that did have no impact whatsoever on the quality of discussions in real time. This impressing 2-days-meeting with 200 activists was followed by yet another one of these perfectly orchestrated „EU stakeholder meetings“ on TTIP, as the main negogiators met in the same week in Brussels, grey/black suits and perfect PPPs galore. In the light of this interesting week, it is worth to look at the question why the strategic alliance of cities, civil society and social partners in a multilevel political and even transatlantic context is so important to influence and even change global trade relations.

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