The European Commission’s Bespoke Urban Programmes and Initiatives – seminar account and video recording
The most recent Local Development Forum seminar was organised with a focus on European programmes, initiatives and missions allowing cities and towns to deliver their plans and development undertakings.

This online seminar organised under the aegis of the Local Development Forum (LDF) was titled “European Union Horizontal and Sectoral Policies – the European Commission’s Bespoke Urban Programmes and Initiatives”. Tools and measures presented in the course of the seminar are complementary to options awaiting cities and towns under the European Union’s new financial perspective in so-called national envelopes.

Our Offer for Cities

“There are more options out there than we can realistically use, which is why it is so important to get to know them and learn how to navigate them,” Deputy Director of the Association of Polish Cities’ Office Tomasz Potkański said, addressing municipal representatives.

Member of the European Parliament Jan Olbrycht pointed to the fact that distinguishing between funds previously available in so-called national envelopes (i.a. under the Cohesion Policy) and other sources introduced by individual European Commission Directorates-General is essential to any considerations regarding future development activities. The latter are most usually scoring-based and resemble competitions or quasi-competitions, their funds distributed directly by the European Commission rather than by individual governments.

Programmes, initiatives and missions realised within the framework of European Union’s horizontal and sectoral policies are designed to deliver the EU’s primary objectives, and respond to all key challenges we happen to be facing. These most certainly include climate change and issues of climate change adaptation, urban mobility, demographic change, immigrant community presence, local resource-based economy, and digitisation.

European Union Missions – the Response to Global Challenges

The seminar agenda included a presentation of two of the five recently introduced European Commission missions. Missions are a new and innovative form of collaborating to improve the quality of life in Europe and elsewhere. The purpose of any EU mission is to confront grave health, climate, and environmental challenges, and achieve ambitious and inspiring goals in all these fields.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, spoke of the European Commission’s new initiative: “Today, we have launched five new missions. A mission is a new and innovative tool – a new way to work together within ‘Horizon Europe’. They are also an original concept in EU policy. The missions are commitments to solve some of the greatest challenges we are facing today: fighting cancer, adapting to climate change, protecting oceans, seas and waters, living in greener cities and ensuring healthy soil and food. It is a set of actions – research and innovation projects, policy measures and legislative initiatives, citizens’ involvement – to achieve concrete goals with large societal impact. We want to deliver solutions to key global challenges by 2030!”

One of the missions – “100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030” – has been tailor-made to address cities and towns, specifically and directly. This comes as no surprise once we realise that 75% of European Union citizens live in cities, that number expected to reach approximately 85% by 2050. Cities consume over 65% of energy produced globally, accounting for over 70% of CO2 emissions. Yet human urban existence stands for more than just greenhouse gas emissions; it also breeds air pollution and noise, traffic jams and traffic hazards.

“We know that multiple cities, Polish cities and towns included, have impressive climate-related aspirations – yet their readiness to act requires support, which is exactly why this mission was put on the table,” said Aleksandra Olejnik
of the European Commission Directorate-General for Research and Development, addressing seminar participants.

The seminar agenda included presentations with a focus on selected European Union programmes and initiatives, such as Horizon Europe, LIFE, New European Bauhaus and the URBACT Programme.

We Cannot Escape Taxonomy

European Parliamentary Advisor Ryszard Pawlik introduced seminar participants to Taxonomy, a colloquial term referencing Regulation (EU) 2020/852 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2020 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment. Taxonomy is the world’s first uniform classification of environment-friendly business operations conforming to sustainable development principles. Its fundamental environmental objectives include the following: climate change abatement, climate change adaptation, sustainable use and protection of aquatic and marine resources, converting to closed-loop economy, pollution prevention and control, and – last but not least – protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems.

“Taxonomy has been designed as a list of environmentally sustainable business operation types, a dynamic tool based on state-of-the-art scientific and industry experience. It is not meant to be an appraisal tool to distinguish between good and bad companies, or a list of mandatory or forbidden investments,” Ryszard Pawlik said.

Since the Taxonomy Regulation formally applies to the European Union and her member states, financial market players offering financial products, and large corporations subject to mandatory non-financial data disclosure, it will soon bear actual and practical impact on i.a. costs and terms of investment loans, EU legislation (by referencing Taxonomy criteria and goals) and access to European Union programme and fund financing.

“This is why I am happy to find that the Association of Polish Cities decided to explore Taxonomy during this seminar. Little has been said in Poland on the topic so far, while this is something we will be unable to escape in urban environments when considering what we intend to build and develop, and what we intend to invest in,” Ryszard Pawlik declared.

It is noteworthy that this was the 25th Local Development Forum’s “Releasing Endogenic Potential as a Condition for the Development of Small and Medium-Sized Polish Cities and Towns” seminar. The series forms part of the “Local Development” Programme implemented by the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy, under the 3rd European Economic Area and Norway Grants edition. The LDF is an open platform launched by the Association of Polish Cities to accommodate debates between local governments, the central government and experts, and an integrated activity package designed to promote approaches and tools of sustainable and endogenic local development.