A better Europe starts in its cities


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and in no way represent the editorial position of Euronews.

A centrally positioned EU urban envoy would unite the different EU policies and initiatives currently impacting cities and urban areas into a single melody, writes Burkhard Jung.


In Leipzig, a city where the echoes of Bach and Mendelssohn resonate, we understand the power of harmony.

Just as a symphony needs all instruments to contribute to the performance, the European Union needs its cities to orchestrate a future that is sustainable, inclusive and vibrant.

During my 17 years as mayor, a crescendo of crises has rocked the EU: from the climate emergency and energy crisis to economic upheaval, pandemic and war.

At the same time, respect for the rule of law, fundamental rights and democratic values ​​has been eroded in some parts of the bloc.

With next year’s European elections and much turbulence around the world, we need to reinforce the message that a better Europe starts from the cities.

We govern where 75% of the European population lives

While many national leaders during this period seized the opportunity to scapegoat the EU for their own shortcomings, city leaders have long promoted and inspired the European project.

It was in Leipzig that Schiller wrote the Ode to Joy, the poem that inspired what would later become the anthem of the European Union.

Meanwhile, we are all too aware of the real suffering of people for whom economic precariousness and social marginalization have become the “new normal”.

The discordant notes of political polarization this has generated, and the particularly worrying rise of the far right, are undermining the European social fabric and our communities.

City leaders are the main presidents of the European ensemble. We govern the places where 75% of Europe’s population lives and the places where economic, social and sustainable policy extends to influence the peri-urban and rural areas with which we have strong links.

We have never been slow to act, both in protecting our populations from the harsh effects of cost of living, energy and health crises, and in supporting our allies in Ukraine and beyond.

We need a strong EU working in tandem with cities

The ideal of Europe is a place where freedom of expression, tolerance, diversity and prosperity are part of the daily rhythm of life. This is the Europe we are committed to building in our cities.

But we need European institutions that, like us, can support these ideals with policies and actions.

We need a stronger EU that takes full advantage of the direct connection to people’s lived experiences that local governments can provide.

This is why I and the 200 mayors of the main European cities represented by the Eurocities network call in unison for a strong EU that works closer to citizens and in tandem with cities.

What is Europe for if not its citizens? The European Social Agenda, enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights, is a key priority for cities.

This agenda and its implementation must be updated for a world facing one crisis after another.

Cities need well-structured collaboration with other levels of government to ensure that people’s social rights are at the heart of all policies, be it social and affordable housing, jobs and skills for green digital transition, safety and inclusion, or health and well-being. — the role of cities must be strongly articulated at EU level.


Cities leapfrogged ahead of member states with ambitious climate targets, on the understanding that the EU would provide a track record of support for concrete policy and a framework for implementation.

We now need policies and financing to achieve sustainable transport, energy-efficient buildings, a circular economy, sustainable food systems and the widespread adoption of renewable energy.

Europe must commit to reducing net emissions by 90% by 2040 and take adaptation measures to be resilient to the effects of climate change, such as the extreme heat and cold that affect our residents.

An urban EU envoy would unite all policies into one tune

The rhapsody of new and more powerful emerging technologies is very promising. But they must be made available to people through a robust digital human rights framework together with a common EU tool that cities can use to measure and enforce them.

The impact of technology on our carbon footprint also urgently needs better recognition and alignment with 2050 carbon neutrality goals, from raw materials used for hardware to emissions from software use.


As cities must be the drivers of the change needed for a resilient and sustainable Europe, the EU must invest in strengthening our technical and administrative capacity, both through greater direct access to EU funding, fiscal decentralization and greater flexibility and incentives for long-term local public services. investment.

It is obvious that, as strong supporters of European politics, cities must have a framework for direct and regular dialogue with European institutions.

An urban envoy at the center would unite in one melody the different EU policies and initiatives currently impacting cities and urban areas.

We cannot afford for structural inefficiencies to continue to silence what must be an open and coherent dialogue, including through regular meetings with the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Parliament and the EU Presidencies.

We know that a better Europe starts from the cities. To get there, we all have to play from a common score.


Burkhard Jung is president of Eurocities and mayor of Leipzig.

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