Cities and regions are confronted every day with the task of making sustainable development a reality that works for all citizens. As the climate crisis and rising social inequalities pose serious challenges to Europeʼs future, local and regional authorities have become new drivers of change.
With their innovative solutions and concrete policies, local and regional governments strive to make the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a reality, as no less than 65% of the targets depend on them. From ending poverty to quality education, from reducing inequalities to zero hunger, from fighting the climate crisis to building more sustainable communities, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the right compass to build a society that leaves no people and no places behind.
A just transition towards a sustainable Europe is urgent and necessary, but it will not be possible without a rethinking of the European Union policies in an ambitious and comprehensive way. In particular, cohesion policy, which is the EUʼs best investment tool for territories, has the potential to become the cornerstone of sustainable development policies, by supporting cities and regions in their actions and empowering citizens in this transformation.
This event presented inspiring local stories of sustainable development and discuss the idea of a progressive Green New Deal to help cities and regions achieve a sustainable future.
It was organised by the PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions, with the cooperation of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament and its Progressive Society initiative.
This first panel brought together the mayors of three very different communities: a tiny remote island, a medium-size post-industrial city and a large town near a metropolitan area.
Maria Kakali became Mayor of Agios Efstratios in 2014 and has been reelected unanimously in 2019. She shared her experience as mayor of a small and very remote Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea and the multiple challenges she is facing when it comes to making Agios Efstratios attractive for people to stay or settle on the island, while fully respecting environmental sustainability.
Basilio Horta, Mayor of Sintra (Portugal) and Member of the PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions, shared initiatives he undertook to make his city ecologically and socially sustainable. He mentioned inter alia the programmes Sintra Inclusive and Sintra Integration, dedicated to include physically and mentally disable people in the labour market.
Elena Piastra became Mayor of Settimo Torinese (Italy) in June 2019. She shared her experience as mayor with a positive agenda for environmental, social and economic sustainability for a post-industrial city in Italy, where plastic industry represents a significant employment sector. She stressed that EU financial support is very important to accompany the transition.
Paul Magnette, Mayor of Charleroi, delivered the keynote speech. According to him, citizens' enthusiasm for a policy is a key factor for its successful implementation. He gave the example of planting trees and also the initiative of free lunches in schools, which not only enabled to embrace circular economy principles, but also created jobs, raised awareness amongst children and bridged the gap between food suppliers in the countryside and consumers of sustainable food in urban areas.
The second panel focused on the financial and social challenges at local and regional level, linked to the green transition.
Peter Kurz, Mayor of Mannheim (Germany) and Member of the PES Group in the CoR, argued that challenges to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the local level also differ from one part of a city to another. While presenting the measures taken in Mannheim, he explained that the millions of new jobs to be created by a new sustainable economy will actually replace old jobs. He therefore stressed the need for localised solutions to make the transition just for workers.
Liina Carr, Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, underlined the need to empower those workers who are affected by the green and digital transitions to take up new sustainable jobs. She argued that social dialogue is of paramount importance in this respect. Furthermore, she urged for a substantial increase of the part of the new EU budget earmarked for new sustainability initiatives.
Pierre Larrouturou MEP, (S&D/France) Chair of the EP's Budget Committee, mainly argued that the EU needs a tax on business profits, which would finance a European budget for climate protection without making citizens pay for the green transition.
Concluding the event, Iratxe García Pérez, President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament, recalled the importance of a just transition, in order to take into account the needs of every citizen in the fight for climate protection.
Christophe Rouillon, President of the PES Group in the CoR, recalled that, a few days ago, we celebrated the fourth anniversary of the 17 SDGs, but have not managed in these 4 years to establish them as the EU's development strategy for the decade ahead. He also stressed that regions and cities need the EU to address the challenges linked to a just transition.
Implementing SDGs at local level is successful when people are aware of the beneficial impacts on their daily life. Therefore, climate protection can only be achieved if people's and communities' needs are considered and no person nor region is left behind. Speakers also emphasised the need for information and communication campaigns, for citizens and elected representatives alike. There was broad consensus for a place-based approach and the need for cooperation and for the EU to shoulder cities and regions in their efforts to attain the SDGs.
Photo credit: Unsplash / Karsten Wuerth
Beatriz Ríos is a Brussels-based reporter and a broadcast journalist who covers EU affairs for the European media network EURACTIV and for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo (with a particular focus on economy, finances and social affairs).
Maria Kakali was born in Athens in 1987 and is a permanent resident of Agios Efstratios, a small and very remote Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea. In 2004, she graduated from the high school of Agios Efstratios. She is a graduate of the Department of Education Science and Pre-school Education of the University of Patras, and she holds a Cambridge IT diploma. In 2010, Maria was elected Municipal Councilor of Agios Efstratios, later becoming President of the Council (January 2013). In the municipal elections of 2014, she was elected Mayor and won the title of the youngest mayor of Greece. In the municipal elections of May 2019, she was reelected as Mayor of Agios Efstrations with 100% of the votes cast.
Graduated in linguistic, Elena Piastra is a teacher by profession. She became local councillor in Settimo Torinese at 25 years old, local councillor with responsibility for innovation, education, culture and youth policies at 27 years old, deputy mayor at 30 years old, and finally mayor at 35 years old during the election that took place in June 2019. She won by leading a broad centre-left coalition which has been able to combine civic lists and local associations that aim at building a project for the city based on social innovation and environmental sustainability. In the past years, she has been responsible for innovation, youth, culture, budget, intercultural and social policies, contributing to the transition of Settimo Torinese towards smart city and social inclusion policies, including through cultural projects and the reduction of the cultural divide (as recognised by the awarding of the Italian Capital of Culture in 2018). In 2018, she was the national coordinator of the Democratic Party for education.
Mr Horta graduated with a degree in law from the University of Lisbon's Faculty of Law, and was an associate professor at the School of Social and Political Sciences. Over the course of his career he has occupied the following roles: member of parliament; Minister for Commerce and Tourism in the second and sixth governments; Deputy Minister of State for the Prime Minister in the seventh government; Minister for Agriculture, Commerce and Fisheries in the eighth government; and member of the Council of State. He also served as an ambassador to the OECD, chair of the board of AICEP, and vice-president and economic coordinator of the Parliamentary Group of the Socialist Party. Mr Horta was president of the Lisbon metropolitan area (Metropolitan Council) from 2015-2017. He has been a member of the CoR since 2014.
Paul Magnette is the Mayor of Charleroi since 2013. Formerly a professor of political sciences at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), he was the Minister-President of the French-speaking region of Wallonia from 2014 to 2017. He studied political sciences at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and completed a PhD in 1999. His research interests focus on institutional policies, the European Union and on democracy theories. In 2007, Paul Magnette became Minister for Health, Social Action and Equal Opportunity of the Walloon government as well as Minister for Climate and Energy in the Belgian Federal government (a post he held until 2011). From 2011-213, he was the Federal Minister for Public Enterprises, Scientific Policy and Development Cooperation.
Dr Peter Kurz is the Mayor of the city of Mannheim since 2007. He has numerous functions in municipal subsidiary companies and occupies honorary posts both in the Committee of the Association of German Cities and Towns and in the Committee of the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. From 1999 until 2007, he was Deputy Mayor responsible for education, culture, sports and city branding in Mannheim. He studied law and completed his legal clerkships in Mannheim, in Speyer, in Heidelberg and in San Diego (USA). He worked as a freelancer in a lawyer’s office, as a scientific assistant at the University of Mannheim and as a judge at the administrative court of Karlsruhe. His political career began while he was still studying. He became a member of the district advisory board and worked as an assistant to a member of the Landtag. He was also a member of the Mannheim’s city council and of various supervisory boards, a deputy district chairperson of the SPD, a chairperson of the SPD’s city council faction as well as a member of the SPD Executive Committee in Baden-Württemberg. In 2013, he became a representative on the Governance Committee for the Chamber of Local Authorities at the Congress of the Council of Europe. Since March 2017, he is the Vice-chairperson in the Steering Committee of the Global Parliament of Mayors. In April 2018, Peter Kurz was nominated to take a seat in the European Committee of the Regions as a representative of the German Association of Cities. Since July 2018, he is the president of the Association of Cities in Baden-Württemberg and, in September 2018, was nominated by the German Association of Cities as a full member of World Council and Executive Committee of UCLG (United Cities and Local Government).
Liina Carr was elected as ETUC's Confederal Secretary at the Paris Congress in 2015. She studied law in Estonia and in England and has worked in the private sector as well as in the fields of academia and of NGOs. Her current responsibilities in the ETUC include international trade and mobility as well as the posting of workers, migration, the EU structural funds, the implementation of the UN's 2030 Agenda and the development of cooperation policies. She is a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) since 2004. Liina worked in the private sector in Estonia and in Britain, and has studied law at the Tallinn College of Economics. She was awarded a first class honors degree in law from the University of Kent in the UK in 1999. Liina Carr lived in England where she first worked as a university teaching assistant, then as an account manager for the National Health Service trust. In 2002, she returned to Estonia and was appointed to the post of European integration and training coordinator within the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions (EAKL). She was also the International Secretary of the Confederation of the Estonian Trade Unions from 2004 to 2015.
After having completed his studies in Agronomy and Political Sciences, Pierre Larrouturou started his career as a consulting engineer. From 2010 to 2015, he was a regional councilor for the Île-de-France region. In 2012, he cofounded the “ROOSEVELT collective” and launched 15 measures for a European New Deal. He then took part in 2013 in the creation of the “Nouvelle Donne” French party (named in reference to Roosevelt's New Deal). In December 2017, he became Vice-president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC ) that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He then launched, together with the climate scientist Jean Jouzel, a European initiative to get a European Finance-Climate PACT to fight climate change in Europe, Africa and all around the Mediterranean Sea. Following the 2019 European elections, he was elected Member of the European Parliament from a Socialist Party, Place Publique and Radical Party of the Left common list.
Iratxe García Pérez is a member of the Group of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament since 2004. On 18 June 2019, she was elected as the Group's new president. She consequently confirmed for the Group a just transition towards a more sustainable Europe as top political priorities. Iratxe García Pérez has a degree in Social Work from the University of Valladolid (1995) and started her professional career as a social educator in vocational training courses. Between 1995 and 2000, she was a member of the Laguna de Duero Municipal Council and of the Valladolid Provincial Assembly. From 2000 until 2004, she was a member of the Spanish Parliament and, from 2014 to 2017, was the chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. In previous legislative terms, she was also a member of the Committee on Regional Development and of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. Iratxe García Pérez has been the First Vice-president of the Party of the European Socialists (PES) since 2018.
by the moderator Beatriz Ríos, Reporter and broadcast journalist, Euractiv
Maria Kakali, Mayor of Agios Efstratios (Greece)
Elena Piastra, Mayor of Settimo Torinese (Italy)
Basílio Horta, Mayor of Sintra and Member of the PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions (Portugal)
Paul Magnette, Mayor of Charleroi (Belgium)
Liina Carr, Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation
Dr Peter Kurz, Mayor of Mannheim and Member of the PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions (Germany)
Pierre Larrouturou, Member of the European Parliament (France)
Christophe Rouillon, President of the PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions
Iratxe García Pérez, President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament
In front of the meeting room