The way cities are organized today is still very last century.
On a sunny day in June we’ve got the chance to meet up with Jakub Adamowicz, Spokesman for Regional Policy at the European Commission. Over a coffee in a busy cafeteria of the Berlaymont Building, we talked about European cities, issues important for urban areas, ways to communicate European Union to people, and visual storytelling. Below is a fragment of our discussion.
We believe that Europe is not communicated well to general public. Many positive policy outcomes are not presented as a success. What should the EU do to better communicate to people?
Europe is far too often taken for granted and it should never be taken for granted; Europe requires constant work. We should never take for granted that things go the way they do. Older generations remember what the absence of Europe means. We need to bear in mind that there is a cost of non Europe.
Work of European institutions often seems very dry and technical but it is aiming at making war in Europe impossible again. This is very important. In terms of globalization and in terms of inter-connected, small world there is a clear reason for all European nations to stay and work together.
It is not easy to create enthusiasm among people, for example, about regional policy. Regional policy is a complex policy, which consists of projects that are implemented together with the EU Member States. There is a need to communicate this; it changes Europe and in numerous cases it also helps people in their everyday lives. This is very much a real thing.
Are cities and regions gaining more power in Europe? How do you see the role of cities and regions?
On May 30 there was a breakthrough of the Urban Agenda for the European Union. Why is it important? Urban areas/cities are places where roughly 2/3 of the EU population lives. Looking at the migration crisis, cities know what problems are at stake and how to tackle them. Cities are places where the ‘music happens’. Mayors know the real constraints and they know how to achieve more with less. The European Commission hopes to partner up with mayors to ensure that the urban dimension is strengthened in EU policies. Concretely, there will be 12 thematic partnerships in the context of the Urban Agenda for the European Union; four of them have already been launched.
When it comes to regions, there is a less uniform picture because every Member State has a different degree of centralization and a relationship between central and regional governments. Europe is complicated and regions represent a very important layer. The bigger the nation state the more important the role of regions should be. In France, for example, there was an administrative reform, coinciding with 2014-2020 programming period, which gave more powers to regions.
In conclusion, cities are very, very important, and regions often need to find the right niche to be able to optimally make use of different situations.
What kind of trends in cities are you hoping to see in the future?
There are numerous challenges for cities. One element that is important for the future of cities is ITS, intelligent transport system. What do we mean by ITS? It is imagining how the city will look in 20 years’ time.
First of all, it is expected that number of vehicles on the streets will be reduced. On top of that, most of those vehicles will be driverless carrying around people who will spend their time in cars productively.
Then there is a concept of a ‘last mile’ and drones. Drones could be used for delivering services in urban areas. The last mile concept is important and the legislations across European countries need to be aligned.
The third element is a so called ‘internet of things,’ which means that we will be using services on a more individual basis via different mobile applications.When we talk about this, we need to stress the need for clear social regulations.
All of the above impacts cities. The way cities are organized today is still very last century; whereas, this vision goes clearly into the 21st century. Other things, like improving air quality and more greenery will accompany this process. However, this will catalyze meta trends.
What do you love about traveling in Europe?
I love Europe as a continent because it is so diverse. The more you travel around the more you start realizing the beauty of Europe.
Thank you Jakub for taking the time to meet with us.