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Commissioner Breton meets EU Mayors
On the 2nd December 2021 Commissioner Thierry Breton met with EU Mayors from Living-in.EU and the Intelligent Cities Challenge for a dialogue on the green and digital transformation and the socio-economic resilience of cities and communities. The meeting was held in a hybrid format and was moderated by the Euronews journalist Méabh McMahon.
In his opening address, Commissioner Breton highlighted his eagerness in hearing from the cities, due to their key role in the frontline of the dual green and digital transition.
“Cities are the driving force behind the dual transition that is at the heart of our College’s mandate. They work together to make concrete the European vision of digital and ecological change, deliver results on the ground, and equip local industry and businesses with the right skills.”
Commissioner Breton expressed his determination to ensure that cities have the right tools, including financing, to achieve this dual transition and thanked the cities for their work in the frontline of the pandemic response over the last two years.
The Commissioner’s address was followed by an intervention by the Slovenian Presidency, with Mr Boštjan Koritnik, Minister of Public Administration. The Minister emphasised the importance of digitalization in improving citizen’s lives:
“Digitalisation perfectly goes hand in hand with digital transition and has an enormous potential to improve citizen’s lives. Therefore the Slovenian EU Presidency has put digital transformation, digital technology and Cybersecurity as its priorities (…) The advancement of smart societies requires the widest possible engagement at city, regional, national and EU level, as well as broad consensus.”
To achieve this advancement, the Minister stressed the importance of open data and interoperability and of initiatives such as Living-in.EU and the Intelligent Cities Challenges. Mr Koritnik is proud of having personally signed the “Join, Boost, Sustain” Declaration on behalf of Slovenia, one of the three first member states to have signed the declaration at national level.
The first interactive panel focused on planning and implementing the green and digital transformation of the local economy and society, the role of innovation and technology, local green deals and the issue of up and reskilling of the local workforce. Some common themes were citizen engagement and citizen centred policies, sustainable solutions for the green and digital transition, the improvement of infrastructure, creation of city level digital twins and the importance of cooperation between cities with scaling up of solutions.
The second interactive panel discussed the potential of technology, data governance in cities, and use of local digital twins for cities and communities to enable their digital transformation. High on the Mayors’ list of priorities were interoperability and open source, data sharing and cybersecurity. We also heard about digitalisation of public services and strategies to cope with the digital divide between cities and rural areas, generations or genders.
The following clear conclusions arose from the dialogue:
- There is a collective need for serious cooperation between all levels of government; the voice of cities and communities, being closest to citizens, is essential in this context;
- The digital transformation led by cities and communities will result in positive spin-offs in many sectors, such mobility, energy, urban planning and waste management;
- In order to optimise results we need an ecosystem that creates data interoperabilitybetween cities and communities;
- Large scale development can only come through the Recovery and Resilience Facility and Structural and Investment Funds;
- The EU should focus more efforts on helping smaller cities and on scaling up good practice.
At the end of the event, the mayor of Leuven Mohamed Ridouani signed the Join, Boost, Sustain declaration, joining over 100 other cities and communities in the forefront of the European Way of digital transformation.