The European Union is currently preparing for the next operating and funding period, which begins on 1 January 2021. The preparations are in full swing: The new members of the European Parliament have been elected, and the Parliament has started work. The European Commission also has a new President, Ursula von der Leyen. The new Commissioners will be appointed during the autumn, after which the new European Commission will start work. This means that the coming autumn is very important and significant in many ways. Of particular importance for us Finns is that Finland holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the entire autumn.
In the next operating period, cities will increasingly be at the centre of operations and focus. Approximately 75% of the population of the European Union lives in cities and urban areas. Urbanisation is a strong European and global trend.
We can even say that the achievement of nearly all of EU’s goals in fact depends on how well their implementation in cities succeeds. In the coming years, the focus areas of the European Union will be very strongly linked with, for example, fighting climate change and promoting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Most of the Sustainable Development Goals (an estimated 65% of them) will be realised in cities and municipalities. Espoo is strongly committed to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2025 and being the most sustainable city in Europe. Espoo was also selected as one of the lead cities in implementing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
In addition to these goals, EU will strongly invest on digitalisation, the prevention of social inequality and research and innovation activities. It is particularly important to improve and speed up the commercialisation of Finnish innovations and their introduction to the market both nationally and internationally. The functionality and efficiency of the European internal market is at the centre of the competitiveness of the entire EU. Cities and urban areas have a central role in all these issues.
Cities are at the forefront of the development and commissioning of services and operating methods relating to digitalisation. Espoo is a very strong EU-level example of how data and technology can be utilised in a new way in accordance with the “City as a Service” model. Espoo is also actively involved in several EU-level forums concerning the application of artificial intelligence and data and the co-creation of so-called digital innovation hubs.
Cities have a primary role in the work of the EU relating to immigration and inequality. Immigration is strongly targeted at cities, and the development of social inequality is also a special challenge for urban areas.
Development work and cooperation in many operating areas are increasingly performed on different cooperation platforms. This trend is increasingly clear at the EU level as well. These cooperation platforms may be local, regional, national or international or mixtures of these. Cities have a central role in enabling, coordinating and developing the platforms and networks. Espoo Innovation Garden, the largest innovation cluster in Northern Europe, is an excellent example of a modern co-creation platform.
Espoo’s active operation and work in strategically important international networks and cooperation platforms, such as the Eurocities organisation representing the largest cities in Europe and the European Committee of the Regions, is also of primary importance in the coming years. Future is, above all, made through cooperation!
The European Union and European cooperation will offer plenty of practical tools and opportunities for Espoo’s goal-oriented development work in the coming years. Many financial instruments of the EU will fund projects that promote the implementation of the city’s strategy, the Espoo Story, in a concrete way. It is therefore important to identify and utilise these opportunities. It is also important to note that EU funding is increasingly targeted to development ecosystems and pioneering projects.
European cooperation enables peer learning, the establishment of international partnerships strategically significant for Espoo and “sparring cooperation” with other leading innovation cities in the EU and interesting control cities. EU-level cooperation naturally strengthens the international awareness of Espoo as well.
Espoo is a strong pioneer in many areas at the EU level. The latest recognition of this is the selection of Espoo to the finals of the European Capital of Innovation competition. Now, we anxiously await the results of the European Capital of Innovation competition, keeping our fingers crossed for Espoo. Last year, Espoo was selected as the Most Intelligent Community in the World 2018.
Let us prepare for EU’s forthcoming funding and operating period of 2021–2027 bravely and enthusiastically, for the Espoo Story is also a success story of the EU!
Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, Head of international networks
Head of Helsinki EU Office, Bryssel
Krista Taipale has worked nearly 20 years in international expert and management tasks in Brussels, Belgium. Her areas of expertise relate to the operation of the European Union, EU influencing, EU funding programmes, the Union’s urban policy and regional development. Her special areas of expertise are the innovation ecosystems of regions and cities, intelligent city development and the development of European traffic networks.
Krista Taipale works as the Head of International Networks at the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council and as the Head of Helsinki EU Office located in Brussels. Helsinki EU Office also represents the City of Espoo in Brussels.