Eurocities conference opened an Era of New Beginnings

Published: 17.6.2022 5.03Updated: 20.6.2022 13.54
European Commission Vice-President Timmermans spoke on Eurocities annual conference.
Photo: Olli Urpela

The Eurocities conference and annual general meeting on 8–10 June 2022 in Espoo showed that cities can function as living labs towards the sustainability transformation, young people want to be heard, and European cities stand with Ukraine.

Three days saw more than 400 visitors from 28 countries and 100 cities. The annual Eurocities network(extrernal link) conference for large and medium-sized European cities drew a great number of European city influencers, EU decision-makers and officials to Otaniemi and other areas of Espoo.

“Over the next few days, we will highlight the role of cities as leaders for the transition towards clean energy, new digital solutions, climate-neutral societies and sustainable economic growth,” said Jukka Mäkelä, the Mayor of Espoo, as he officially kicked off the Eurocities annual conference.

Providing new beginnings – we can combine dreams and action

The headline of the Espoo annual conference was ‘An Era of New Beginnings, Dream–Act–Lead–Together’. For many, the Espoo gathering was a long-awaited chance to get together again and join forces to transform the urban future. The climate challenge requires us to join forces and lead together for better, faster and more effective solutions. The world has changed dramatically also because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war has forced new challenges upon cities, but during the conference the participants showed their support towards Ukraine.

For Espoo, the annual conference was a chance to highlight Finland and the competence in Espoo.

‘During the conference, we provided our guests with information about our competence and the way we promote matters through networks in Espoo. The conference would not have been possible without our partners(extrernal link) and solid cooperation. More than a hundred people from the City of Espoo participated in the organisation, and a great deal of the thanks for a successful event goes to them,’ says Milla Ovaska, Head of International Affairs at the City of Espoo.

The Future Mentors programme proved that young people want to participate and be heard

We had the honour of having young Future Mentors from 22 different cities participating in the conference. During the spring, they had been mentoring their local city leaders about a sustainable future for their cities. At the conference we learned and discussed about the hopes and dreams they had brought into the discussion during the mentoring. These are six key recommendations written by the Future Mentors on how to involve youth at the local level:

  • Compulsory and non-tokenistic youth engagement in decisions which affect them and their futures
  • Create a Eurocities youth department; young people should always be part of the Eurocities network
  • An ongoing line of communication between city leaders and youth representatives. This should take place regularly, at least two times a year.
  • Any engagement with young people must be accessible and inclusive. We should put extra care to involve those from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Enough resources – money and staff – to support youth-centred organisations
  • After any engagement, feedback should be gathered: constant evaluation of youth participation processes.

Espoo wants to continue the collaboration on developing a futureproof Europe where youth participation and dialogue between youth and city leaders become an integral part in cities, between cities and on Europe level. The recommendations above need to be considered carefully on different decision making levels. 

This year’s Eurocities Awards go to Spain, Germany and France

The traditional award ceremony was organised as part of the conference. The Eurocities awards recognise outstanding achievement by members in the delivery of local activities or practices that improve the quality of life of their citizens.

This year’s awards were selected in three categories.

  • Dream together – Future generations transforming the cities: Donostia-San Sebastian won the category with its Innovation challenge which put personal skills at the heart of a fun talent development programme for young people.
  • Act together – Skills and competences for the future: The winner of this category was Munich, with its Readiness and Digital Integration school that opens the city’s business network and gives refugees, women and children a chance to transform their lives.
  • Lead together – Scalable solutions for positive climate impact: Grenoble Alpes Metropole won the category with its Batitec second-hand store which seeks to bring elements of the circular economy into the construction industry.

Revisit the #Eurocities2022 atmosphere

The participants praised the warm atmosphere of the conference, which you can revisit here:

We also recommend reading the thoughts from the main speakers:

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth: Cities are places to demonstrate, test, deploy and adopt new solutions(extrernal link)

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At the end of the Eurocities annual conference, President of the European Committee of the Regions Apostolos Tzitzikostas planted a pine tree in front of Dipoli, the home of the Eurocities 2022 annual conference, together with Mayor of Espoo Jukka Mäkelä, President of Aalto University Ilkka Niemelä, Eurocities president, Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella, Mayor of Helsinki Juhani Vartiainen, Mayor of Vantaa Ritva Viljanen and Mirja Vehkaperä, the Chairman of the City Board of the City of Oulu. The tree is a symbol for a greener future. Maintaining and developing green urban environments is an investment in the future, for prosperity, equality and safety.Photo: Olli Urpela