Mr van Iersel, President of the ECO Section, attended the Informal Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Urban Matters which took place on 27 November 2015 in Luxembourg. Topics raised concerned the possible added-value of small and mediums-sized cities in cross-border regions, the progress towards the EU Urban Agenda, the urban challenges of the refugee situation and most importantly the Luxembourg Presidency Conclusions, a document which sums up the high-level representatives’ declared opinion on the aforementioned matters (see below). This meeting was an essential milestone towards the EU Urban Agenda, a brand new initiative which the EESC has requested for years.
Mr van Iersel welcomed the presidential declaration. He stressed, however, that it needed to be followed up by deeds. He argued that the cross-border cooperation of cities had been considered as an added value for decades, but that there was too little engagement in the Member States and that, consequently, there was a rather negative trend apparent, about which civil society, in line with most cities and regions concerned, were seriously worried. It is therefore of utmost importance to implement targeted actions in these regions which can improve the standard of living of millions.
In his speech, Mr Nicolaas Beets, Urban Envoy of the upcoming Dutch Presidency, welcomed the EESC’s work on its opinion on the EU Urban Agenda and ensured that it would be taken into account in the EU Urban Agenda which will be adopted as part of the Amsterdam Pact in the course of the next Informal Ministerial Meeting in May 2016.