The EU has been rocked in recent years by a state of confusion generated by populism and Euroscepticism, and, more visibly, the influx of thousands of new arrivals. These are challenges that have come together in our cities. Getting it right at the local level is now more important than ever for the EU and that should be reflected in the next seven year EU budget.
Cities are faced with a wide array of challenges on a daily basis and are continually working to improve the lives of all residents. This can mean taking on new competences or strengthening older ones. The integration of migrants and refugees is a good case in point. Cities have no choice but to deal with the situation presented to them. Failing to do so would have disastrous repercussions for social cohesion, public health and the protection of fundamental rights.
Welcoming new arrivals adds more pressure to an already precarious situation, leading to challenges such as overcrowding
Providing affordable housing is a particular challenge, with many cities already suffering from housing shortages and market speculation. Welcoming new arrivals adds more pressure to an already precarious situation, leading to challenges such as overcrowding. This is especially true in cities like Athens, Munich or Vienna, which have all welcomed tens of thousands of newcomers over the last two years (on top of already significant demographic changes).
Ensuring access to education for unaccompanied minors and the children of asylum-seekers and refugees is one of the main integration tasks facing European cities. Most European cities have been involved in the provision of education for migrants and people with a migrant background for many years, but the recent volume of new arrivals presents new challenges.
Given this situation, it is important that cities are supported in this role and that their experience and knowledge helps guide decision making at other levels of government. Moreover, responsibilities need to be shared evenly across Europe, across all levels of government.
Cities have proven that they are willing and able to act quickly in response to these situa- tions. Yet, cities do not have sufficient access to the main European funds that can be used to help integrate migrants and, too often, funds do not even reach the cities.
in cases of national governments not being able to spend the AMIF, the funds should be reallocated to cities
The EU Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) provides vital financial resources to address the challenges of reception and integration of refugees. However, it should be made directly available at the local level to enable cities to deal with the reception and integration of migrants and refugees.
Furthermore, in cases of national governments not being able to spend the AMIF, the funds should be reallocated to cities with the most urgent needs to implement reception and integration policies.
The setting of the next EU budget provides an opportunity to make sure that cities’ actions in the field of migration are matched with adequate funding.
EUROCITIES vision for integration is one where all city residents can develop their full potential and live safe and dignified lives. Our members – in over 140 large cities through- out Europe – tell us that access to funding and a lack of say in national and European decision making are major obstacles to achieving this long term goal.
The Urban Agenda for the EU, through its partnership on Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees, is a step in the right direction, as it brings cities together with other levels of government to discuss and implement solutions.
Through EU funded projects, such as CITIES GROW, which focuses on the integration of migrants through work, EUROCITIES is able to share city best practice both between cities and to offer scalable solutions to other levels of government.
Cities have the experience and knowledge to help the EU achieve its goals, but we need the means to do so. The next EU budget should reflect this by acknowledging the role of cities and ensuring that funding is targeted in the best way to help all residents succeed.