Learning from your neighbors

Municipalities are the smallest unit of government and often feel ignored in the context of national and international politics. But in principle they have long since been on the road to Europe. There is no lack of networks, including Eurocities, Telecities, Polis, and the United Cities and Local Governments organization. These associations are where cities work together to lobby EU institutions about municipal concerns.

But there are also bilateral approaches. For example, the city of Cologne in a summary of its long-term partnership with Barcelona writes that the two cities are strikingly similar and have cooperated on many European technology projects in the fields of transport and new information technologies.

However, no specific examples are given. In other cities, the partnerships still seem to be focusing on youth exchanges and international relations rather than joint approaches to urban development. The commitment of individual residents and the size of the

municipality’s budget usually determine whether networking events at least take place.

However, the cities that belong to the Association of German Cities do work more closely together. The association helps them to coordinate their activities and, in particular, to stand up to the excessively powerful German federal states on budget issues in particular. The municipalities were very pleased to be given direct access to the federal government on the subject of migrants and to have their concerns heard. They would like to extend this direct contact.

On a global level, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group plays a particularly active role. It has prominent members and sound funding from the billionaire and former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, who is its president, and its chair, Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris. The organization brings together 90 large cities across all five continents in a dialogue about climate change and its consequences for urban infrastructure. In Germany, Berlin and Heidelberg are both members.

Photo credit: Jacobs Stock Photography/GettyImages

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