Mayors launch call for citizen-oriented overhaul of the EU

Gathered in Stuttgart for Energy Cities’ Annual Conference “2050 Starts Today”, more than 20 mayors and elected leaders from all over Europe have addressed a strong message, in the form of a manifesto, to heads of states and governments: If you are to build an energy union ‘with citizens at its core’, build it from the ground up, through a genuine dialogue with cities.

After Europe celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, it’s up to cities to blow out the EU Covenant of Mayors candles in a few months, marking 10 years of integrated climate and energy action plans. Given their strong expertise in planning the energy future of their territory together with civil society, their know-how ought to be incorporated in the currently designed Energy Union: A genuine and systematic dialogue with local authorities should be part of the governance process!

The Germans have been holding their energy debate for nearly half a century now. Germany’s Energiewende started with citizens voicing their ideas. In France, the wide-scope debate that led to the adoption of the Energy Transition Law was a very successful exercise, according to French Mayors represented at the conference. It led to the adoption of very progressive provisions in favour of local authorities and community energy projects. “Such a dialogue process ought to take place in all Member States”, said the Mayors. “The energy transition can no longer be left to policy-makers and technocrats only”.

By inviting citizens to share their expectations for the future of their city, through energy planning fora and roadmaps, local authorities have managed to go beyond the sector-specific issue of energy and conduct a broader assessment of the related socio-economic opportunities available locally. While the EU seeks to reinvent itself and to prove its utility to those who doubt, the Energy Union under way is a perfect opportunity to launch a broader reform of the European system. This needs to start with a real dialogue between the various governance levels. 

After the 20-20-20 legislative package of 2008, the 2017-2018 period will be remembered for long as a crucial era of EU energy legislation makeover. Let’s make sure it does not remain a mere technical exercise, but that it is a democratic overhaul for reinjecting citizens’ trust in the European Union. 

MANIFESTO – Reforming Europe through its Energy Union
We, Mayors and local elected representatives, have spent the past years and decades in engaging our citizens in sharing their hopes and expectations for the future, and the kind of society they wish to live in. We have seized the opportunity of the energy transition, a transformation that is bound to happen, to conduct a broader assessment of the structural reforms we need to operate in our cities. In many cases, what started as an energy debate became an opportunity to trigger an economic recovery, launch a local currency, address social inequalities or increase cohesion among our communities, etc.

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Local State of the Energy Union
The Energy Union must be an opportunity to accelerate the energy transition and define the roles, rights and responsibilities of the new actors who are its main protagonists. Energy Cities makes recommendations to European decision-makers to support this local momentum through the five pillars of the Energy Union: # 1 decarbonisation, # 2 energy security, # 3 internal market, # 4 energy efficiency and # 5 research and development innovation.

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Blandine Pidoux

Publication date

May 3, 2017