It appears that my mother’s family was originally from Scotland, their “establishment” in the centre of France dating back to the invasion of the Stuarts in the 15th century, well, according to genealogical research that could not be taken further! But there is no need to go back over centuries of interrelations, interdependencies, marriages and divorces to know that Brexit could be temporary, that break-ups are not always final. And yet, our future relationship is likely to be built without the EU institutions and, in any case, on a new basis.
As you will discover in this issue of our newsletter, this does not mean that UK cities will be denied access to EU funds. They will still have access to some of them, notably in the field of research and innovation. But other funds linked to regional policy and aimed at reducing territorial inequalities and strengthening cohesion in the European Union will, by definition, be closed to them.
Unless these cities become an instrument of EU diplomacy? This is what some of the European Commission’s external relations programmes are seeking to achieve by financing the Covenant of Mayors’ regional offices and global secretariat. It is a way of supporting cities in their efforts and creating a common vision for an indisputably common destiny: one climate on one planet. The action needed at all levels means that cities must be able to share information. Development aid, renamed “international partnerships”, is also used to massively finance local climate change adaptation and mitigation projects. This “soft power” contributes to reinforcing the role of mayors in developing climate-energy policies. In this respect, the Covenant of Mayors’ programme in the countries of the Eastern partnership is exemplary: it involves running a network of cities in the area, building bridges with other parts of the world and supporting the implementation of concrete projects that, among other things, contribute to reducing Ukraine’s energy dependency on its Russian neighbour.
So what now of EU aid to UK cities? Could they also become geopolitical allies? Possibly. In any case, they will remain key players in our community of committed cities when it comes to sharing experience, because sharing makes us stronger and a common vision is a powerful tool. It is really about making the action of cities meaningful, regardless of where they are on the map.
February 17, 2021