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Covenant of Mayors Ceremony: Bottom-up approach to meet EU ambitions and fight economic crisis
Covenant of Mayors Ceremony: Bottom-up approach to meet EU ambitions and fight economic crisis
1 December 2011 - 11:08

Through the Covenant of Mayors, local and regional authorities have shown they are the most relevant actors to reconcile EU energy and climate ambitions with the day-to-day concerns of citizens, and help Europe find its way out of the crisis. This is the main conclusion to be drawn from key messages delivered at the occasion of the Covenant of Mayors Annual Ceremony, which saw the attendance of some 400 mayors and over 1,100 participants, convened on 29 November in Brussels, in the Hemicycle of the European Parliament.

European policies become real for citizens when they involve the local and regional level”, said European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek in his opening remarks, adding that “when budgetary austerity is a dominant priority, we have to show at European level, that more Europe will actually make the difference to solve many problems which cannot be solved by one country alone.” “We are at the dawn of a green revolution. And in this revolution, you, the Mayors of our cities, are the front line,” he told participants.

European Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger, addressing the audience through video message, said: “the impact of local action cannot be underestimated”. “I hope I can count on your continued commitment to further develop the Covenant of Mayors into a common project that links local action with EU policy.”

European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn for his part quoted the American historian Lewis Mumford who "saw the city as 'the most precious collective invention of civilization' ".

From words to action

Speaking on behalf of Covenant Signatories, mayors of large and medium-sized cities gave convincing examples of how their initiatives contribute to translating EU energy policies into concrete action on the ground, economic development opportunities and improved quality of life. By way of example, Mayor of Tbilisi Giorgi Ugulava described how his city went from dealing with corruption and deficient public services to now managing the deployment of ambitious sustainable energy initiatives. Mayor of Malmö Ilmar Reepalu talked about the transition from an industrial town to sustainable neighbourhoods and Mayor of Vitoria-Gasteiz Javier Maroto Aranzábal explained why and how his city was selected to become the next European Green Capital.

Prior to the official opening of the ceremony, a Covenant of Mayors High Level Dialogue Session was held in the morning in the Committee of the Regions, in the presence of European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik, who enthusiastically reiterated his support to the initiative.

In the afternoon, the signature ceremony held in the Hemicycle of the European Parliament saw some 260 mayors symbolically signing the Covenant of Mayors text on stage.

The emphasis of this year’s ceremony was however more on action and results than political commitment, and the impact of Sustainable Energy Action Plans was raised several times during the ceremony. "Your action plans support regional policy objectives", said Hahn while Buzek stated they were “becoming the blueprints for Europe energy policy”.

Likewise, MEP Jan Olbrycht added that the allocation of ERDF funds towards energy efficiency measures should be subject to commitment to the Covenant of Mayors or development of a Sustainable Energy Action Plan.

Click here to view videos of the Covenant of Mayors Ceremony

Click here to view pictures of the Covenant of Mayors Ceremony

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