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What are the priorities for European cities in the 5th call for Innovative Urban Actions?

The projects funded under this fifth call for UIA projects will focus on 4 themes: air quality, the circular economy, culture and cultural heritage and demographic changes. Among these, some seem to find their audience better than others…

Necessary efforts on climate-related issues

Since the first UIA call, there is a recurrence of certain themes such as the integration of migrants and refugees or the circular economy. Indeed, human-related themes seem to be more popular among project leaders, with 15 projects funded for the two themes mentioned above and 11 projects in the field of training. On the other hand, the energy transition theme is the one with the least number of actions implemented so far, with 3 projects funded. However, climate seems to be a priority for both the European Commission and citizens, as demonstrated by recent political events across Europe and the strategies set by the EU.

Among climate issues, the theme of air quality appears to be a major issue: nearly 500,000 people die each year from air pollution in Europe, according to the European Environment Agency. This issue, which particularly affects metropolitan areas, had already been the subject of an axis in the 3rd UIA call, but its renewal in this last call for proposals is necessary. Indeed, although much progress has been made over the last ten years, a proportion of the EU’s urban population remains exposed to pollution levels that are dangerous for their health. The scope of funding opportunities in this area is therefore very wide and should encourage project leaders to participate.

Two new themes, a new direction?

A renewal of the themes more directly related to the lives of citizens has been added for this 5th call for projects: a cultural component and a demographic component. Following the numerous actions for the integration of refugees by large cities and metropolises, a new priority is given in terms of population management: the population decline in NUTS3 areas, where 43% of the European population lives. It was necessary for the UIA to directly address a theme to smaller urban entities, as the majority of projects conducted so far have been in large urban areas. It is therefore essential for smaller actors to be clearly targeted, especially when there is a decline in population in most NUTS 3 regions, in Central and Eastern Europe.

The cultural component follows the continuity of 2018, European Year of Cultural Heritage and promises to contribute to good social cohesion in Europe, while following the objective of sustainable development. The 5th UIA call therefore emphasises the need for the cultural sector to open up to new audiences and better integrate citizens into decision-making processes. This intonation is welcome to deepen the links between the EU and its citizens, and shows a continuity among themes touching upon the welcoming new populations in Europe.

This last call from the UIA therefore offers a new opportunity for project leaders to position themselves on strategic ecological themes for the future of the EU, that have been underestimated so far. These themes will be widely mobilised in future programming, as shown by the Commission’s announcement to devote 25% of the European budget to climate issues. This call for proposals therefore proposes a continuity with previous UIA calls, offering many opportunities for project innovation.

Julie Bouquin


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