European Cities Band Together To Gain Clout in Community
EUROPE'S cities are teaming up to share ideas and resources and to act in concert to further their common interests within and beyond the European Community.At a conference in Birmingham, England, leaders of 38 cities with a total population of 28 million agreed this month to establish their own secretariat in Brussels. From the EC capital they plan to lobby for greater attention toward Europe's urban problems, ranging from acute air pollution, to traffic jams, to inadequate playgrounds for children. Eneko Landabrau Illaramendi, EC director-general for regional policy, told the mayors that since its inception five years ago the Eurocities movement was already regarded by the European Commission in Brussels as "the recognized voice of city dwellers" in the Community. Mr. Illaramendi also noted that so far five cities of Eastern Europe - Prague; Gdansk, Krakow, and Lodz in Poland; and Iasi, Romania - had decided to become associate members. The former East German cities of Dresden and Leipzig are already members now that they belong to a unified Germany. Europe's larger cities have reason to think that they deserve a better deal from Brussels. EC economic and social policy is tilted deliberately toward helping farming communities, which means 70 percent of European funds benefit only 8 percent of the people. John Tomlinson, a Member of the European Parliament for Birmingham West, believes this is unfair and points out that most of Europe's problems are concentrated in cities. "Industrial dereliction, unemployment, environmental degradation, racial tension," he told the conference, "are all largely to be found most of all in urban areas. We want to influence EC policy in such matters by offering our experience and know-how in addressing these problems." An example of how city leaders can pass useful information about dealing with urban problems from one to another was given by Michel Noir, mayor of Lyon in France. "We spend one quarter of our budget on efforts to improve the environment," he said, and went on to describe his city's "clean bus" campaign to reduce vehicle emissions, and curb industrial atmospheric pollution. When Mr. Noir had finished he was immediately approached by Grzegorz Palka, mayor of Lodz, which like many cities of the former Communist bloc has a severe pollution problem. Mr. Palka pointed out that his city was "too poor to solve problems created by heavy industry." He urged that the Eurocities movement focus on providing money and scientific expertise to help clean up cities like his. At the Birmingham get-together the mayors of Dresden and Leipzig, two famous cities edged out of the European mainstream by the division of Germany, stressed the importance of pooling experience in solving urban problems. "Historically, the main influence in cultural and economic life of Europe has come from the big cities. They will play a major role in the future, and it makes sense for us all to work together," said Hinrich Lehmann Grube, Leipzig's mayor. In its drive to expand and deepen its activities, Eurocities has won funding from the EC for a series of pilot projects. Birmingham has been chosen to test new types of computerized traffic control systems. Under another plan 14 West European cities will get together to offer advice to Moscow's city council on how to organize city management along more democratic lines. The English city of Bradford has offered to help Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, with advice on manufacturing buses in a market economy. At its Birmingham conference, Eurocities decided to create special commissions for cooperation on social welfare, environmental control, culture, and communications and transport issues. In generating momentum for the movement it will be important to ensure that the planned secretariat in Brussels is vigorous and well-funded, according to Bram Peper, mayor of Rotterdam, Netherlands, whose 1985 initiative sparked the Eurocities movement. "Things are moving very fast," he says. "We have to be on the spot. There is need for formal and informal contacts if we are to promote a Europe of cities. If cities don't work, the EC won't work. That's for sure."