On 21 April I had the pleasure of being in Amsterdam together with the Mayors and Vice-Mayors of EU Member States' capitals for the 5th Direct Dialogue between Capitals Mayors and the European Commission.
Cities are the engines of the European economy, providing jobs, services, and serving as catalysts for innovation. But they are also home to the greatest challenges we are now facing: finding affordable housing, quality health care, fighting congestion, pollution and of course, social exclusion and poverty, and this is all the more relevant in light of the refugee crisis.
In recognition of the important role that cities play in today's Europe, the Commission has decided to involve them more in the design of EU policies with an urban dimension. The forthcoming EU Urban Agenda is about partnership. This is a new way of working together, based on a constant dialogue and a close cooperation between all stakeholders, from NGOs to EU institutions and local authorities.
Under the Agenda four different pilot partnerships have already been set up on housing, urban poverty, air quality and the integration of migrants. These are some of the most pressing issues the cities are facing today, which require our full commitment. Let us take the integration of migrants, for example. Europe needs more cohesive and inclusive societies, which give all individuals in Europe the opportunity to succeed in life and be an active part of the society. Social inclusion measures have a key role to play in preventing radicalisation by promoting more inclusive societies and fostering the sense of belonging to a community. This is also the message that I carried with me during my visit to the Bijlmeer Open Community School, where I received many questions with regards to the EU's support to refugees and action to improve social integration.
Social inclusion, as well as other important issues, is addressed by the EU Urban Agenda and I welcomed in Amsterdam the Declaration of the Capital Mayors, which sets a milestone and furthers our common efforts in tackling current challenges. It also directed our glance to issues to be addressed in future partnerships, such as employment, urban mobility and the development of sustainable economies. In all these issues I am committed to engage the capitals mayors in a continuous dialogue.
The constructive dialogue that we have with EU's capital cities is helping us better include the urban dimension into the way we design policies and I believe that the partnership we have re-enforced in Amsterdam will take us further into the future.