Porto, 31 January 2020 – More than 60 EU, national, regional and city leaders have signed a political declaration today, pledging to contribute to a voluntary joint investment plan to boost sustainable digital transformation.

With their signatures, the leaders agree to upscale existing digital solutions on a larger, European scale to turn more cities and communities into smart and sustainable places where people enjoy living and working.

The ‘Join, Boost, Sustain,’ movement, which has the support of several city networks, is seen as a first step towards shaping a European approach for digital transformation, which differs from that of other global competitors.

Martin Brynskov, Chair, Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC), said: “This declaration is different because it can be implemented. We are actually ready to scale, on a common technical ground, on the terms of cities and communities.”

Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence and Vice President of Eurocities, commented: “It’s time to scale up, because Europe’s digital revolution is already happening in its cities. The ‘Join, Boost, Sustain’ initiative is the essential cog in encouraging greater collaboration at all levels of governance. This is how we can jumpstart the uptake of smart urban mobility services, energy efficiency solutions and sustainable housing to a much greater extent. As vice president of the network of big cities in Europe, I’m proud that we are a core part of making this happen and look forward to continued work with all other partners to bring the benefits of digital to more people.”

Meeting at the Cities Forum in Porto, signatories and partners discussed concrete measures that should be implemented by 2025, which includes financial, technical and capacity building aspects. From the local perspective, two main focal points include ensuring the interoperability of digital platforms that are upscaled, and that EU Member States maintain the proposed level of funding and allocated budget for digital and innovation programmes, especially for the newly proposed Digital Europe Programme. 

The European Network of Living Labs is keen on joining and promoting the city as a citizen-driven innovation ecosystem initiative, putting people in the centre to co-create and experiment with new (digital) innovative products and services in urban environments. “We look forward to collaborating with the participating cities and supporting the implementation phase by bringing in Living Labs as an ideal framework to better prepare and de-risk future investments and uptake on a large scale,” said Wim de Kinderen, Vice Chair of ENoLL.

Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: “The digitalisation of Europe is vital to paving the way to a competitive, inclusive and sustainable future. Today’s initiative is a demonstration that Europe’s cities and communities are ready, committed and moving forward. We must tackle the digital divide in Europe, ensuring no region or city is left behind. The EU must now urgently agree an ambitious EU budget, with strong regional investment, to unleash the potential of every region and city.”

The draw-up of the ‘Join, Boost, Sustain’ declaration was also supported by the recently completed Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU. “Digitalisation has to be developed for citizens, as well as with citizens. The role of people is key when building up smart communities and cities”, says Marja-Riitta Pihlman, Director General in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland.

Eddy Hartog from the European Commission also welcomed the initiative taken by cities. The Commission intends to work closely with the signatories of the declaration to put the words into actions.

This press release has been originally published by EUROCITIES on 31 January 2020 here.