Europe of Cities

Docente: Nick Mithen – European University Institute, Department of History and Civilization


What does it mean to talk about a Europe of cities? Debates in the news and amongst politicians about the big problems Europe faces – economic growth; unemployment; inequality; environmental sustainability; cultural integration – generally seem to play out as a conflict between European states and the European Union. Such debates are often difficult to engage with, and seem detached from the everyday life of most Europeans. This presentation suggests that by changing the scale of how we understand and talk about Europe – by thinking about cities rather than only countries and Europe as a whole – these kinds of debates can be engaged with more pragmatically, and more meaningfully.
About three quarters of Europeans live in cities ; for many of us they are the primary way in which we experience the world, where we work, learn and play. Cities are also the key drivers of economic growth, cultural innovation and political negotiation. They are places where people, goods and ideas interact and environments where the past is remembered, where historical communities flourish and where new communities are formed. Cities contain problems, but they also produce solutions. A Europe of cities is not an assemblage of isolated localisms, but rather a network of cities connected both to one another, and to other scales of social life: to the family and the quartiere, to the national and the international.
In this sense a Europe of cities is a historical and contemporary reality. However it can also be understood as a vision for a future Europe, which is more economically and environmentally sustainable, more democratically representative of its people and a better place to live. This presentation will identify ways in which the recognition and empowerment of European cities is contributing to a better Europe, and suggest a number of concrete policies which could continue this process. Its ultimate aim, however, is to use these arguments as a platform for discussion and debate.