Pria Bhabra, Commissioning Officer (Migrant Access) talks about her recent trip to Eurocities and what it does and why it matters now more than ever.
Eurocities is a network which represents 130 cities across Europe. It aims to improve quality of life by sharing knowledge and good practice between cities across Europe. Leeds City Council is a member of the network, and works closely with the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University on Eurocities matters. More information is available at www.eurocities.eu/eurocities/about_us
“I was really excited when I was nominated in a cross Europe competition to work with Eurocities and I was even more excited (and nervous) when selected to go on a two day seminar and two day secondment in the heart of the European Union city of Brussels. The whole trip was funded by the Eurocities programme.
A total of 16 delegates attended the seminar, representing cities from all over Europe including, Nice, Berlin, Cardiff, Tilburg, Malmo, Gothenburg, Ghent, Madrid, Nicosia, Barcelona, Turin, Athens, Warsaw, Palermo, Stockholm, Utrecht, and me, representing Leeds. It was great to meet everyone, there was a running joke that I and the colleague from Cardiff were the most difficult to understand as native English speakers. In my case an added difficulty having a strong Yorkshire accent!
It was clear the challenges and issues discussed were similar and felt across all cities. Some had high unemployment or rising homelessness, others felt the pressure of financial reductions and increasing demands on services.
Migration and integration was a key theme and concern, and cities were keen to know how other cities were dealing with this. I was the only one able to share many examples of our work, primarily of the Migrant Access Project. I was asked to share the profile many times by the Policy Advisor throughout the week as I met different Directorate Generals. This has certainly helped start to build Leeds’ profile with Eurocities.
My interests of work are under the Social Affairs Forum that aims to strengthen the involvement of Local Authorities in developing and implementing national and EU social policies. The Forum’s current priorities are;
1) social cohesion and integration of refugees;
2) inclusive labour markets, and
3) tackling deep-seated poverty and homelessness.
There are eight working groups under this forum (Migration and Integration, Roma Inclusion, Education, Employment, Housing, Homelessness, Smart Social Inclusion and Active and Healthy Ageing).
Leeds is starting to contribute to these, notably on the Urban Ageing work, but there are other areas we should try and get involved with more. Anti-radicalisation was raised by some cities and I was able to share the work around Prevent in Leeds. Eurocities have asked for information that could possibly inform the start of a working group on this important subject.
Whilst this was a working week, I managed to sight see and experience Belgian life with my European colleagues. We visited the beautiful city of Bruges where life is very different to city life. Having a sweet tooth, I was in my element enjoying chocolate, crepes and waffles! The whole week was packed with learning, sharing, networking, exploring and laughing.
The last day in Brussels was a little sombre. I awoke to read texts from friends about Brexit and the mood back in the United Kingdom. I headed to the office feeling disappointed and this was the topic of discussion everywhere. I am not sure where we stand with regards to working together and funding but officers at Eurocities stated they are keen to work with Leeds and look forward to future partnership work.
And this leads onto some good news that the Migrant Access Project has been shortlisted for the Eurocities award in the category of ‘participation’ This is an opportunity to present the Migrant Access Project and represent Leeds in Milan later this year.”
The Social Europe training and Eurocities secondment was funded by the European Commission’s DG Employment through the EASI grant.
For further information about the Migrant Access Project, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the current climate, post referendum, Leeds’ outward facing work is more important than ever. Anyone interested in adding an international dimension to their work, learning from best practice from other cities or showcasing their own work to other cities please contact Karen.Murgatroyd@leeds.gov.uk