Executive summary

As we head full throttle into the European elections season, this second edition of the Eurocities Monitor presents many of the most interesting data and insights gathered throughout the year by Eurocities mainly Brussels based staff, and via input from our network of more than 6,000 city officials from all over Europe. The Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey, which constitutes a major element of this publication, aims to ‘take the pulse’ of mayors and cities at a crucial moment for our continent. The survey is based on research conducted among mayors from the 204 member cities of the Eurocities network. Between December 2023 and February 2024 mayors were invited to reply to an online survey. This consisted of six open-ended and nine closed questions, which are available in the annex.

For the closed questions, the results are presented either at an aggregate level or in the specified disaggregated way, for example by region, and without further manipulation. For some of the questions, such as top challenges and top priorities for 2024, we used open-ended questions to allow mayors to respond freely without predetermining their response.

To make sense of these responses, we further analysed, then categorised, and ranked them accordingly. For each part of the survey, we gave mayors space to leave additional comments, in order to further validate some of the assumptions we might otherwise have made from the results. In addition, we have received further input from other research partners on best practice.

New this year, we also experimented with asking mayors to rank certain phrases to determine how well they resonated with each of them; the results of which are made clear later in the analysis. In total we received 92 responses from mayors of large cities across 28 European countries. The responses thus offer a good representative sample of the political voice of mayors from major European cities on key issues.

What you will read in these pages is a selection of the main findings of the Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey 2024. Along with our research partners, we plan to further analyse many of these data points in order to find new insights, and ways to present our findings, over the course of this year.

Mayors are increasingly at the centre of politics at all levels of government. It is only with mayors on board, ensuring a proper implementation of policy in our cities, that the twin digital and green transformations can be enacted without leaving anyone behind, and broader societal and international goals achieved.

In their top priorities for 2024 more than half of mayors selected climate action for the second year running; more than double any other category. In their reflections, mayors highlight the co-benefits of the climate transition to other sectors, and the central role of cities in leading the way in actions as diverse as building renovations and reaching out to citizens.

Despite this, one major reflection shared by mayors is the lack of financial resources and local-level capacity to actually deliver on their climate ambitions and commitments.

The provision of fair and affordable housing, as well as more priority given to promoting social inclusion, are two areas that have noticeably gained priority for mayors this year. While house building may have fallen off the agenda in recent years, rental and housing costs are now a key voter concern as we head into different elections this year, and it could be a strong factor in determining outcomes. Although housing is not an EU competence, it’s clear that from a city point of view tackling EU-level barriers for making affordable housing accessible locally should be a priority.

Almost 100 mayors across Europe responded to the Eurocities Pulse survey

Almost 100 mayors across Europe responded to the Eurocities Pulse survey

Overall, most of the 10 top challenges shared by mayors reflect global current affairs, in one way or another, showing how interlinked the local political level is with other levels of government. While both the impacts of the Russian war in Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic have dropped out of the top 10, they are still mentioned prominently by mayors in their reflections.

Meanwhile, 29% of mayors highlight issues such as access to water, the effects of extreme heat, the challenge of promoting climate adaptation measures, as well as advancing on decarbonisation and climate neutrality goals as the number one challenge they faced in 2023.

2024 sees new faces filling both the hemicycle of the European Parliament and the European Commission’s college of commissioners. With this in mind, the Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey 2024 includes a section asking mayors their opinions on key policy areas that will impact cities and should be placed high on the EU agenda.

When asked about their current ability to match the needs of their city, 49% said they lack sufficient tools and capacity to meet their climate commitments and targets, and 54% will struggle to meet the current housing needs of the most vulnerable people.

When it comes to housing, one of the top three priorities of mayors this year, the vast majority of mayors (79%) believe they need to make compromises between delivering high quality and affordable housing, ensuring good energy standards and increasing the quantity of housing.

When it comes to funding priorities, mayors from the EU believe the top areas for EU investment should be climate change and energy; sustainable mobility, and access to housing; confirming several long-term trends.

A guest essay by Agustí Fernández de Losada, Director of the Global Cities Programme at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, highlights the potential impact of new political formations at the European level, which could jeopardise urban priorities such as climate action.

This is mirrored by Themis Christophidou, Director-General for Regional and Urban Policy, who emphasises the importance of sustainable urban development in Europe, highlighting the role of cities in achieving green, inclusive, and resilient environments. In doing so she stresses multi-level governance and community involvement in shaping urban policies, and the critical support of Cohesion Policy in assisting cities to transition towards sustainability and tackle regional disparities.

In the first of two special sections, which included more targeted questions in this years’ Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey, we look at climate adaptation. This is a pressing concern for mayors, as highlighted by Ambroise Fayolle, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, in a guest essay that emphases the importance of private sector engagement and social equity. The approach Fayolle describes aims to fortify cities against climate change while ensuring a just transition for vulnerable communities.

In the second special section, which focusses on government innovation, we learn that over 85% of respondents to the Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey revealed that without innovation, their cities will not have sufficient resources to deliver on local priorities.

A guest essay from Philipp Rode of LSE Cities discusses the importance of government innovation in city governance, emphasising the need for proactive strategies to tackle societal challenges like climate change, housing, and internal governance issues, with nearly 90% of cities confident in their capacity to innovate, according to the Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey.

Whether the more recent or long-standing trends, priorities and challenges discussed in these pages, all of them are covered by working groups and projects within Eurocities, the network of major European cities.