3 June 2024

Conference Highlights Power of Small and Medium-Sized Cities in Europe

Last week, representatives from Stavanger, Turku, Thuringia, Northern Netherlands, North Sweden, and South Sweden Småland Halland Blekinge gathered in Brussels for a conference organized by the Small and Medium-Sized Cities (SMC) network. 

This dynamic network connects regions that are too large to be considered small but too small to be classified as big, allowing them to pool their resources and expertise to achieve significant collective impact.

Keynote Address: Transforming Cities Through European Collaboration

Bart Somers, the Mayor of Mechelen, opened the conference with an inspirational speech emphasizing the vital role of small and medium-sized cities in driving societal change. 

He highlighted Mechelen’s transformation from a city with a troubled reputation in the 1990s to a model of integration and sustainability, attributing much of this success to active participation in European projects and collaborations.

“European projects have been a catalyst for our city’s transformation,” Somers stated. “By daring to look beyond our own borders and learning from other cities, we have turned Mechelen into a beacon of good practice.”

Engaging Panels and Workshops on Day 1

The conference featured a dynamic panel discussion on securing EU project funding, led by European Commission representatives who shared insights into key initiatives like EUI, Interreg Europe, Horizon Europe, and the LIFE programme. 

Following this, successful regions presented their projects

  • LIFE Cool Square Project (Municipality of Groningen, Northern Netherlands)
  • Horizon Europe RESIST Project (Municipality of Turku, Southwest Finland)
  • Interreg Europe project Interrevita (Municipality of Roeselare, Flanders, Belgium)

This interactive session provided valuable insights and practical guidance on leveraging these EU initiatives for regional development.

City Workshops on Day 2

Participants also attended a series of workshops on day two, addressing topics such as mobility, sustainability, digital innovation, health, circularity, and heating solutions. Notable contributions from our region included:

  • Steinar Meling from Nordic Edge on sustainable mobility transitions in Stavanger.
  • Kristin Akerjordet and Cecilie Haraldseid from the University of Stavanger on health and resilience, focusing on the EU-project #Support4Resilience, that aims to create a toolbox to improve elderly care systems.

Networking and Study Visits

After a productive first day, attendees enjoyed a BBQ at Nordic House, strengthening connections across regions. 

The conference concluded with a study visit to Leuven, where participants explored the city’s innovative approaches to urban planning and the green transition, guided by Tim Asperges and Geert Vanhorebeek.

Looking Ahead

The SMC conference showcased the potential of small and medium-sized cities to lead European innovation and sustainability efforts through collaboration and shared resources. 

“This conference has shown that when European cities come together, our combined impact far exceeds what we can achieve individually,” said Runa Monstad, encapsulating the spirit of the event.

The SMC network continues to pave the way for regional cooperation, ensuring that the voice of medium-sized cities is heard on the European stage.

A Collaborative Effort

The event was organized by the Stavanger Region European Office, Cities Northern Netherlands, the Free State of Thuringia’s EU representation, North Sweden European Office, Turku-Southwest Finland European Office, and Småland Blekinge Halland South Sweden.



Håkon Langeland