We all have seen images of the Earth at night from space. The blaze of billions of lightbulbs, broadcasting from our urban centres, illustrates the dense urban network. A sight both beautiful and telling of our increasingly urban existence. Currently, over 70% of Europe’s population lives in cities. This is forecast to increase to over 80% by the middle of the century.

When you think about Slovakia’s music, you are bound to imagine folklore songs or perhaps symphony orchestras, but not jazz bands. However, the famous FATS JAZZ BAND has forged a great reputation for itself among fans and critics, both in Slovakia and abroad. Although the Fats Jazz Band has only been around for four years, they have many supporters throughout Europe. They perform regularly in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Croatia and Italy.

When it comes to choral music, few will question the fact that the northern European countries have a greater tradition of choral singing than the southern Mediterranean countries. People living in the Mediterranean spend most of their time participating in outdoor activities. In relation to the Maltese archipelago, another potential explanation for this is that there is no record at all of folk songs in our culture. Thus the Maltese attitude towards choral singing was somewhat lukewarm.

It might seem idealistic to think that music can change the world. But imagine this: a hundred young people from ten countries across the entire Baltic Sea region, some of which were once at war with one other. These hard-working, hopeful students sit together, talk together, eat together, make music together and learn from one another. Led by some of today’s finest musicians, they bring wonderful music to audiences throughout Europe. And then they return to their home countries, taking with them new-found wisdom and friendships. This, essentially, is the idea behind the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic (BYP).

We met Corina Cretu, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, to discuss the current challenges Europe is facing in supporting jobs and economic growth. She stressed that, 40 years after its creation, regional policy is the most important investment tool of the EU. The new 2014-2020 priorities are research and innovation, the digital agenda, support to SMEs and the low-carbon economy. Regarding green growth, European Union will invest more than EUR 38 billion in the low-carbon economy, which is twice the amount spent during the previous funding period. These investments will help regions and cities invest in energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy, smart grids and sustainable urban transport. Commissioner Crețu also stressed that we have to cut red tape: “We do need further simplification of our procedures, while preserving sound administrative and financial management. I know this is a difficult challenge, but I do not want to hear again that an SME is no longer interested in receiving our support, because it finds it too lengthy or bureaucratic.”

We talked with Roger Evans, Deputy Mayor of London, about the business development challenges facing cities today as they compete globally for skills and investment. Roger told us about his passion for the city and its vibrant development, describing recent initiatives such as the “Smart London” plan adopted in 2014. He said that London’s economy is expected to double over the next 20 years. We hope to be there to see if he is right, but the chances are high that he will be.