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    Centralism increases emigration from rural areas

    Federal Minister Heinz Faßmann visited the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE):

    Strongly centrally organized countries have much more problems with the migration of the population from rural areas and border areas as decentralized or federal states, said the Austrian Federal Minister of Education, Science and Research, Heinz Faßmann on the occasion of a visit to the Institute of the Regions of Europe on 17th of September 2018. Faßmann, himself University Professor of Applied Geography, Spatial Research and Regional Planning, has been confirmed by several scientific projects in the Danube region. He cited Serbia as a special example, a highly centralized country where migration from rural areas to the central region of Belgrade or even abroad is particularly serious. It shows – so Faßmann – that there is a direct connection between centralism and regional disparities. Decentralization and sensible dismantling of centralization measures in the periphery would therefore make sense in terms of regional policy, explained Minister Faßmann.

    The chairman of the IRE, Franz Schausberger, pointed out that in a federal state, political leaders in the regions felt obliged to create liveable conditions for the people in the remote rural areas. After all, they wanted to be re-elected in the next regional elections. Key requirements included good transport links and an excellent supply of fast broadband connections.

    Federal Minister Faßmann welcomed the numerous activities of the IRE on the subject of rural depopulation with the aim of providing solutions for particularly affected regions.

    Federal Minister Heinz Faßmann with IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger

    Infrastructure and traffic are the main challenges for Smart Regions

    Provincial Councilor Stefan Schnöll visited the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE):

    Smart Regions is not only about solving the difficult traffic problems of the provincial capital and its surrounding communities, but also about mobility in the district capitals, such as Zell am See or St. Johann in Salzburg, explained the Salzburg provincial council Mag. Stefan Schnöll during a working visit to the Institute of the Regions of Europe on 18th of September 2018. The government member responsible for transport and infrastructure in the Salzburg state government emphasized that in his work he relied heavily on experts and best practice examples from other European regions. He therefore highly appreciates the work of the IRE because, at its specialist conferences, it always endeavours to promote the exchange of know-how and experience among the various regions on various essential topics in the regions.

    IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger pointed out that it is precisely to promote the creation of good transport infrastructure and public transport to remote regions that are able to largely stem the outflow from rural peripheral areas which can be observed throughout Europe.

    Provincial Councilor Stefan Schnöll and IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger

    State Secretary Edtstadler in Kosovo: Full support in the fight against corruption

    Focal points: stability and security in the region, further progress in the fight against corruption and strengthening the role of women in society:

    Two politicians from Salzburg for Europe and Austria in Kosovo 

    The Secretary of State at the Ministry of the Interior, Mag. Karoline Edtstadler, visited on 4 and 5 September 2018, together with the Special Adviser of the European Commission for the EU enlargement countries Franz Schausberger, Kosovo. The purpose of this working visit was to strengthen security and stability in the region and to assist the Republic of Kosovo in the fight against corruption. “Corruption can erode a state and jeopardize it in the long term. The fight against corruption is also crucial for Kosovo in terms of the EU integration process. Austria would like to help with their expertise in order to make further progress”, said Edtstadler in an interview with the Kosovar Minister of the Interior, Bejtush Gashi, as well as during her visit to the Agency for Combating and Preventing Corruption. In this context, the State Secretary also referred to the planned study visit by a Kosovo delegation on combating corruption from 11 to 12 September 2018 in Vienna.

    Franz Schausberger, Karoline Edtstadler and Minister of Interior Bejtush Gashi 

    In addition to a visit to the Serbian Orthodox monastery church in Gracanica, a visit to the Jahjaga Foundation (founded by the former Kosovar President Atifete Jahjaga) and the Kosovo Women Network was also part of the State Secretary’s program. Both organizations are committed to strengthening the role of women in society. “The Kosovo Women Network and the Jahjaga Foundation are doing valuable work to boost women’s self-esteem. That is also a big concern for me. As part of the Task Force on Criminal Law, I want to support women who are victims of violent and sexual offenses, so they dare to file complaints and turn to victim protection institutions”, said the State Secretary.

    Edtstadler and Schausberger also met Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj and discussed the current situation surrounding the negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. Hoxhaj and Schausberger agreed that the ultimate goal must be to reach a legally binding, sustainable agreement between Serbia and Kosovo as soon as possible. This is crucial not only for the Western Balkans, but for peace throughout Europe.

    Franz Schausberger, Karoline Edtstadler, Deputy Minister Enver Hoxhaj and Austrian Ambassador Gernot Pfandler

    As Kosovar Interior Minister Gashi emphasized, 90 percent of Kosovars who emigrated to Western Europe in 2014/15 have since returned to Kosovo. Cooperations with 22 countries and its own “returnees program” would have contributed to that. A third of the Kosovars already live legally in Western Europe since the years after the war on the Western Balkans.

    Kosovo is also involved in the Task Force on the fight against smuggling.

    Franz Schausberger plans action “Mayors help mayors”: counteract the rural depopulation!

    As a special advisor to the European Commission for the Western Balkans, Franz Schausberger completed his own visit program to find out more about the situation of the communities in Kosovo. He completed a “ministerial marathon”: Mahir Yagcillar, Minister of Public Administration, Rasim Demiri, Minister of Rural Development, Rozafa Ukimeraj, Secretary General of the Ministry of Local Government, and Agim Veliu, President of the Municipal Union of Kosovo. “Without efficient and democratically led communities, people in their homeland will not want to see a future and emigrate”, said Schausberger. The rural depopulation to the cities or abroad can only be counteracted by strengthening rural communities. In Kosovo, there are only 38 municipalities, which means that they are much too large and the proximity to the local representatives is not nearly as big as in Austria. Moreover, the problem of the four Serbian communities in northern Kosovo is completely unresolved.

    Minister of Public Administration Mahir Yagcilar and Franz Schausberger

    To fulfil the conditions of Kosovo on the way to a common Europe, the municipalities play an important role. However, they can only fulfil conditions if they have the necessary capacities and know-how. In the communities of Kosovo, there is a lack of professionalism, experience and knowledge, which makes a community work well, said Schausberger.

    The municipal administrations are sometimes far from the European standard. The use of financial resources alone is not a sustainable solution unless local politicians and local government officials have the necessary knowledge and experience of a well-functioning community and proper local policies.

    He therefore intends to launch an action “Mayors help mayors” through his Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE), which is not about profit, but about knowledge transfer and exchange of experience, explained Schausberger. He wants to find mayors of Salzburg’s municipalities who are willing to invite mayors from the Western Balkans to show them well-functioning local governments using the example of their own community.

    CEO Andreas Klauser is a new member of the IRE-Economic Board

    IRE expands the European Economic Network:

    The Institute of the Regions of Europe and above all its IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger are pleased to announce that Andreas Klauser, CEO of Palfinger AG, joined the IRE-Economic Board.

    Born in 1965, Andreas Klauser took over as CEO of PALFINGER AG in June 2018.. For many years PALFINGER has been one of the world’s leading manufacturers of innovative lifting solutions for use on commercial vehicles and in the maritime field. As a multinational group headquartered in Bergheim, Austria, the PALFINGER Group, which has approx. 10,212 employees, generated total revenue of approx. EUR 1,471.1 million in 2017.

    Andreas Klauser
    Source: Palfinger AG

    “Europe 1918 – 2018 – 2118”

    14th Conference of European Regions and Cities:

    14th Conference of European Regions and Cities
    30th of September until 02nd of October 2018 in Salzburg, Austria

    The annual Conference of European Regions and Cities will be organized on topical issues for Europe’s regions and cities with a view to future strategies and challenges for politics and economy. Every year, this conference brings together around 250 political and economic decision-makers from different regions of Europe.

    At this year’s 14th Conference of European Regions and Cities, international experts will address on the theme “Europe 1918 – 2018 – 2118″ and discuss in a three-day podium topics on Subsidiarity and Europe, What emerged from the Europe of its founders, Rural depopulation, Digitalisation, Future of Europe and Energy supply.

    A total of 54 speakers will attend the conference, including EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz, Salzburg Governor Wilfried Haslauer and the Federal Ministers Juliane Bogner-Strauß and Elisabeth Köstinger.

    Decentralization and strengthening of regional and local self-government is important for the Western Balkan countries on their way to the EU

    EU-Commissioner Johannes Hahn visited the IRE:

    Franz Schausberger pointed out that the Local Self-Government Charter provided a valuable frame of reference for the municipalities and cities; a corresponding Regional Self-Government Charter had been missing for years, but would be very helpful for the Western Balkan enlargement countries.

    In the meeting with IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger, the EU Commissioner thanked the regional and local level for the numerous activities of the Institute of the Regions of Europe, especially in the area of Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Above all, the many conferences and seminars in the Western Balkans contribute to improving the capacity of sub-national administrations.

    The strengthening of regional structures and self-government in the municipalities and cities in the six enlargement countries in the Western Balkans is an important prerequisite for their rapprochement with the European Union, said Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn during a working visit to the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE) on 28th of August 2018. For the future implementation of EU policies, it is essential to have strong and well-resourced political and administrative institutions at regional and local level.

    From left to right: Joachim Fritz (IRE-Secretary General), Franz Schausberger (IRE-Chairman), Lisa-Marie Stauffer (IRE-Staff) and Johannes Hahn (EU-Commissioner)  

    Cyber security is an important area of digitization in Europe

    Visit of State Secretary Mag. Karoline Edtstadler at the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE):

    State Secretary in the Austrian Ministry of the Interior, Mag. Karoline Edtstadler paid a visit to the IRE on 25th of July 2018. The State Secretary and the Chairman of the IRE, former Governor Franz Schausberger, agreed that the issue of cyber security is an extremely important area of digitization across Europe. Almost every week there are cyber attacks on banks. Edtstadler pointed out that the number of cyber attacks is skyrocketing and that in 2017, 80 percent of European companies have been affected by it in some form. It mainly affects small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which often do not have the opportunity to effectively prepare for such attacks. Across Europe, better cross-border cooperation and a clear definition of what cybercrime is necessary. Therefore, State Secretary Edtstadler advocates that the cyber security package be completed this year during the Austrian EU Presidency.

    She also welcomed the issue of digitization and cyber security in a separate panel discussion at the 14th Conference of European Regions and Cities of the IRE, to be held in Salzburg from 30th of September to 2nd of October 2018.
    State Secretary Mag. Karoline Edtstadler (centre), IRE –Chairman Franz Schausberger (left), IRE Secretary General Joachim Fritz (right) with staff and interns of the IRE

    Schausberger met the Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia, Predrag Stromar


    IRE-Chairman Franz Schausberger visited on the 21st of August 2018 the Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia and Minister of Construction and Planning, Predrag Stromar. Schausberger brought the Croatian Vice-President a personal invitation to the Conference of European Regions and Cities in Salzburg. Stromar is expected to speak on the subject of “rural depopulation”, which is an eminent problem especially in Croatia.

    Predrag Stromar with Franz Schausberger

    Congress delegation meets with Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Bosnia and Herzegovina:

    On 25th of June 2018, a delegation from the Congress’ ‟Reflection Group on Mostar” met in Sarajevo with the President of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Irena Hadziabdic, to discuss the situation of the country several months prior to the general elections on 7th of October 2018. The delegation was joined by Franz Schausberger, Member of the EU-Committee of the Regions and Chair manof the CoR’s Working Group on Western Balkans.

    In the meeting, the complexity of the situation in this city Mostar was underlined as well as that the Central Election Commission was technically prepared to hold local elections in Mostar as soon as a solution will be found.  Moreover, the Congress delegation and the Commission also exchanged on the forthcoming general elections to be held in BiH on 7th of October 2018 and particularly on the regional elections which will be observed by the Congress. Some important technical improvements have been achieved, despite the fact that there was no breakthrough in respect of the required crucial amendments of the Electoral Law.
    The Congress Reflection Group was set up to contribute to a sustainable solution for restoring local democracy in Mostar where since ten years no local elections have been held due to political stalemate. The visit of the Reflection Group in Sarajevo and Mostar is part of the Congress activities to promote local and regional democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition to the observation of the regional elections, the Congress will also carry out a monitoring visit in November 2018, to evaluate the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.


    Lviv solves its waste problem environmentally friendly

    IT Park becomes the first infrastructure investment in Ukraine of one of the world’s largest asset management companies:

    The western Ukrainian municipality of Lviv will receive a financing package of up to 35 million euro arranged by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to address long-standing solid waste management issues. In doing so, it becomes the first Ukrainian city to join the Bank’s Green Cities Framework. This framework offers a comprehensive business model for green urban development, combining strategic planning with investments and associated technical assistance. As such, Lviv will over the next twelve months be implementing a Green City Action Plan (GCAP) in order to implement green municipal investments and necessary policy reforms.

    A 13-year municipally guaranteed loan of 20 million euro from the EBRD will be complemented by an investment grant of up to ten million euro from the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership (E5P), to which the European Union (EU) is the largest contributor, and a five million euro concessional loan from the Climate Investment Funds’ Clean Technology Fund (CTF). The funds will be used to support the rehabilitation of the Hrybovychi landfill and the construction of a municipal solid waste mechanical biological treatment plant in Lviv, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by approximately 141,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. The city will also adopt better recycling and waste management practices. As a UNESCO protected city with a renowned cultural heritage, Lviv has over 750,000 inhabitants and is the administrative and touristic centre of the western part of the country. The project is also the first to be implemented in the context of Ukraine’s National Solid Waste Management Strategy.

    2nd from right: Lviv City Mayor Andriy Sadovyi
    Innovation District IT Park, the largest infrastructure project of Western Ukraine, was launched on 30th of June 2018. The groundbreaking ceremony was hosted by the consortium of partners: project’s initiators Lviv IT Cluster and Galereja Centre, as well as investment companies Brookfield & Partners and Horizon Capital.

    IT Park’s officially announced construction will cost in total 143,3 million euro, this amount is invested by several companies. Volodymyr Zhenchak, developer and investor of the project Galereja Centre says: “By 2021 we will build six 8-story buildings with a lease area of 72,000 m2. One high-rise business centre with a total area of 32,000 m2, a multifunctional centre with a variety of leisure and relaxation areas, conference rooms, and an international network hotel. However, the real value of IT Park cannot be measured with square meters. It’s a very ambitious project, and our goal is to implement it in the best possible way”.


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