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    First CoR plenary session in 2017: Further reforms of the European asylum system

    The 121st plenary session of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) took place on the 8 and 9 February 2017 in Brussels. The discussion focused on a partnership framework regarding migration with third countries. The reform of the common European asylum system and the second round of reforms as well as the EU resettlement framework were discussed. CoR Member Franz Schausberger and State Parliament President of Salzburg Brigitta Pallauf participated in the discussions.

     
    “The European Union now focuses on the involvement of the countries of origin and, as Austria has repeatedly called for, in supporting the third countries on migration issues,” said Franz Schausberger during the debate. One outstanding example is the EU humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees with a total budget of around six billion Euros. Schausberger also supports the proposal for the establishment of an investment fund for third countries of up to 62 billion Euro to combat the causes of migration.
    An opinion on the reform of the common European asylum system was rejected by both Salzburg representatives, because it contained claims which are considerably weaker than the regulations in Austria. Other demands contradicted the principle of subsidiarity and touched core competencies of the Member States and would prove to be unsuitable.

    Other topics during the plenary session included the current events in Romania, the forthcoming elections in France, the “Brexit” and the EU’s investment campaign in regions and cities for smart and sustainable development. Furthermore, a new European consensus on the development policy was discussed. The adopted CoR opinions will be transmitted to the European Commission after the plenary session.

     

    soure: Landeskorrespondenz Salzburg, 9. Feb. 2017

    New scientific cooperation with the Academy of German-Italian Studies in Merano

    IRE chairman Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger recently welcomed a delegation from Meran (IT), which visited the IRE accompanied by Prof. Dr. Roman Reisinger (University of Salzburg). The opportunities of a scientific cooperation between the Academy of German-Italian Studies in Merano and the IRE were discussed. The academy is a non-profit association for the promotion of cultural and scientific exchange between the German-speaking and the Italian-speaking countries. International conferences, symposia, research and doctoral colloquia as well as lectures, readings, exhibitions and concerts are organized by the Academy. Scientific projects are also being realized. President of the Academy is Cuno Jakob Tarfusser, an Italian lawyer and judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In March 2012, Tarfusser was elected Vice-President of the International Criminal Court.


    from left: Deputy-Director Enrico Cioccolini, Director Ivo De Gennaro, Univ. Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger and
    Univ. Prof. Dr. Roman Reisinger

     

    In future the IRE will cooperate with the Academy more closely, exchange information and also arrange internships in Salzburg and Meran. The IRE is looking forward to an intensive cooperation with the Academy in Meran.

    For more information see: http://adsit.org/WP/de/

    Graz election 2017: ÖVP is facing difficult coalition negotiations

    City council elections took place in Graz (Austria) on 5 February 2017. The clear winner is mayor Siegfried Nagl from the Austrian People´s Party (ÖVP).

    According to the official results, the ÖVP got 37.8 percent of the votes, the KPÖ (Communist Party) 20.3 percent and the FPÖ (Freedom Party) 15.9 percent. The SPÖ (Social Democratic Party) lost heavily, achieving only 10.1 percent; the Greens have also recorded a minus of 10.5 percent. The NEOS gained 3.9 per cent and thus enters the city council, while the Pirates failed with 1.1 per cent. The final result is a bitter pill to swallow for the SPÖ: they have lost their two seats in the council to the KPÖ and are out of the government. The ÖVP gains three more seats; the FPÖ and the Green Party both get one additional seat. In total, the ÖVP will be represented in the municipal council with 19 seats, the KPÖ with ten. The FPÖ gets eight seats, the Greens and the SPÖ five and the NEOS one seat. The turnout was at 57 percent and has increased slightly compared to the 2012 election, but is the second lowest turnout compared to the five previous elections.

    A new coalition of the ÖVP with the second-strongest force KPÖ seems highly unlikely. Nagl already announced that the ÖVP will not elect Elke Kahr (KPÖ) as vice mayor. There are several reasons against a coalition with the Communist Party, e.g. regarding the issue of a water power plant at the river Mur, which the KPÖ opposes. Nagl is critical of a ÖVP-Green-Neo coalition: 25 mandates would be too little for a comfortable majority. He also is skeptical about the right-wing FPÖ as they are far apart on issues such as education and integration.
    Despite the withdrawal of the SPÖ from the proportional government, the mayor favours a black-red-green coalition as they would have the majority in the city council (with 29 mandates) as well as in the municipal government. In any case, the coalition negotiations will be tough.

    News from the IRE network: Lviv expects half a million tourists

     

    With its good value in euros and dollars Lviv is becoming a major travel destination in Europe. Lviv now is entering the big leagues of Eastern European tourism.

    “In January, we expect a record of 500,000 visitors — half of them are Ukrainians, the rest are foreigners — from Poland, Turkey, Germany, Belarus, USA,” said Galyna Malets, head of the Lviv City Council’s tourism department. “In the same period last year, Lviv hosted 300,000 guests.” Last year, Lonely Planet placed Lviv among the top five European tourist destinations. In 2016, 2,6 million tourists visited Lviv — more than three for each of the city’s 723,000 residents.

    Only 60 km from Poland and a world away from the separatist conflict in Ukraine’s southeast corner, Lviv is gaining recognition at one of Europe’s cheapest travel destination for 2017, according to Momondo, an international travel company.

    For more information: http://city-adm.lviv.ua/

    picture: http://diligences.com/lviv-city

    Ukraine needs a regional reform

    Franz Schausberger at the Europe-Ukraine Forum in Rzeszów, PL:
     
    After the decentralization reform has been implemented at local level in the Ukraine it is necessary to set up a regionalization reform for the highly centralized country as well as an Autonomy reform for the Eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, as defined in the Minsk Agreement, said Chairman of the Institute of European Regions (IRE) Franz Schausberger at a conference in the Polish border town of Rzeszów on 28 January 2017. In the course of the local reform 1,744 municipalities were voluntarily merged into 366 new communal units. Additionally, the municipalities have been empowered by the financial decentralization programme to receive about 60 percent of the income tax collected in their area. For the first time in the history of the Ukraine, municipalities have financial means to strengthen their own economic development. These quick successful results were not even suspected by experts.
     
     
    from left: Marcin Swiecicki, a member of the Polish Parliament, former mayor of Warsaw, former minister of International Economic Cooperation, Franz Schausberger and Stepan Barna, head of the regional administration Ternopil (UA).
     

    The decentralization process must continue at local level by strengthening the self-management of the regions, said Schausberger. All regional presidents should in future be elected by the regional assemblies and not appointed by the President of the Ukraine. Numerous successful models can be found in the EU Member States, such as the Polish regionalization model.
    As Schausberger emphasized, the EU fully supports the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Ukraine. However, the EU also supports the implementation of the Minsk Agreement, which provides for the introduction of a special Autonomy Status for the Eastern-Ukrainian regions of Lugansk and Donetsk. This is the only way to ensure that Ukraine maintains its territorial integrity.

    Elections in Waidhofen an der Ybbs

    ÖVP regains absolute majority

    The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) with Mayor Werner Krammer has won the municipal elections in Waidhofen an der Ybbs on 29 Januar 2017. The party got 60.2 percent of the votes and regained the absolute majority they lost in 2012 (47.4 percent). The FUFU party and the FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) also gained votes, while the Social-Democrats (SPÖ) and the UWG suffered significant losses.

    The SPÖ and the Independent parties fell from 23.4 to 15.5 per cent, the UWG lost more than 10 per cent (from 15.5 to now 4.6 per cent). FUFU, for the first time in 2012,  gained votes (from 5.7 to 10.2 percent), the FPÖ slightely gained votes compared to the last elections (from 3.9 to 5.3 percent). With 4.1 per cent the Greens received almost the same amount of votes as previously (2012: 4.2 percent). Therefore, the new mandate in the Statutory City of Lower Austria is distributed as follows: ÖVP 26 (2012: 20), FWU 4 (2012: 2), Green Party 1 (2012: 1), FPÖ 2 (2012: 1).

    10,566 persons were entitled to vote, six lists competed in the elections. The electoral participation was at 66.7 percent. Krammer thanked his competitors for the fair election campaign and added that “we will work together intensively for our beautiful Waidhofen.” Krammer had repeatedly called for cooperation with all parties.

    (Austrian Press Agency)

    New edition of Occasional Papers published

    Publication of the IRE:
     

    The Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE) presents once again a collection of papers on current political topics regarding European regions in the new edition of the Occasional Papers. The texts were written by students during their one-month internship at the IRE. Scientific analyses were worked out and the young authors got the chance to be published for the first time.  

    The articles cover the following topics:
     

    • Genderpolitik. In den Regionen Salzburg, Burgenland, Hessen, Sachsen und der Europäischen Union, Agnes Schöchl
    • Election System of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Biljana Grozdić
    • Are European affairs being discussed in the regional parliaments of Bosnia and Herzegovina?, Igor Drasković
    • Lokalwahlen in Bosnien-Herzegowina 2016, Merima Abdić
    • Separatismus in Europa: Eine Darstellung der Unabhängigkeitsbewegungen in Katalonien vom Mittelalter bis in die Gegenwart, Rosanna Guancioli
    • Autonome Regionen in Europa; Südtirol und Katalonien im Vergleich, Lukas Andreas Wallner
    • Republic of Moldova: EU Capacity building on development of regions, local and regional infrastructure in Moldova, Mihaiela-Marcela Corșatea
    • Serbian cities and regions as key engines in its path towards EU integration, Tajana Medaković

     
    Occasional Papers Nr. 5/2016, ISBN-Nr: 978-3-902557-17-9

    Orders are accepted under: office@institut-ire.eu

    Decentralisation Strategy for Austria

    65 out of 68 federal offices in Austria are based in Vienna, only three ministries are located in different cities: the Federal Office for Viticulture in Eisenstadt, the Federal Office for Water Management in Scharfling and the Austrian Federal Office for Forestry in Purkersdorf. In Germany 80 federal offices are spread across 24 cities, and in Switzerland twelve out of 47 federal offices are not located in the capital Berne.

    In addition, 37 international organizations are based in Austrias capital, which adds up to 103 authorities and institutions in Vienna alone. As a result the capital is overcrowded, whereas the economic growth in the other eight federal states is hampered. This is the result of a study conducted by the Initiative Wirtschaftsstandort Oberösterreich (IWS), a private facility in Linz with the main purpose of analyzing and working on location and infrastructure issues.
     

     
    from left: IRE Secretary General Joachim Fritz, Gottfried Kneifel
    und Franz Schausberger
     

    On 24 January 2017 IRE-chairman Franz Schausberger welcomed the CEO of IWS Gottfried Kneifel in Salzburg. Kneifel reported on the rural depopulation in Austria: Austria has a 40% negative population balance, meaning that 838 out of 2,100 Austrian municipalities have a strong emigration. A counter-strategy is needed. Digitalization makes a decentralization of all services and authorities possible.

    A best practice example is the German state Bavaria with its “homeland strategy”. A key component of the homeland strategy is the transfer of authorities. They create secure jobs and strengthen the infrastructure of rural areas. The project has started in 2015 with the largest regionalization of authorities and state institutions of the last decades. The concept of “regionalization of administration” foresees the relocation of more than 50 authorities and state institutions with 3,155 persons (2,225 employees and 930 students) to the rural regions of Bavaria. Priority was given to regions with particular demand for action. The core task is the relocation of the Bavarian Ministry of Health from Munich to Nuremberg, which begins this year. 

    The IRE also works for a decentralized infrastructure. The focus lies on the increasing importance of regions and municipalities for European policy and economic development. The IRE links stakeholders from politics and business in order to boost decentralization. Schausberger and Kneifel have agreed to cooperate more closely in future and to exchange expertise.
     
    source: https://www.stmflh.bayern.de/landesentwicklung/verlagerungen/

    Meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister of BiH Igor Crnadak und Franz Schausberger


    from left: Igor Crnadak and Franz Schausberger

    During a meeting of Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina Igor Crnadak and the chairman of the Institute of the Regions of Europe Franz Schausberger issues such as the implementation of the reform agenda, integration of the municipal level to the EU accession process, recent events in the Republika Srpska and the strengthening of the regional and local administrations have been discussed. It was agreed that, above all, the representatives of the cantonal and local levels should be involved even more into the EU accession as EU policies must be broadly supported by the subnational level. 

    IRE Member looks for Project Partners

    Inter-Municipal Development Centre of the municipalities of Grosuplje, Ivančna Gorica and Trebnje, Slovenia has been established in August 2016 as a joint municipal administration with the aim of preparing and coordinating projects for the three municipalities.
    We cover the three neighboring municipalities, both geographically and in terms of population. Our common goal is to provide our citizens basic conditions for a high-quality of life as well as additional content, services and infrastructure that will give them a higher added value.
     
    We have the long-track record in EU projects, are highly motivated with a strong sense of commitment and enthusiasm for project work. With us you can work on different types of projects: pilot/demo projects, awareness raising, R&D, networking, mobilities, education and investment projects.
    The topics we are pursuing in our local communities are Sustainable tourism and mobility, Cultural and natural heritage, Environment protection, Energy efficiency, Rural development, Social inclusion, Rural development and Enhancing access to ICT.
     
    We are searching for new partners (municipalities, development agencies/centers and other associations) in the following EU programs: Erasmus+ Sport and Strategic partnerships, Urbact, Interreg transnational, inter-regional and cross-border Interreg SI-HR, SI-AU, SI-IT, Creative Europe and Europe for Citizens.
     
    If you are interested, please contact Ms. Jasmina Selan at jasmina.selan@grosuplje.si,
    tel.: +386 1 788 87 59.
    More information about us: www.mrc-eu.si.