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    Romanian County Alba is newest IRE member

    IRE family is growing:
    The Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE) is pleased to announce the newest member of the IRE-network: Alba County. It is a district located in Central-Western Romania and is one of the 16 counties forming the Romanian Centru development region, the historical region of Transylvania. With its total area of 6,242 km², 59% of which is occupied by mountains, Alba County is one of the most historically significant areas of Transylvania and has always been at the heart of the regional, political, religious and cultural life of the region.
    Traces of human settlements in the region date back to the Neolithic period, where the intermontane valleys of the region hosted many communities. Signs of this are still visible today, as in the prestigious Roman archaeologic site of Alba Iulia.

    City of Alba Iulia, Roman archaeological site

    Thanks to its central position in Eastern Europe, the county played a crucial role, particularly in the 18th century, when the Alba Carolina citadel was reinforced and turned into the fortified city of Alba Iulia, dedicated to Emperor Charles VI of Habsburg. Alba Iulia is now capital of the Alba County, and with a population of 66.400 inhabitants, it is the 33rd most populous city in Romania.

    Alba Iulia, aerial view with fortress 
    The strongest economic sectors in Alba County are the food industry (with corn growing in the south and wheat in the northern areas) and mineral ore mining. In particular, metals (gold, silver, copper and mercury), salt, marble and granite come from the region. Other important production areas are machinery, the textile and paper industry, and leather and wood production.

    Abrud, countryside in the Alba County


    ÖVP achieves extraordinary success in municipal elections in Salzburg

    Conservative shift in Salzburg:
    On Sunday, March 10, were held the municipal council and mayoral elections for Salzburg. In the city of Salzburg, standing for election was the current mayor, Harald Preuner, as well as all of the members of the municipal council. Harald Preuner has served in the role of mayor since 2017. 

    There was a low voter turnout of just 48%. The ÖVP, party of Mayor Preuner, won a large majority with 36,7% of the votes. With this percentage they doubled their seats in the municipal council, going from 8 seats to 16 seats. The SPÖ came in with just under 27%, causing them to lose four seats in the municipal council. The Green party came in third place, with around 15% of the votes. 

     Results of the municipal elections in the city of Salzburg
    The results of the election are significant. This is the first time since 1945 that the ÖVP is the strongest party in the municipal council of Salzburg. It is also the first time in several decades that the KPÖ has obtained a seat in the municipal council.

    The mayoral race will continue in a runoff between Harald Preuner (ÖVP) and Bernhard Auinger (SPÖ) that will take place on March 24. They respectively obtained around 40% and 30% of the votes in the original election. 

    SPÖ candidate Bernhard Auinger with Harrald Preuner, the candidate of the ÖVP (Source: APA/Barbara Gindl)

    Throughout much of the rest of the state the ÖVP gained as well. In 90 out of Salzburg’s 119 municipalities the ÖVP won the position of mayor. The SPÖ has 13 mayor positions. There will also be several runoff elections. 
    Results of the municipal elections in the whole of Land Salzburg and mayors per party
    In Lungau the ÖVP won several mayoral seats that had previously been held by the SPÖ. In Pongau an ÖVP mayor won in 18 of 25 municipalities. However, in Radstadt, an FPÖ mayor was elected, the first in Salzburg since 2004. In Straßwalchen in Flachgau there was a surprise. Although the current Mayor was ÖVP, the ÖVP did not make it into the mayoral runoff election. Also, in Nußdorf am Haunsberg, for the first time a woman has become mayor. In Pinzgau, in Zell am See, there is going to be a close runoff election between the SPÖ and the ÖVP, with each party winning around 40% of the vote this past Sunday. Although the ÖVP had the majority, they lost a bit on Sunday and the SPÖ gained. 

    Intern presents research paper on territorial administrative reforms in Albania

    Vilma Beqa finishes internship at IRE:

    Intern Vilma Beqa with IRE Chairman Dr. Franz Schausberger
    The Albanian student Vilma Beqa has successfully completed her internship at the IRE and, on Monday 11 March, has presented her research paper on the territorial administrative reforms and the new restructuring of the regions in Albania. We congratulate her for concluding the IRE internship programme and we wish her the best for her future!

    Separatist Lega Nord also successful in Southern and Central Italy

    Latest regional elections in Italy show trend:
    The Italian regional elections that took place in the regions of Abruzzo on 10 February 2019 and in Sardinia on 24 February 2019 confirm the rapid growth of the right-wing populist Lega party. The results of the two regional elections are not only an expression of regional political preferences, but also a reflection of the current political situation in Italy as a whole. 
    In the 2018 national election, 32,7% of the Italians voted for the anti-establishment party Movimento Cinque Stelle and 17.4% voted for the right-wing Lega. Together they formed a government coalition. Since its founding in 1991, the Lega has been pursuing the independence of Northern Italy as its main objective. Only for the national elections last year, this goal was abandoned and the party was renamed from Lega Nord (in English: Northern League) to Lega. Since then, the popularity of the party among the voters in Italy is growing. This is mainly due to party leader Matteo Salvini, who has also managed to gain support in the southern regions of Italy, where the Lega had never played a role due to their former secessionist stance.

    Supporters of the right-wing League party attend a rally in Rome, Italy, December 8, 2018.
    Source: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

    Salvini’s personal success is based on a very intense social media campaign, paired with his convincing ideas of “Italy first” and on the topics of national security and sovereignty from the EU. This has made him the ideological leader of the entire political centre-right spectrum in Italy, by what nowadays he plays a central role in the domestic political dynamics of the country, as the regional elections in Abruzzo and Sardinia show.


    Right-wing candidate Marsilio becomes new president of Abruzzo

    Right-hand shift in regional elections in Abruzzo:
    In the context of the overall political Situation in Italy, the election of Marco Marsilio from the party Fratelli d’Italia at the regional election in Abruzzo on the 10th of February can be read as a real victory of the extreme right. Fratelli d’Italia is a small extreme-right party, which barely passed the electoral threshold of 3% at the parliamentary election of 2018, gaining 4,3% of votes, for a total number of 19 seats in the Italian Parliament. For this small party, having one of its politicians as President of the Region is an extraordinary success.Last month the Senator Marsilio, one of the main contributors of the development of this party, was elected new President of the Region Abruzzo with 48,03% of the votes, beating the opponent of the centre-left coalition, Giovanni Legnini (31,28%) and Sara Marcozzi of M5S (20,20%). With 6.44% of the vote, in this election Fratelli d’Italia doubled the result of 2.90% from five years ago.

    The results of the regional elections of Abruzzo

    The candidate Marco Marsilio was chosen not only because of the preferences of his party, but mainly because of the support of a coalition with the Lega. In fact, the votes in the center-right list totaled 299,949, of which 165,008 (more than a half) were achieved by the Lega. In these regional elections this party alone received 27.53% of the total votes.

    The leaders of the centre-right coalition in the Abruzzo regional election. In the picture (from left to right): Matteo Salvini (Lega), Marco Marsilio (top candidate FdI), Giorgia Meloni (presidente FdI) and Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia); Source: Ansa


    Separatist Lega Nord also successful in Southern and Central Italy

    Success of the Lega continues:
    At the Sardinian regional election of the 24th of February, the centre-right coalition with its regional president candidate Christian Solinas won, obtaining almost half of the votes (47.8%), while the centre-left candidate Massimo Zedda came second (32,93%) and Francesco Desogus from M5S third with 11,18% of the votes. It was the first time ever that both parties Lega and Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) participated in a regional election in Sardinia.

    The results of the regional election in Sardinia
    While in the national elections of 2018, the M5S gained 42,5% of votes, being it the first and most voted party in the region, this time the M5S has not gained much support, receiving only 9,90% of the preferences. Among other things, the movement is not a classic party and has no clear party line and political position. Therefore, it has lost the electorate’s approval and thus paved the way for the rise of Lega and its leader Matteo Salvini.Following an electoral agreement for the 2018 parliamentary elections between the Lega and the Partito d’Azione Sardo, (PSd’Az), a party that pursues the goal of an independent Sardinia since 1921, the right-wing Candidate Christian Solinas (PSd’Az) was elected Italian Senator with the League’s support, before in November, he got top candidate for the center-right coalition at the tegional elections. As for the election in Abruzzo, the coalition won over the centre-left and the M5S, gaining over 47% of the votes.

     Top candidate Christian Solinas (PSd’AZ) and Matteo Salvini (Lega) holding together the Sardinian flag in Poetto (Cagliari); Source: LaPresse

    27th March: IRE – Expert Conference “On the trails of the Habsburg in Western Romania”, Arad, Romania

    The Institute of European Regions (IRE) organises an International Expert Conference which is devoted to the topic of “On the trails of the Habsburg in Western Romania”. Venue is the Vasile Goldis Hall in the County Council of Arad, Romania.

    (c) Sven Teschke, Bündingen, Wikimedia Commons

    The House of Habsburg was one of the most influential dynasties in Europe. The Habsburgs’ more than 800-year-old history is preserved in places covering thousands of square kilometres in Western, Central and Eastern Europe. A route from France to Austria, the “Via Habsburg” invites to a visit of many of these places. This is a path of more than a thousand kilometres of knowledge, friendship and of relationships across borders and between the Nations.

    So far a similar cultural route is missing for the eastern and south-eastern European area, where the house Habsburg decisively shaped the historical development. The region of Arad is now trying to connect to the rest of Europe by establishing its own cultural route of the Habsburg heritage and to strengthen the historical and cultural links. This, of course, especially against the background of the intensification of tourism.



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    Stagiaire examines Habsburg heritage in Vojvodina

    Intern from Serba finishes IRE internship:

    In February and March Branka Agbaba stayed as an intern at the Institute of the Regions of Europe. As International Relations Officer at the University of Novi Sad, this experience will help her with her further professional development. This will give her the chance to present herself and her home institution in an even better way, by connecting and networking at the level of international cooperation and by getting acquainted with the principles of the European Integration, especially regarding people and institutions from non-EU, Western Balkan Countries.


    Dr. Franz Schausberger hands over the internship certificate to Branka Agbaba

    During her internship Ms. Agbaba prepared a scientific paper on the topic of ‘Via Habsburg in Vojvodina’, and came to the conclusion that the region represents a good example for a historical connection that has the potential for establishing and developing cooperation in the future. Throughout the history from the 17th to the 19th century, the tie between Austria and Serbia was very strong and important for both sides. This is especially true for the northern part of Serbia today known as Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, where the influence of the Habsburg monarchy was even more significant.

    Back in the 17th century, both entities were fighting for the same goals and with joint support in order to preserve the Christian religion, culture and tradition from the Ottoman Empire. This didn’t only happen to keep people’s rights, faith, and independence alive on a local level, but also to assure diversity in the region and in Europe. As a multinational area, inhabited by Serbs, Hungarians, Slovaks, Croats and people with other nationalities, today the Vojvodina still represents a great example of good understanding among people with different nationalities and religions.

    Therefore, the many cultural monuments and historical locations (especially in Novi Sad and Sremski Karlovci) represent a heritage of great importance, which can be preserved properly for the future by using it for joint projects in the field of tourism and by providing mutual effort in developing further cooperation.

    “With great support and a warm welcome of the IRE team, it has been a great pleasure and experience to achieve new skills and knowledge by dealing with daily tasks during my one month internship as well as participating at the 8th IRE Expert Conference on ‘Mobility in Smart Regions’ in February 2019”, Branka concludes about her stay in Salzburg.

    Elektropriverda HZ HB d.d. Mostar joins IRE network

    New IRE member from Bosnia and Herzegovina:

    We are pleased to announce the Public Enterprise Elektopriverda HZ HB d.d. Mostar as a new member of the IRE network. Since 1992 it is a joint-stock company based in Mostar, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, and operates in the generation, distribution and supply of electricity.
    The company employs over 2.000 people and operates in 35 municipalities in Bosnia. It is the third largest incumbent electric utility company in the country, with a total electricity generation of 1.287 GWh in 2017. The majority shareholder of Elektroprivreda HZ HB d.d. Mostar (with 90 % of the total shares) is the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina making it a mostly state-owned enterprise.JP Elektroprivreda HZ HB d.d. Mostar produces electricity exclusively from renewable energy sources and plans to continue investing in these technologies further on. The company operates seven hydroelectric power plants with a cumulative installed capacity of about 860 MW. Also, in March 2018, a 50,6 MW wind power plant, called Mesihovina, was launched — the first wind power plant in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It consists of 22 turbines and can produce up to 165,2 GWh of electricity in a year.

    Mesihovina, the first wind power plant in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    The company is one of the three public energy operators in Bosnia and Herzegovina and with its 12.572 kilometres long distribution network they supply electricity to a total of about 190.000 consumers. The Government of the Federation of BiH awarded Elektroprivreda HZ HB d.d. Mostar the status of a public/universal supplier and the supplier of last resort.

    Transport of the future needs networking, cooperation and an attractive public transport offer

    8th IRE Expert Conference “Mobility in Smart Regions”:

    Daily traffic jams in the morning and in the evening, rapidly increasing demand for parking spaces and missing or incorrect public transport services burden everyday urban life. In addition, this results in serious, almost unsolvable environmental problems. However, not only large metropolises, but increasingly also regional central cities and their surrounding areas are confronted with these issues. This also applies to the state capital of Salzburg, the surrounding districts and the adjacent Bavarian areas.

    The Smart Region approach seeks to provide solutions by promoting functional networking of cities with their surrounding area. On 20 February 2019 international experts discussed with entrepreneurs and politicians from Salzburg at the 8th Expert Conference of the Institute of the Regions of Europe in Hallwang near Salzburg. The conference focused on “Mobility in Smart Regions” and presented concrete examples from other regions for environmentally friendly, innovative and safe transport systems as well as contemporary mobility management so that meaningful and effective measures for the specific area of Salzburg can be derived.

    Numerous decision-makers from politics and business discussed at the podium (from left to right: Oliver Schmerold [ÖAMTC], Martin Pečar [OmniOpti], Peter Haider [SIR], Helmut Schreiner [Zillertaler Verkehrsbetriebe])

    Transport is a central issue for every metropolitan area. Smart Regions go beyond the city limits and enable smaller villages to implement smart city solutions. There are already several successful examples throughout Europe. Some particularly interesting ones, such as Stuttgart, Zurich, Bolzano or Basel were presented at this conference.

    State Councilor Stefan Schnöll pointed out the concrete traffic problems in Salzburg: “The basic problem of Salzburg consists in the long distances and limited alternative routes that result from the Salzach and the city hills. The many commuters from the surrounding area of Salzburg, of whom 80 percent go by car, then quickly block the roads.” Therefore, public transport must be made more attractive. However, possible solutions, such as cheaper fares and means of transport, which go in the direction that people need, can only be realized if the city and the Land Salzburg work together.

    Here, the responsible politicians are now in agreement, confirmed the Mayor of Salzburg Harald Preuner: “The problem can only be tackled if we bring all individual steps together.” “Isolated individual measures without overall concept and prohibitions without attractive alternative offers not only solve the problems, but relocate at best or even exacerbate the situation, “added Franz Schausberger, Member of the Board of the Institute of European Regions: “Less private transport can only be achieved by expanding public transport services “.

    Traffic experts from Stuttgart, Dresden and Zurich present their findings together with state councillor Schnöll, head of the institute Schausberger and SVV CEO Frommer (from left to right: Ralf Maier-Geisser, Kerstin Burggraf, Stefan Schnöll, Franz Schausberger, Allegra Frommer, Pascal Lippmann)

    This was also confirmed by Deputy Mayor Martin Wex from Schwaz in Tyrol. In the Tyrolean Inn Valley the situation is similar, with the mountains, the industry and the commuter traffic. There the traffic problems could be improved only by a better and more comfortable public traffic offer and by an increase of the accessibility of the public means of transport. Prohibitions did not help. This is due to individual comfort and morality. It was the digital networking of public and individual mobility that opened up solutions. Today, people use more carpools and switch between different means of transport.

    This shows that the policy of Salzburg is on the right track. Together, the city and the state take concrete steps in a joint traffic planning: Starting with a commuter flow analysis, for example, all city and regional bus lines are to be redesigned and optimally coordinated with one another and with the needs of the citizens. The examples from other European cities also confirm the potential for success of the “think smart mobility in a regional way” concept.

    120 participants discussed the future of mobility in the digital age on 20 February

    Four core ideas proved to be essential at the conference:

    • Supra-regionality
      Successful traffic planning must not stop at the urban borders, it must involve the surrounding communities and – if necessary – also cross state borders.
    • Use rail transport
      However, this is only possible if a lot of people are transported from the countryside to the city and out in a short time – enabled thanks to high-performance train networks from the region to the city center.
    • Comfort & simplicity
      The car only stays at home if public transport is more convenient and easier to use. For this cheap, fast and change-free connections from the front door directly to the destination are necessary.
    • Networking & digitization
      Modern traffic management uses digitization to collect traffic data in real time, gather it in a central office and steer traffic optimally. The data is also made available to all public and private road users.

    More photos of the Conference can be found here

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