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    European Cities of Tomorrow are Green

    Innovations, Potentials, Strategies and Best-Pratice Examples in Banja Luka:

    The Instituite of the Regions of Europe (IRE) has organised its 6th conference on “Green & Sustainable Mobility” on 29th March 2017 in Banja Luka (BiH), whicht took place in the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska, one of the two entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In previous years the IRE organized international conferences on this topic in Ljubljana (SI), Tübingen (DE), Vienna (AT), Wrocław (PL) and Trieste (IT), which showes the interconnectedness and cooperation of various cities on municipial as well as regional levels across Europe.

     
    Since its early days, the discourse on “smart and green cities” has included environmental sustainability as one of its core principles. Today, the majority of Europe’s population lives in cities, which need to adapt to urban population growth, the effects of emissions as well as climate change. Green and smart concepts must be defined and put into practice to guarantee a bright future for future generations. Communities, towns, municipalities and regional states will remain major actors in investing in efficiency, renewable energy and green zones. Cities need to focus on technological improvements and economically viable reforms and strategies to foster sustainability, said Franz Schausberger, Chairman of the IRE and Special Advisor to Commissioner Johannes Hahn, at the opening of the conference. He also drew attention to the fact, that only an overall strategy fulfills the requirements for a funding from the EU Investment Fond.
    To define infrastructural projects means defining the future of the city. This will boost the economy, strengthen the community and help in interconnecting with our neighboring countries, explained Nedeljko Čubrilović, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska.

    “Today we speak not only about Banja Luka but about all cities which develop towards a green and sustainable city” stated Igor Radojičić, Mayor of Banja Luka. Banja Luka is a city which is known for its green avenues and trees which persisted over 100 years. On the other hand, the city deals with problems such as the flooding in 2014, waste management, Co2 emissions and traffic problems. These problems are mainly based on cost factors, which the city cannot bear and hence, relies on the EU model, added Mayor Igor Radojičić.
     
    “We have chosen the European way“ said Nataša Kostić, Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Srpska, “and therefore sustainable mobility and life quality should be at the centre.” Matt Field, Head of Political Section, Delegation of the EU to BiH and European Union Special Representative in Sarajevo, highlighted the importance of promoting local spaces, friendly and secure transport for people. The main goal is to guarantee a secure, sustainable and environmentally transport in urban and rural areas. It is conceivable to reduce emissions and pollutions because with modern technology transport does not longer need to produce green house gases.

     

    Best-practice examples from Munich, Vienna and Ljubljana were presented by the experts to a large audience during the following panel discussions. Matjaž Vrčko from the Slovenian Ministry of Infrastructure reported on the evaluation strategies and financial plans, which are necessary for the progress. Not only the costs to build motorways but also its maintenance needs to be taken into account. Improving local transportation, railroads, motorways, parking spots and reducing commuter traffic are aspects which require smart administration.
    The Komercijalna Banka a.d. Beograd offers to provide an ecology concept for better business to raise awareness for green cities, explained CEO Alexander Picker. It is important to know what kind of funding it needed and for what purpose. The Komercijalna Banka signed a contract with the EU for 10 million Euros, where they cover 80% to finance credits for green projects.
     
    The concept of the city of Vienna puts the main focus on the civil society, life quality, innovation and technical development which results in a metastrategy. “Every further project is build on that metastragedy”, explained Pamela Mühlmann from Tina Vienna, the Smart City Agency of Vienna. Citizens want a decent life, which Vienna can also guarantee in a “smart” way and therefore, was named world’s top city for quality of life in 2017 for the eighth year running.

    However, it is not that simple. To implement those strategies into a city might be tricky, because every city is unique and the focus should be layed on individual concepts. Georg-Friedrich Koppen, Head of Mobility Section, Department of Urban Development Planning from Munich explained, that the city of Munich has worked for more than 50 years to gradually implement mobility strategies. For other cities it is quite difficult to catch up with such a long history. Additionally, Elena Marchigiani, Professor of the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, University of Trieste in Italy, emphasized that the whole transportation system with all its aspects and connections (miles, parking needs, car-sharing etc.) needs to be considered despite some geographical obstacles. Trieste is surrounded by hills and mountains from one side, and the sea from the other side but still has a very good functioning bicycle system thanks to e-bikes.
    Such sustainable strategies need a flawless cooperation on local and regional level in order to capture more possibilities. Slaviša Sandić, Head of Department Traffic and Roads of the City of Banja Luka wants to work closely with the regional level to solve the infrastructure issues and create a link to the western transit, which will also benefit the economy.

    All the reforms and new strategies will serve not only the city’s infrastructure but will also ensure a positive competition on European level for Bosnia-Herzegovina. “You carry out the reforms for yourself, not for the EU”, said Franz Schausberger closing the conference.

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