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    IRE-Patron Helmut Kohl dies at 87

    Mourning for the great former Federal Chancellor of Germany
     
    With deep regret the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE) announces, that the member of the IRE- Board of Patrons since 2007, Dr. Helmut Kohl, died on Friday June 16th 2017 in Ludwigshafen. Helmut Kohl was 87 years old at the time of his death. 

    Born in 1930 in Ludwigshafen, Kohl was Federal Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998 and Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from 1973 to 1998. His 16-year tenure was the longest of any German chancellor since Otto von Bismarck, and by far the longest of any democratically elected chancellor. 

    Kohl decisively shaped the process of reunification 1989/1990 as a “unification chancellor”. Together with the former French president François Mitterrand, he is considered as one of the architects of the Maastricht Treaty which have established the European Union and the introduction of the euro. Kohl received a large number of national and international awards.
                                                                                   Helmut Kohl with IRE-Chairman Franz Schausberger

    The IRE conveys his deepest sympathy and compassion to his family and will always keep his memory in honor.
     
     

    IRE-Chairman Schausberger as guest on Austrian TV Channel Puls 4

    Topic “Disempowering federal states – Yes or No?”
    The second edition of “In the Name of the People” under the direction of the former president of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Republic of Austria, Irmgard Griss, took place on 11th June  2017 at 8:15 pm LIVE on PULS 4. The theme of the second episode dealt with the question of whether to omit legislation from federal states. Former Governor of Salzburg and IRE-Chairman, Franz Schausberger, and the President of the Austrian National Bank, Claus J. Raidl, discussed this controversial issue. They were supported by prominent experts and tried to convince the audience with their opinion on “Disempowering Federal States – Yes or No?”

    From 1996 to 2004 Franz Schausberger was the governor of Salzburg, is special adviser to the EU Commission and for 20 years member of the Committee of the Regions. He defended the Austrian federalism, and had the national music star Marc Pircher as well as the political scientist Kathrin Stainer-Hämmerle in his team. They emphasized citizenship as an importance aspect  of federal states for the life reality of the people. Schausberger also drew attention to the fact that countries need more creative leeways in order to remain attractive to the rural population: A Zillertal mountain farmer would need other laws than a Burgenland wine producer.

    With the help of experts, counter-questions and video-actors, Schausberger (pro federal states) and Raidl (contra federal states) tried to convince the wider audience. The Austrian Panel, which was selected by OGM, finally decided which side had the better arguments. Through social media and telephone hotline, Austria had expressed its opinion: 53 percent agreed with Dr. Schausberger, that the power of federal states should not be deprived. Only 47 percent voted “yes“.

    The result consisted of the distribution between female and male sex as well as municipalities under 2,000 and over 50,000 inhabitants: 58 percent of women and 47 percent of men were against a disempowerment. Regardless of size, a clear trend is evident in Austrian cities: Municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, voted with 55 percent against the disempowerment of federal states. In cities with a population below 2,000, there were even 61 percent who spoke in favor of federal states.

    “In the Name of the People” – the first recurring political show in the main evening program of Austria, deals once a month with the current socio-political issues of Austria. 

     
     

     Source: www.puls4.com und www.ogm.at

     

     


    Europa-Forum Wachau, a place for European discourse, in the proximity of its citizens

    European Union as a “model of the future”: Europe-Forum Wachau discussed challenges for the EU

    Since the accession of Austria to the EU twenty years ago, the Europa Forum Wachau has been providing annually a unique framework for European political discussions. This year’s theme of the Forum which took place from 10th to 11th June 2017 was “A Europe Closer to Its Citizens” and focused mainly on the future of the European Union. High-ranking political guests such as Minister of Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz, Lower Austria’s Governor, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, or EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, called subsidiarity as one of the core prerequisites for people to perceive the EU as a source of hope.

    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pawlo Klimkin and incumbent Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic expressed their commitment to the EU’s values and the desire for further convergence between their countries and the Union. EU Commissioner Hahn stressed above all the proximity to the citizen: “We must work together to be successful” and the former Minister of Interior Mikl-Leitner discussed the importance of regional policy in order to regain people’s trust in the EU.

                 

    The agenda of the Forum included several working groups and plenary sessions. Among other things, these included topics on European security, subsidiarity, proximity to the citizens, global competiveness as well as the tension between migration, democracy and the rule of law. Furthermore, a commemorative fair for Alois Mock took place on Sunday.

    For twenty years, the Europa-Forum Wachau has been providing the framework to analyze and discuss interdisciplinarily the state of the European integration process at the regional level. The Europa-Forum Wachau was created to stimulate discussion and arguments with the EU and about the EU. Additionally, the Forum provides creation and maintenance of networks, which are indispensable core of the European integration process.

     Source:www.europaforum.atwww.bmeia.gv.at und www.salzburg.com

    Catalonia combats youth unemployment: Award for the most youth-friendly region in Europe

    From 31st May to 2nd June 2017, the plenary session of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) took place in St. Pölten (Austria). In the course of the meeting, Magnus Berntsson was elected as AER-President and Lukas Mandl as new AER-Vice-President. Representatives from 270 regions from more than 30 European countries came together to discuss innovation and cohesion.
    Within the framework of this meeting, the Region of Catalonia was awarded as the “Most Youth Friendly European Region”. The aim is to emphasize the importance of youth policy at the regional level in order to improve the living conditions of young people as well as to promote the social understanding of the role of young people in the society. Especially in the southern EU countries, unemployment among the under 30s is enormous. Catalonia has succeeded in counteracting this trend with the program of the Public Employment Service Austria:  Under the motto “New opportunities and unique programs”, this project was designed by the Department of Labor, Social Affairs and Family. The prize was awarded for the 8th time; among the competitors were regions from Norway, Serbia, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.

                               

    The new President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER), Magnus Berntsson (3rd from right) and the new Vice-President, Lukas Mandl (far right), presented the AER award to the representatives of the Catalonia Region during the General Assembly in St. Pölten as the most youth-friendly region in Europe
     
     

    Franz Schausberger at the “Enlargement Days” of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in Brussels

    News from Brussels:

    At the third enlargement days in Brussels on 31 May and 1 June 2017, representatives of local and regional authorities from the enlargement countries and from the EU were able to present their views on the enlargement of the European Union in joint advisory committees and working groups. The latest political developments and their impact on the regional level as well as the promotion of business start-ups to create jobs were discussed. 
    Hence, strong and functioning regions as well as municipalities play an utterly important role in this process. According to CoR Vice-President Karlheinz Lambertz, therefore, a top-down approach for enlargement processes is by no means sufficient, the regions and local authorities would have to be taken from the outset of the development. As the EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn agreed in highlighting the citizens’ role of the regions and municipalities in the enlargement process.With Salzburg’s former governor and IRE-Chairman Franz Schausberger as his special advisor for the regional and local level in the enlargement countries, he is trying to do justice to this and to involve the various regions. Franz Schausberger himself analyzed that the Western Balkans countries are currently developing positively through judicial and administrative reforms. “However, in almost all of these countries the process of reform is constantly being blocked by nationalist and ethnic tensions as well as the inability for a political dialogue“, Schausberger explained. Furthermore, other topics were focusing on youth unemployment, constitutional reforms and regional co-operation to strengthen potential candidate countries for EU-membership.                                                               
    From left to right: Dimitrios Kalogeropoulos (politically accountable to the Municipal Council of Palaio Falir, Greece), Heinz Lehman (member of the Saxon Landtag), David McAllister (former minister of Lower Saxony and now Member of the European Parliament and Rapporteur on Serbia) and Franz Schausberger (IRE-Chairman und Special Advisor to EU-Commissioner Hahn)
    In all countries of the West Balkans high unemployment is a problem, especially unemployment among young people, which is over 50 per cent in each country. The reason is not due to the fact that the existing education system produces too many university graduates from sectors that are not necessarily needed by the economy. “The model of dual vocational training in Austria and successful tourism schools, such as in Salzburg, would majorly contribute to improving the employment of young people in the countries of the Western Balkans”, said Chairman of the working group “West Balkan”, Franz Schausberger. This would give the young people and generation a prospect of a future in their various home countries and they would not be forced to move into an uncertain future abroad.

     

    2nd round of the local elections in Croatia: Zagreb’s mayor re-elected

    Elections in Croatia: Favourites won. Low electoral participation in the four largest cities in Croatia

    In Croatia, the second round of local elections took place on 29 May 2017. Eighteen counties (zupas), 56 cities and 103 municipalities were elected. In the key elections, candidates from the first round of 21 May 2017 competed against each other, which could not achieve an absolute majority of votes. These included Croatia’s largest cities, Zagreb, Rijeka, Osijek and Split.

    In the Croatian capital Zagreb, long-time mayor Milan Bandic (BM 356), who has been head of the Croatian capital for 17 years, has won the election against his liberal counterpart Anka Mrak-Taritas: Bandic received 51.8 percent and Mrak-Taritas 46 percent of the votes.

    Meanwhile in Split a fraud allegation broke out: The former mayor, Zeljko Kerum (2009-13), who was seceded four years ago, did not make a comeback. In the end, the HDZ candidate Andro Krstulovic Opara won. According to the state electoral commission, Opara won 46.2 percent of the votes, while Kerum only received 44.3 percent. Hence, Kerum demanded that the invalid ballot need to be recounted.

    In Rijeka and Osijek the results confirmed the victory of the election favorites.
    The reigning mayor of the port city Rijeka, the social democrat Vojko Obersnel, won 55.6 percent before his challenger Hrvoje Buric (42.7 percent).
    In the Slavonic city of Osijek, the independent Ivan Vrkic (62.7 per cent) will continue to hold the mayor’s office. He beat the HDZ candidate Ivana Sojat (33.9 percent).

     

    Source: www.orf.at

    www.derstandard.at


    26th June 2017: Panel Discussion: “Bosnia and Herzegovina – the unknown partner for regional and local relations” Salzburg, Austria

    Discussions about a future cooperation between the IRE and the Institute of Southern European Studies (ISES)

    The Institute of Southeastern European Studies (ISES) visited the IRE–office in Salzburg
    On May 29, 2017, IRE Chairman Dr. Schausberger met Wolfgang Grossruck, President of the Institute of Southeastern European Studies (ISES), at the IRE office in Salzburg.
    The conversation about a possible future cooperation with Institute of Southeastern European Studies (ISES) was very promising. Wolfgang Grossruck (former Deputy to the National Council of the Republic of Austria and President of the Austrian-Albanian Society) was accompanied by the Executive Director of his Institute, Prof. Dr. Enver Bytyci and his Deputy Executive Director, Miftar Kastrati.
    From left to right: Dr. Joachim Fritz (IRE-General Secretary), Wolfgang Großruck (ISES-President), Dr. Enver Bytyci (ISES-Executive Director), Dr. Franz Schausberger (IRE- Chairman of the Board) and Mag. Miftar Kastrati (ISES-Deputy Executive Director).
    ISES was founded in 2011 and aims to serve as a cross-disciplinary, academic research center near the Albanian capital city Tirana. The Institute’s scope of work mainly focuses on studies with geo-political, historical, cultural, religious, scientific character related to various historical developments that have occurred in Southeastern Europe. In addition, the research studies of ISES cover areas of security, social aspects, law, human rights as well as development.The purpose of ISES is to discuss and prepare analytical reports on historical, cultural, social, political and economic fields of study in Albania, Kosovo and the entire Southeastern European region. It places particular emphasis on the training in the field of multidisciplinary research on South-South European issues. Furthermore, the Institute’s specific concern is to promote and support the cultivation of European values, economic and social cooperation as well as the development of democracy in Albania.
     

    For more information please visit: www.ises.org.al 

    Confidence in the united Europe is again noticeable

    IRE- Chairman Dr. Franz Schausberger met IRE-Patron Dr. Theo Waigel in Salzburg

    With a clearly pro-European position – as the example shows in France – elections can be won again by the public commitment to the common Europe which is again more noticeable, as the many positive demonstrations for the EU show.
    The former “father of the euro”, former German Finance Minister Theo Waigel and the President of the Institute of European Regions (IRE), former Governor of Salzburg Dr. Franz Schausberger, agreed on a meeting in Salzburg on 27 May 2017.
    Additionally, Waigel fully supported the statement by the German Chancellor that Europe has to go its own way on the basis of the new developments in the world’s politics, which would require a more common ground in European politics. Theo Waigel, who is a member of the “Board of Patrons” of the IRE, held a much-respected lecture on the current European politic situation in Salzburg.
    IRE-Board of Patron Dr. Theo Waigel and IRE-Chairman Dr. Franz Schausberger

    12th NALAS General Assembly paves the way to a new era

    Sustainable water management for Southeast European countries. IRE-Chairman held speech in Vienna.
    The 12th NALAS (Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe) General Assembly Meeting was held in Vienna on 19 April 2017, to discuss issues of sustainable water supply provision and management for the development of South-East European countries. Over 50 participants, South-Eastern European mayors, delegates, partners and supporters from different countries of Europe and non-EU countries were present.IRE-Chairman Dr. Schausberger highlighted in his opening speech that the “NALAS is a very important strategic partner for the European Union, especially for the Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission. An enlargement strategy and the accession of new Member States are the EU’s most powerful foreign policy tools“. Furthermore the Special Advisor of Commissioner Hahn emphasized, that local governments’ capacities in the legislative, financial and administrative sphere have to be further developed: “In all the ongoing processes the local and regional authorities are playing a key role. A comprehensive strategy for development is only possible if it is declared and guaranteed at regional and local level. In order to be successful in these endeavors, local authorities are primarily necessary, above all mayors, who represent the foundations of a society.”
    From left to right: Dr. Franz Schausberger (IRE Chairman and Special Advisor to EU-Commissioner Hahn), Mico Micic (New NALAS President) and Darko Fras (NALAS Vice-president)
    Two important policy positions were voiced by the General Assembly: Firstly, the importance of promoting local self-management from the Western Balkan countries as key players in the EU integration process and secondly, the need for capacity development for the water and sanitation sector in South-Eastern Europe. This resulted in a new strategic plan for the period 2018-2022 to support the sustainable development of the local economy, innovative growth, job creation and regional cohesion. With these priorities, Mr. Miro Maric took over the role of NALAS President for the next few years.
    .NALAS is a network of associations of local authorities of South East Europe. The Network brings together 16 Associations which represent roughly 9000 local authorities, directly elected by more than 80 million citizens of this region. NALAS promotes the process of decentralisation in cooperation with central governments and international organisations. For more information please visit: www.nalas.eu

    Source: www.nalas.eu

    IRE-Chairman Dr. Schausberger held lecture in Brussels

    News from Brussels: Austrian school class at the liaison office of the region of Salzburg to the EU in Brussels

    On May 12th, the IRE-Chairman and former governor of Salzburg, Dr. Franz Schausberger, gave a lecture in front of a student class from Austria at the liaison office of the region of Salzburg to the EU in Brussels. The 20 students of the Borg St. Johann from Salzburg were on a field-trip in Brussels on the occasion of the Geo-Caching-Competition 2016, which the class won.
    Dr Franz Schausberger, representative of the Committee of the Regions, was on the occasion of the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions in Brussels. Together with Mag. Petz-Michez, head of the liaison office of the region of Salzburg to the EU, Dr. Schausberger discussed the latest European issues in a personal exchange with the students. 
    Source: liaison office of the region of Salzburg to the EU in Brussels

    Local elections in Croatia: The elections are still to be held in all major cities

    Elections in Croatia – Results of the first round. Local elections in progress. Voter turnout higher than four years ago

    The first round of the local elections in Croatia took place on Sunday 21 May. Around 3.7 million voters were called upon to choose zupas (provincial governors), mayors, local and regional representatives. The local elections have not brought any final results in several major cities, including the capital Zagreb: In four cities (Zagreb, Split, Rijeka and Osijek), where the candidates did not reach an absolute majority in the first round, ballots will be held on 4th June.

    In Zagreb, mayor Milan Bandic (BM 365), who has won 30.87 percent of the votes, will be challenged in the ballot in June by Anka Mrak-Taritas (HNS-LD), who won 24.48 percent of the votes. The election in Zagreb brought a defeat for the rightwing conservative HDZ, which could lead to discussions within the HDZ.  On the other hand, the HDZ has performed well at the regional level. In the choice of the zupas, the party leads in 13 out of 20 counties.

    The reigning Social Democrat Vojko Obersnel (SDP), who has been running Rijeka since 2000, leads the first round with 40 percent ahead of the challenger, the independent Hrvoje Buric (17.5 percent). In Osijek, the reigning independent mayor Ivica Vrkic, has a decisive head start in the ballot: He achieved 37 percent of the votes and was ahead of his challenger Ivana Sojat (HDZ), who only reached 17 percent. In the second-largest city of Croatia, Split, former mayor Zeljko Kerum, who was deputy four years ago, received 30.4 percent of the votes. His challenger in the ballot, HDZ candidate Andro Opara, however, only gained 26.2 percent.

    The election campaign was overshadowed by the disintegration of the government coalition of the right-wing conservative HDZ and the liberal-conservative Party of Most. To this extent, these elections are regarded as an important indicator for a possible early parliamentary election.
    The Republic of Croatia, independent since June 1991, joined the European Union on 1st July 2013.

     

    CDU wins Landtag election in North Rhine-Westphalia

    Election in North Rhine-Westphalia – defeat for SPD. Last important indicator before German Bundestag election in autumn

    The red-green state government has been deselected in SPD’s home country. 65.2 percent of 13.1 million electors voted on 21 May 2017:  In the Landtagswahl in North Rhine-Westphalia, the CDU has won considerably, as has been the case recently in Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein. The election in the most populous German federal state was, as every country’s election in Germany before, an important result for the German Bundestag elections on 24th September.

    The CDU under top candidate Armin Laschet won with 33.0 percent of the votes and is clearly ahead of the SPD. The SPD of NRW Minister President Hannelore Kraft came to 31.2 percentage points, plunging to a historic low in NRW just before the Bundestag elections.For the SPD it is the worst result since 1947 and the third defeat in the Landtagswahlen.
    The third largest party was the FDP, which achieved 12,6 percent,  its best result in North Rhine-Westphalia. The AfD followed with 7.4 percent, which for the 13th time succeeded to enter into the regional parliament. The Greens flew out of the government, but made the reintroduction into the Düsseldorf parliament. They received 6.4 percent of the votes. The Left failed at the five percent hurdle: They reached 4.9 percent and did not make it into the state parliament.

    The red-green coalition, which had ruled for seven years in NRW, was thus deselected. Hannelore Kraft resigned as NRW regional chairman and federal vice of her SPD party. With her resignation she wanted to give the party “a chance for a new beginning”. As a member of the Landtag, however, Kraft wants to remain in the Landtag. She won the direct mandate in her constituency Mülheim.

    The CDU sees itself on the uphill for the Bundestag election in autumn. The winner of the Landtag election, Armin Laschet (CDU), and thus the new Prime Minister, wants to ensure more internal security, better education policy and more jobs in NRW. Thus the CDU receives 72 seats in the Düsseldorf Landtag and the SPD has 69 seats. The Greens represent 14 MPs, the FDP 28 and the AfD 16.

    The CDU is now looking for a coalition partner. AfD and the Left are, however, excluded. By losing the party at the five percent hurdle of the Left party, a black-yellow coalition comes exactly to the 100 seats of the absolute majority. Thus, this coalition alliance would have replaced the thinnest parliamentary majority of one vote, although black and yellow did not receive a majority of the electorate votes in the Landtag election. Even if a black-yellow coalition in NRW is likely, a large coalition (CDU + SPD) is not excluded: It has a considerably higher majority in the state parliament. The CDU excluded traffic light and Jamaica alliances.

    Source:
    www.mik.nrw.de
    www.orf.at
    www.vol.at
    www.tageschau.de
    www.bundestagswahl-2017.com
     

     

    EU cohesion funding has to become simpler, more rapid, more flexible and less bureaucratic

    Plenary Session of the CoR in Brussels:
    The cohesion policy of the European Union has contributed significantly to the reduction of economic and social inequalities as well as sustainable growth among the European regions. Furthermore, it provides together with national and regional partners more than EUR 450 billion for the period from 2014 to 2020.In the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions on the future of cohesion policy on 12 May, the representative of the Province of Salzburg and former governor of Salzburg, Dr. Franz Schausberger, stated that further simplifications, more flexibility, faster handling and better coordination with others EU investment programs are essential. In addition to the aim of bringing the less wealthy regions closer to the European average, the harmonious development of the EU as a whole should continue to be encouraged. This means that cohesion policy should continue to be open to all regions. 

     

    From left to right: Dr. Andreas Kiefer (General Secretary of the Congress of the Council of Europe), Dr. Franz Schausberger (Chairman of the IRE and former Governor of Salzburg) and Gudrun Mosler-Törnström, BSc (President of the Congress of the Council of Europe)

     

    The complexity of the administrative and control system of cohesion policy would be disproportionate to the added value, Dr. Schausberger highlighted.So to say, the bureaucratic effort needs to be radically reduced for the affected recipients as well as for local authorities and that the EU authorities have to restrict themselves to the achievement of the objectives and the fight against fraud and corruption. The impact of BREXIT on the future of cohesion policy must also be clarified. Within the framework of the EU cohesion policy, the state of Salzburg classified as a “more developed region” accounted for 21.780 million in the 2014-2020 period from the ERDF-fund.

     

    Success for the CDU in Schleswig-Holstein

    Landtag election & its consequences in Schleswig Holstein
    In the Landtag election in northern Schleswig-Holstein, the CDU, as has been the case recently in Saarland, has clearly won. Each Landtag election is considered an important barometer with regard to the Bundestag elections in autumn.
    In Germany, the Landtag elections took place on 7 May 2017 in Schleswig-Holstein. The voter turnout was 64.2 percent. Because federal elections are held in Germany in autumn, every previous eletion is considered as an important barometer for the Bundestag election.  The CDU achieved 32 per cent and the SPD, which reached 272 percent, is about five percentage points lower. The Greens came to 12.9 percent, while the FDP achieved a plus and now stands at 11.5 percent. The FDP and the Greens are now hoping for a government involvement in the north. The right-wing party AfD has narrowly managed to get into the Landtag. The Left missed with 3.8 percent the entry into the Landtag.

    The CDU has clearly won the election, even though its top candidate Daniel Günther  was not even well-known in Schleswig-Holstein. Daniel Günther has won this election with a clear course, with clear messages with regard to transport policy, education policy and internal security. If he succeeds in forging a new coalition government, he would be the first CDU politician to become Prime Minister from the opposition during the Chancellorship of Angelika Merkel.

    The result now provides the CDU with hope for the nationwide election in autumn. Rather saddened appears the inferior SPD, which is likely to lose the post of the Prime Minister. The initially positive “Martin Schulz effect” faded. Regardless which coalition will form in Kiel, the elections did not cause a fundamental change in the majority situation in the Bundesrat. CDU election winner Daniel Günther is aiming for a coalition of CDU, FDP and the Greens. However, a large coalition with the SPD; a coalition with the SPD, FDP and Greens; but also a coalition Black, Green and the SSW would be conceivable.

    The next Landtag election will take place on 14th May 2017 in North Rhine-Westphalia.

    Source: www.tvthek.orf.at
    www.bundestagswahl-2017.com
    www.spiegel.de

     

     

    Clear Victory for Conservative Party in Great Britain

    Theresa May’s party won 563 seats. Labor needs to cope with heavy losses

    In the midst of tensions between London and Brussels for the completion of the EU exit, local elections were held in the UK on 4th May 2017. Great Britain voted for new municipal parliaments in England, Scotland and Wales. In Scotland, Wales and parts of England, almost 5,000 seats were placed in the municipal parliaments. Additionally, the mayors from six metropolitan regions, including Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, were also elected. The election was considered as an important barometer for the forthcoming parliamentary elections on 8th June 2017.

    The end result shows a clear victory for the Conservative Party (Toris) of Prime Minister Theresa May. After counting all 88 constituencies, the Tories won 1,899 seats.
    The opposition Labor Party as well as the right-wing populist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), suffered heavy losses: The clear-cut loser is the right-wing populist anti-EU party UKIP, which will no longer be represented in many municipal parliaments. The party lost all its previous 145 seats and won one seat. Regretfully, the Labor Party has also experienced better times, reaching only 1,152 seats.

    Among other things, the mayors of Manchester and Liverpool were elected. Both cities went to the Labour party. Four of the six newly created mayors’ posts went to the Conservatives.
    A total of 28 constituencies went to the Tories, only nine to Labor. The Scottish National Party SNP was for the first time the strongest party in Scotland’s largest city Glasgow.

    According to the BBC, the final election results are as follows: The Conservatives achieved 38 percent, the Labor Party came to 27 percent and the Liberal Democrats reached 18 percent of the votes. UKIP, on the other hand, breaks down to five percent.
                       

    .

    Source: www.orf.at
    www.tvthek.orf.at
    www.bbc.com
    www.tt.com
    www.deutschlandfunk.de
    www.zeit.de

     

     

    Konrad Schupfner: New EuRegio president

    Cross-border cooperation as a building block for Europe
    On 2nd of May 2017, Konrad Schupfner, mayor of the city of Tittmoning (district of Traunstein), was unanimously elected to the new EuRegio President. He succeeded Johann Hutzinger (Mayor of Bergheim) after a four-year term. Every four years the presidency of the EuRegio Salzburg – Berchtesgadener Land - Traunstein changes between Salzburg and Bavaria.
    Mayor of Bergheim Johann Hutzinger and District Administrator of Traunstein Siegfried Walch led the EuRegio from June 2014 to May 2017. During their term, the EuRegio addressed important social issues such as the refugee situation, asylum or health care. Many small and large projects, which were and are often supported by the EU support program INTERREG, could be launched.
     The new EuRegio President Konrad Schupfner (CSU), his executive committee as well as the entire EuRegio agreed that cross-border cooperation at the EuRegio level is an important and positive building block for cohesion in Europe today.
    In this respect, he appealed to the Assembly to intensify its efforts for cross-border projects,and asked Eu-delegate in Brussels Claudia Schmidt to continue to work on the continuation of the INTERREG program at the German-Austrian border after 2020.

    Source: www.bgland24.de
    www.bayernwelle.de
    www.wochenblatt.de

     

     

    IRE-Patron and political theorist Prof. Benjamin R. Barber dies at 77

    Bereavement of renowned political scientist - He was striving towards a “strong” democracy in which citizens are more than legal entities
    With deep regret the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE) announces, that the member of the IRE- Board of Patrons, Prof. Benjamin R. Barber,  died on Monday April 24th 2017 in Manhattan after a four-month battle with cancer. Prof. Barber was 77 years old at the time of his death.  Born in 1939, Barber was an American political theorist and author best known for his 1995 bestseller, Jihad vs. McWorld and 2013′s If Mayors Ruled the World. Barber was a Senior Research Scholar at The Centre on Philanthropy and Civil Society of The Graduate Centre at the City University of New York, the President and Founder of the Interdependence Movement, and Walt Whitman Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Rutgers University. 
    As a political theorist, Barber argued for a renewed focus on the use of civil society and engaged citizenship as tools for building effective democracy, particularly in the post-Cold War world. His latest work examines the failure of nation-states to address global problems, and argues that cities and intercity associations are more effectively addressing shared concerns. Benjamin Barber was a Senior Fellow at the USC Centre on Public Diplomacy from 2005 until 2017.

    Barber was an outside adviser to President Bill Clinton and a foreign policy adviser to Howard Dean’s 2004 Presidential campaign. He has advised political parties and political leaders in the U.K., Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Italy on civic education and participatory institutions. In addition, at the annually IRE conference “KERS” in 2014, he held an eye-catching presentation on mega cities.

    The IRE expresses the most sincere condolences and sympathy to his family and will keep him in a particularly honourable memory.

     

    Lisa-Marie Stauffer, MSc. is new employee at the IRE

    Austrian employee with international experience
    After four years of successful work from Joanna Chmielecki, who has changed professionally, Lisa-Marie Stauffer, MSc has been the new employee for European Affairs, Media and PR at the IRE since March 2017.
    Lisa-Marie Stauffer was born 1991 in Austria and is bilingual in English and German. After her bachelor’s degree in Social & Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna, she completed her Master’s degree at the University College London (UCL) in Social Development Practice in September 2016.

    Despite her young age, she has already gained international experience in Europe, Asia and the United States in various organizations including AMREF Health Africa, Red Cross or COPE Trust.

    The IRE would like to thank Ms Chmielecki for her commitment to the Institute of the Regions of Europe and wish her good luck and all the best in her new job. As a coordinator for Poland, she will continue to be associated with the IRE.

     

    More information of the new employee you can find under the IRE-Website or on LinkedIn

     

    Lisa-Marie Stauffer, MSc
    European Affairs, Media & Public Relations
    lisa-marie.stauffer@institut-ire.eu
    Tel: +43 662 843 288 20

     

     


    IRE- study on the topic “Cross-Border Regional Cooperation in the European-Russian Frontier Zone”

    The regional cooperation of the regions on the EU border – Russia works
    The study shows that, despite all the conflicts and sanctions between the EU and Russia, the cooperation between border regions is quite efficient.
    In general, it can be seen that cross-border cooperation in the European-Russian border region, so in the EU and Schengen external borders, is difficult to implement without EU funding. National and also other international funds for this topic are barely available. In addition, the legal framework of EU funding programs of the European Neighborhood Policy is a good basis for ensuring the appropriate use of funds. This will ensure that the funds will benefit the best projects which are promoting the regions. It is also important that cross-border cooperation projects by the EU and Russia were deliberately not placed on the lists of sanctions in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. Using the example of the small border traffic between Kaliningrad and Poland, the social significance of these cooperations becomes clear, namely the opening to the neighbors across the border and an increase in mutual interest. Thus the programs promote the human-to-human contact and cultural and social co-operation.
    The paper is divided as follow: Firstly, the geographic and historical overviews of the border regions are presented in detail. This overview is followed by an execution of the types of cooperation which leads to the main part of this work – the projects in and of themselves. This is subdivided by time-periods (mainly the financial framework of EU projects) and by countries – first the cooperation programs within the framework of the European Neighborhood Program are mentioned, followed by the Euregios. The conclusion of this work is a brief summary. 

    The IRE offers young people a one-month-long internship at the office in Salzburg. Interns work on a research paper elaborating a topic related to European or regional policy. The results are published in the IRE monograph series. Furthermore, the interns support the IRE in its daily activities and the organizational processes.

     

    IRE-chairman Dr. Franz Schausberger and the author
    of the study within the IRE-internship program, Sophie Jenerwein, MA

     
    Orders are warmly accepted (cost contribution €07,00):office@institut-ire.eu

      

    Arad County Council – 25 years of european existence

    The IRE warmly congratulates the member region in Romania on its anniversary

    Located at the western gate of Romania, Arad County is one of the most important counties in the country. The capital city, Arad, displays spectacular parks and monumental buildings, along the Mures River.

    Arad joined the Institute of European Regions in 2008. Since then, several IRE events have taken place in the region, such as the Café d’Europe Régionale and the Europe Day. In 2012, some students from this region took part in the IRE internship program in Salzburg.

    The Arad region promotes and supports foreign and national companies in the region. The unemployment rate is lower than 2.5 percent and in the capital it is below one percent. Since 22nd April 1993 there has been a partnership with the EU, and the region has become a model at regional level through its European attitude.
     

    We are looking forward to continue on the fruitful cooperation with Arad County Council and congratulate to the 25th anniversary with the EU.
     
    You can find more information under: www.cjarad.ro and www.visitarad.ro

     
    Source: Arad County Council 

     

    13 Mini buses will be launched in Nicosia

    Incorporated Master Mobility Plan

    The Municipality of Nicosia (Member of the IRE) announced the arrival of 13 mini buses in Nicosia. The aim is to revitalise the historic centre of the Cyprian capital by improving accessibility through sustainable means of transport and reduce the number of cars within the walls gradually. 
    Each bus is environmentally friendly, fully equipped with heating and cooling systems and has the necessary infrastructure to transport people with mobility problems. The total capacity of each bus is 22 with room for strollers. The buses have also provision for bicycle transportation and easy access for wheelchairs.

    The launch of the mini buses falls within the provisions of Nicosia’s Integrated Mobility Master Plan and the service is complementary to the citiy’s public transport system.

    Source: www.cyprus-mail.com
    http://in-cyprus.com

      

    24th-26th September 2017: Salzburg Summit – “Next Generation – Attractive Regions and Cities for Future Generations”

    13th Conference of European Regions and Cities “Next Generation- Attractive Regions and Cities for Future Generations” in Salzburg, Austria. The annual Conference of European Regions and Cities will be organized on current themes for regions and cities of Europe with a view to future strategies and challenges for politics and business.

    Registration

    More information under:

    E: martina.balazic@institut-ire.eu         T: +43 (0)662/84 32 88 – 0

    F: +43 (0)662/84 32 88 – 5050               www.institut-ire.eu

    green-meeting_en

    Speakers:

    Dr. Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations

    Dr. Irmfried Schwimann, Deputy Director General in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Brussels, Belgium

    Dr. Jörg Wojahn, Representative of the European Commission to Austria

    Mag. Claudia Schmidt, Member of the European Parliament, Strasbourg, France      

    Dr. Wilfried Haslauer, Governor of Salzburg, Austria

    Mag. Thomas Stelzer, Governor of Upper Austria

    DI Dr. Josef Schwaiger, Councilor for Energy, Land Salzburg, Austria

    Dr. Heinz Schaden, Mayor of Salzburg, Austria

    Former Governor of Salzburg a. Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger, IRE-Chairman, Salzburg, Austria

    Adelheid Wölfl, Correspondent Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Moldava, Newspaper “Der Standard“, Belgrade, Serbia

    Prof. Dr. Ludvik Toplak, President Alma Mater Europaea, Maribor, Slovenia

    S.E. Igor Crnadak, Minister of Foreign Affairs,Bosnia and Herzegovina

    S.E. Enver Hoxhaj, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kosovo

    I.E. Jadranka Joksimović, Minister for European Integration, Serbia

    Mag. Elisabeth Köstinger, Member of the European Parliament,European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, President of the Eco-Social Forum Europe,Strasbourg, Belgium 

    DI Robert Thaler, Head of the Department I/5 Mobility Transport, Noise, The Austrian Federal Minsitry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Vienna, Austria

    Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Gerlind Weber, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences,Vienna, Austria

    Dr. Kurt Weinberger, Director General of the Österreichische Hagelversicherung AG, Vienna,  Austria

    DI Gerhard Gamperl, Head of Department Strategy, Corporate Development and Innovation, VERBUND AG, Vienna, Austria

    Christine Lins, Executive Secretary, Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21 Century REN21, Paris, France

    Dkfm. Marc Fähndrich, Consultant for the European Semester of economic policy coordination, Representator of the European Commission in Austria

    Mag. Walter Haas, Director of ITG Salzburg, Austria

    Samo Omerzel, CEO Vendotel, Novo Mesto, Slovenia

    Nenad Moslavac, Co-Founder & Managing Director Impact Hub, Belgrad, Serbia

    Prof. Dr. Gerhard Aumayr, Executive Dean of the  University of Salzburg Business School (SMBS) Salzburg, Austria

    Rektor Prof. Mag. Dr. Gerhard Blechinger, University of Applied Sciences, Salzburg, Austria

    Mag. Stefan Veigl, Salzburger Nachrichten, Salzburg, Austria

    Wilhelm Ortmayr,Chief Editor Academia, Salzburg, Austria

    Andreas Schiller, Journalist, Germany

    Prof. Claus Reitan, Free journalist, Vienna, Austria

     

     

    Together with:

     

    Bildergebnis für land salzburg     Bildergebnis für stadt salzburg

     

    In Cooperation with:

       

          Bildergebnis für european commission Bildergebnis für european parliament   Bildergebnis für european investment bank Bildergebnis für council of europe   Bildergebnis für austrian development cooperation

     

    Main Sponsor:

    Bildergebnis für erste bank logo

    Sponsors:

    Bildergebnis für WKO    Bildergebnis für industriellenvereinigung  Bildergebnis für österreichische hagelversicherungBildergebnis für österreichische nationalbank

    Bildergebnis für grohag logo       SMBS  Bildergebnis für SalzburgerLand Tourismus GmbH   Bildergebnis für salzburg ag logo

    Bildergebnis für apg    Bildergebnis für itg salzburg     Bildergebnis für standard salzburg agentur logos

    Environment Agency Austria

    Alfred Riedl takes office as President of the Austrian Association of Municipalities

    IRE sends congratulations:

    After 18 years at the head of the Austrian Association of Municipalities Helmut Mödlhammer resigned. His successor is Mag. Alfred Riedl.

    Since 1990, Alfred Riedl has been mayor of Grafenwörth (district of Tulln in Austria), which has a population of about 3,000. In 1998 he entered the Lower Austrian Parliament, where he holds the office of deputy chairman of his party. Since 2011 the tax consultant Riedl has also been serving as president of the Municipal Association of Lower Austria and has been vice-president of the Austrian Association of Municipalities since 2007. Riedl obtained a degree at the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) and is the owner of a large tax consulting company in Lower Austria with several locations and more than 60 employees.

    The Austrian Association of Municipalities represents 2,089 of the 2,100 Austrian municipalities. The Association advocates the interests of the Austrian municipalities on national and international level. The aim is to secure the existence, the self-administration and the economic future of the various municipalities in Austria as a model for a subsidiary Europe. The Austrian Association of Municipalities has been operating a permanent office in Brussels since 1996 in order to comply with the international agenda.

    For more information see: www.gemeindebund.at

    Source: www.gemeindebund.at
    www.salzburgernachrichten.at
    www.meinbezirk.at
    www.kommunal.at
    www.wienerzeitung.at

    Wonderful flower decoration in Zalaegerszeg

    News from our Members:

    The western Hungarian city Zalaegerszeg, a member of the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE), is currently offering a wonderful floral decoration, which gives the whole city a beautiful sight. Additionally to numerous trees planted in the previous years, a variety of flowers have been seeded in the streets and parks. The city appears in a colorful spring dress and is a role model for other cities.

    One picture captures the view of the Church of Mary Magdalene, in another picture you can see the beautiful blossoming tree in front of the town hall, the many beautiful flowers in the park and a section of the colorful flower beds.

    Zalaegerszeg is a city with county rights and at the same time the administrative centre of Zala County. It has ca. 60,000 inhabitants and lies at the river Zala. The town was first documented in 1247. 

     

    For more information please see: http://zalaegerszeg.hu/

    Conservative party wins – steep decline for the populist Finn Party

    Municipal elections in Finland:

    The municipal elections in Finland took place on 9 April 2017. The Green party has gained 3.9 percentage points, more than any other party, and achieved 12.4 percent in total. The governing parties have experienced the biggest loss, especially the right-wing Finn party. The Social Democrats, as largest opposition party, has suffered a slight loss of votes, whereas all other opposition parties were able to record gains.
     

    In Helsinki, the Greens achieved 24.1 per cent of the vote, becoming the second-biggest party in the capital. The euro-critical Finn party won only 8.8 per cent. The Social Democrats came to 19.4 percent and the center party of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä stands at 17.5 percent.

    However, the big winner of this election is Jan Vapaavuori, who won the election in the capital with his National Coalition Party (Kokoomus). Former Minister of Economy Jan Vapaavuori established himself early on and won 28.4 per cent of the votes making him the new mayor of Helsinki.

    The National Coalition Party has been able to take its stand since 2015 and was also able to win the overall majority in Finland with 20.7 per cent. The turnout rate was 58.8 percent.

    source: http://www.tt.com
    http://www.helsinkitimes.fi
    https://www.neweurope.eu
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz
     

    Committee of the Regions debates future of EU

    Schausberger: Increase the integration of citizens at regional and local level

    The future of the EU was at the center of debate at the Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External affairs (CIVEX) of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), which former governor of Land Salzburg and CoR member Franz Schausberger attended on 6 April in Brussels.

    CoR President Markku Markkula and CoR Vice-President Karl-Heinz Lambertz were appointed to prepare an opinion regarding “Reflecting on Europe” for the Committee of the Regions. In a first discussion, Vice-President Lambertz pointed out the significance of this discourse at local and regional level. Furthermore, talks with those not convinced by the EU are planned.

    During the debate Franz Schausberger warned: “Populists and nationalists are always centralists and centralisms leads to a loss of trust. Regrettably, the subsidiarity principle has been weakened in recent years, even though this is a cornerstone of the Lisbon Treaty and an instrument against centralism. Studies show that, despite the critical situation of our society, the political trust in the representatives of the municipalities and regions is by far the highest. Subsequently, the citizens at regional and local level need to be consulted about the future of the EU. The five scenarios of the EU by Commission President Junker in the White paper on the future of the EU form the basis for this debate. This is the only way to sustain a secure a future based on the principals of decentralization and subsidiarity. It is therefore up to the citizens to deal with the scenarios and to set a direction for Europe.”
    The Commission CIVEX is one of the six expert committees in the Committee of the Regions, where opinions of regions, cities and municipalities on current EU legislation and on the future of the EU are prepared and voted on in the CoR-plenary sessions.

    source: Salzburger Landeskorrespondenz, 07.04.2017 

    Representation Office of Republika Srpska in Austria joins IRE network

    The IRE is pleased to announce that the regional representation Office of Republika Srpska in Austria headed by Mag. Mladen Filipović became member of the IRE network.

    The regional representation office of the Republic of Srpska was opened in Vienna in March 2012 by the government and the President of the Republic of Srpska. Since 2012, Mladen Filipović heads the Representative office of the Government of Republic of Srpska in Austria, aiming to establish, maintain and improve correspondence with the Austrian business community by intensifying cooperation with the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, Austrian institutions on all levels as well as other Austrian based international and domestic stakeholders.

    The representation office of the Republic of Srpska in Austria supports the government of the Republic of Srpska as well as its institutions by improving the cooperation with partners and organizations in Austria.

    We are looking forward to a productive collaboration with the Representation Office of the Republika Srpska. For more Information see: https://www.rep-srpska.at/

    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.

    Special Advisor to the EU Commission Franz Schausberger in Banja Luka (BiH): Carry out reforms for yourself, not for the EU

    Translation of the Interview:

    Franz Schausberger, former prime minister of the Austrian region of Salzburg, and now Adviser for issues related to Western Balkans regions and cities and the policies of neighbouring countries of the EU and President of the Institute of European regions, is beloved guest of Banja Luka, where conference on mobility will be organized.
    This was quite lovely occasion for the interview with the prominent European politician, who says that the focus of the EU and the European Commission is again Western Balkans. Schausberger claims that “We simply want to send a signal to the Western Balkans that their future is in Europe, if they want it.”

    NN: 
    Mr. Schausberger, at the end of 2015, I’ve read in an interview in where you stated that the consequences of the refugee crisis which Europe is facing, will not be of economic or social nature, but political. Today, can we say this is what exactly happened?
    Schausberger:
    First of all, allow me to say that this refugee crisis is the greatest challenge for EU and its member states. The problem is was really sudden crisis, something which no one expected. The EU was not ready for such challenge, and member states needed to pursue their own solutions. Meanwhile, step by step, we are on doorsteps of one common, European solution.
    NN:
    And did Europe managed to cope with the refugee crisis?
    Schausberger:
    For now all we can say is that EU managed to reduce the problem, but the crisis is still ongoing. Meanwhile, we have also noticed that the right-wing, populist parties, are misusing this crisis. But they are not the only one; left-winged populist parties exploit these issues. We really have to find an adequate solution as soon as possible, bearing in mind hundreds of thousands more refugees waiting in North Africa.
    NN:
    You are an experienced politician, president and founder of the Institute of European regions, and you were prime minister of Salzburg for two terms. Today you are an adviser to questions of region and cities of Western Balkans, and policies of neighbouring countries, and related to that, question on relation between EU and BiH is imposed – what are relations right now, since there were various ups and downs?
    Schausberger:
    Yes, exactly. There had been many ups and downs, but on the other hand, you can see that the EU is fully aware of the problems in Western Balkans. At the last meeting of European Council, countries which should be included in the expansion were on the agenda of the EU, and despite of many problems, EU is now intensifying its efforts towards the Western Balkans. We simply want to send a signal to the Western Balkans that their future is in Europe, if they want it.
    So, after the meeting of the Council, Commissioner Johannes Hahn visited Sarajevo, where he met with the prime ministers of Western Balkan countries, and they were all sitting at the same table. I believe, regardless of all the problems we have, that we can see some progress – slow, but visible.
    NN:
    Can you tell us – what is the current mood of the Commission, which is a kind of government of the EU, when it comes to the ongoing expansion of the Western Balkans? Information is rather contradictory.
    Schausberger:
    You still must make a difference between the Commission and some member states. I believe Commission is very positive, but of course, Commission needs to make sure that certain conditions must be met, and which countries of Western Balkans need to fulfil in order to join. I remind you that the Western Balkan countries and the Commission agreed on the reform agenda, questionnaire etc. But it is not enough just to reach an agreement, but to achieve it as well. But this, however, depends on the countries of the Western Balkans.
    NN:
    Do you share the opinion, which we heard so many times, that the BiH authorities simply need to complete undertaken reform agenda obligations for ourselves, in order to improve the quality of life of citizens, regardless of when and how we join the EU?
    Schausberger:
    All these changes are necessary, not because of the EU or Commission, but for the country itself. Not because of the politicians of those countries, but for the people who live there. All these reforms will bring certain countries closer to the European standards. Of course, we are talking about benefits for the entire population, especially young people. But do not think that there was any pressure from the Commission. No, this is not the case. Because you, your country, you are doing all that for yourself, and no one, I mean no one, is forced to join. But if you want it, you need to complete the requirements.
    NN:
    You arrived in Banja Luka, as a guest of the President of the National Assembly of RS, Mr. Nedeljko Cubrilovic. What do you expect from the conference on the mobility, which will last few days?
    Schausberger:
    This conference is organized by my Institute of European Regions (IRE), together with the National Assembly of RS and the city of Banja Luka. Banja Luka is very interested in becoming a “green city”, and I talked about that with the mayor. I think it’s on the right track. And this is in itself a good sign, a good signal from one of the countries of the Western Balkans. I think it is important to send such a sign to the EU. That is why we do our best to bring experts, politicians from other countries and cities, in order to convey best practices on how to create “green city”. Although each city needs to find its own way, we should use the experience of other cities which already implemented these changes.

    IRE welcomes new Member Wischt d.o.o.

     

    The IRE is pleased to announce that the company Wischt d.o.o, based in Doboj (BiH), became member of the IRE network. Wischt d.o.o. company was founded in 1996 as a small workshop for wood processing, which in a short period of time step by step has become one of the leaders for the manufacture of vacuum presses, both in the national and international market, from Europe, North and South America, Russia, India to China. Primarily due to its innovation and internationally recognized patents, which are confirmed by numerous awards.
    Quality control, innovation, customer care and competitive spirit make Wischt company the ideal partner for all companies regardless their dimensions, starting from the family ones up to the industrial groups.

    The machines are used in medium and industrial processes. The company has several types of presses for different applications and functions, in WOOD INDUSTRY for veneering, bending, laminating, forming ect. in GRAPHIC INDUSTRY for high quality Sublimation process , machines for Thermo/Cold forming of different materials and machine for 3D PVC foil laminating.
    Wischt has also combined machines which can be used in multiple applications at once, or machines with more working tables for time saving in production. Founder and Managing Director of Wischt d.o.o. is Mr. Zvjezdan Višt.

    We are looking forward to a fruitful cooperation with Wischt company.

    For more Information see: http://www.wischt-vacuum-presses.com/

    At the interface between science and practice

    Meeting with Principal Blechinger:

    The IRE works regularly with scientific institutions to incorporate expertise and new research results into current conference topics and projects. A close exchange of expertise takes place in particular with the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences. On 21 February 2017 IRE Chairman Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger, the principal of the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences Prof. Mag. Dr. Gerhard Blechinger and IRE Board Member Dr. Bernd Petrisch met at the IRE to intensify the existing cooperation and to develop future projects. Last year the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences actively participated at IRE conferences on topics such as tourism and “smart building”. Within the framework of this year’s 13th Conference of European Regions and Cities (24.9. – 26.9.2017) the University of Applied Sciences Salzburg wants to contribute to the discussions on “start-ups” and “education”.
     
    Salzburg University of Applied Sciences is the university for technology, health and media. Here, 2,700 students receive training in the disciplines of Engineering, Business and Social Sciencescomprising Tourism, Business Management and Social Work, Design, Media & Arts and Health Studies. This local research and teaching institution, with its 320 staff members, is also a driving force for innovation. With its international outlook and focus on innovative research and teaching, the university is a pioneer of future-oriented degree programmes and practice-oriented solutions for business and society.
    Our society is changing more rapidly and more fundamentally than ever before. To understand these changes and respond positively to them expertise, creativity and courage is required. The Salzburg University of Applied Sciences provides the impetus for this. With its international outlook and focus on innovative research and teaching, the university is a pioneer of future-oriented degree programmes and practice-oriented solutions for business and society in the fields of technology, health and media.

    http://www.fh-salzburg.ac.at/

    IRE-Board of Trustees met in Vienna

    The first IRE Board of Trustees meeting this year took place on 17 February. At the invitation of Mr. Ernst Rosi (Senior Adviser of the Managing Board of Raiffeisen Zentralbank), the members of the Board of Trustees met at the Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG in Vienna. The IRE board regularly collects opinions and recommendations from the advisory body in order to have a comprehensive opinion for the planned activities and projects. The aim is to provide the best possible support to regional and local authorities in the future. The Board of Trustees consists of entrepreneurs, public officials and scientific experts who support the IRE Board of Directors and the IRE team in their daily work for the regions and cities of Europe. The agenda for the year 2017 with activities in the SEE and the CEE region as well as the contents of the 13th Conference of European Regions and Cities were discussed during the session. The Board of Trustees was founded two years ago and meets three times a year.

     
    From the left:
    General Secretary Joachim Fritz, Member of the Executive Board Helmut Falschlehner, Ernst Rosi, Georg Krauchenberg, Chairman Franz Schausberger, Lukas Mandl, Deputy Chairman Stefan Eder, Josef Schöchl, Bernd Petrisch and Werner Weihs-Raabl.

    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.

    27-28 January 2017 in Rzeszów, PL: 10th Europe – Ukraine Forum

    Europe – Ukraine Forum is one of the key events organized by the Institute for Eastern Studies with headquarters in Warsaw. The main theme of the 10th Forum is the modernization and the development of Ukraine’s potential along with the direction and pace of the reforms. Regardless of the crisis that the country has been experiencing in recent years due to the war and the loss of territories, Ukraine has reaffirmed its European choice. However the constant political divisions, economic instability and a poorly visible reforms result in growing frustration of the society. 

    “Opportunities Not To Be Missed” is the motto of 10th Forum Europe – Ukraine. The report, the panel discussions and the presentations will pertain to reforms in Ukraine, the opportunities arising from the Association Agreement with the European Union and the conditions for the modernization of local government and civil society.
    IRE chairman Dr. Franz Schausberger was invited to the Forum in his function as Special Adviser to the European Commission and will take part in the panel discussion “Ukraine’s Decentralization Reform. In search of an acceptable model”.
    The Europe-Ukraine Forum will be held from 27 – 28 January 2017 in the Polish city Rzeszów, near the Ukrainian border.

    For more information see:
    http://www.forum-ekonomiczne.pl/10th-europa-ukraina-forum/?lang=en#.WIDPOfnhCUl

    Regional and local elections in Europe 2017

    In 2017 local and regional elections will be held in nine European countries. The list below is not exhaustive.

    The statutory city of Waidhofen an der Ybbs in Austria begins this year with elections on 29th January 2017. The municipal elections in 2012 had resulted in the loss of the absolute majority of the ÖVP (Austrian Peoples party), which achieved 47.4 percent. The Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) slipped from 30 to 23.4 percent, the “Independent Election Community” (UWG) rose from 10.7 to 15.5 percent. The Green Alternative (GAL) reached 4.2, the FPÖ 3.9 percent. The list “Colorless Independent Formed Uniforms” (FUFU) entered the town hall with 5.7 percent. According to recent polls, the Waidhofen ÖVP and mayor Werner Krammer could possibly regain their absolute majority.
    The 40 mandates in the Waidhofen municipal council were divided as follows: ÖVP 20, SPÖ 10, UWG 6, FUFU 2, Greens 1, FPÖ 1.
    This is followed by the elections of the state capital Graz, where the municipal council is elected ahead of schedule on 5 February 2017. The last municipal elections in the city of Graz took place on 25 November 2012, regular elections should have been held in November 2017. But on Thursday, 17 November 2017, the Graz Town Council dissolved paving the way for new elections. The dissolution of the town council is the result of a lost budget vote. The mayor Siegfried Nagl (ÖVP) lost the majority for the budget 2017 despite the support from the SPÖ. The Communist Party (KPÖ) had tied its support to a referendum regarding a power plant. For years, the planned power plant in Graz-Puntigam has been a key problem. The Green Party and the KPÖ oppose it and demand a referendum on this matter, which, however, was rejected for legal reasons. The KPÖ took the chance to veto the 2017 budget.
    The last municipal elections in 2012 were clearly won by the ÖVP with 33.74 percent, despite a loss of 4.6 percentage points. The KPÖ was able to compensate for its bad result from 2008 and gained 8.7 percentage points to a total of nearly 20 percent and appointed the Vice Mayor Elke Kahr. The SPÖ lost 4.4 percentage points and came to 15.3 percent. The FPÖ won 2.9 percentage points, reaching 13.7 percent. The Greens lost 2.4 percentage points, which resulted in 12.1 percent. For the first time, a left-wing pirate party managed to reach 2.7 percent and entered the Graz municipal council. The BZÖ, on the other hand, had to leave the town council. The distribution of seats in the Graz Town Council is: 17 ÖVP, 10 KPÖ, 7 SPÖ, 7 FPÖ, 6 Greens, 1 Pirates.
    According to current polls, the ÖVP could roughly keep its last result, the SPÖ would fall to about 11 percent, the KPÖ and the Greens would lose (four or two percentage points), while the FPÖ would take second place with 18 percent.
     
    The IRE will report on the results of the regional and municipal elections.

    Listed by Countries

    Country/Date                     Region   Institution(s)                           
    Denmark
     
      
    21 November5 RegionsRegional Councils
     98 MunicipalitiesMunicipal Councils
    Germany  
    26 MarchSaarlandLandtag
    7 MaySchleswig-HolsteinLandtag
    14 MayNorth Rhine – WestphaliaLandtag
    Finland  
    9 April297 MunicipalitiesMunicipal Councils
    Latvia  
    3 June9 Cities, 110 MunicipalitiesMunicipal Councils
    Luxembourg  
    8 OktoberCities and MunicipalitiesMunicipal Councils
    Macedonia  
    March90 MunicipalitiesMunicipal Councils
    Austria  
    29 JanuaryLower AustriaMunicipal Council (Waidhofen/Ybbs)
    5 FebruarySteiermarkMunicipal Council Graz
    OctoberBurgenlandMunicipal Representations
      Direct Election of the Mayor
    OctoberLower Austria Municipal Council Krems       
    Portugal  
    October308 MunicipalitiesMunicipal Councils
    United Kingdom 
    Great Britain
      
    4 MayEngland35 Councils
     England9 Direct Elections of Mayor
     Scotland  All 32 Councils
     WalesAll 22 Councils

    (no guarantee of completeness)

    Chronologically Listed

    DateInstitution(s)RegionCountry
    January   
    29 JanuaryMunicipal CouncilWaidhofen/Ybbs,
    Lower Austria
    Austria
    February   
    5 FebruaryMunicipal Council GrazSteiermarkAustria
    March   
    26.MarchLandtagSaarlandGermany
    MarchMunicipal Councils90 MunicipalitiesMacedonia
    April   
    9.AprilMunicipal Councilsin 279 MunicipalitiesFinland
    May   
    4 May35 CouncilsEnglandUnited Kingdom
     9 Direct Elections of MayorEnglandUnited Kingdom
     All 32 CouncilsScotlandUnited Kingdom
     All 22 CouncilsWalesUnited Kingdom
    7 MayLandtagSchleswig-HolsteinGermany
    14 MayLandtagNorth Rhine – WestphaliaGermany
    June   
    3 JuneMunicipal Councils9 Cities, 110 MunicipalitiesLatvia
    October   
    8 OctoberMunicipal CouncilsCities and MunicipalitiesLuxembourg
    OctoberMunicipal RepresentationsBurgenlandAustria
     Direct Election of the Mayor   
    OctoberMunicipal CouncilKrems, Lower Austria Austria
    OctoberMunicipal Councils308 MunicipalitiesPortugal
    November   
    21 November Regional Councils5 RegionsDenmark
     Municipal Councils98 MunicipalitiesDenmark

    (no guarantee of completeness)

    The New Year starts with TRASYS joining the IRE

    The IRE network is further expanding in 2017 and we are glad to announce that TRASYS Beteiligungs- und Management GmbH from Vienna is joining the IRE network.

    TRASYS is a private Austrian group of companies in the field of electrical industry. The involved companies have more than 100 years of experience concerning the development and production of electric motors, generators and drive systems. Because of the given ownership structure, the companies can act independently on the market. Furthermore, they can comply with the individual needs of their customers thanks to their efficient organisation and high flexibility. By producing in India, the company group has access to one of the world’s most important growing markets.

    The companies of the TRASYS Group develop and produce electric, rotating engines, i.e. motors and generators, in middle power range and small numbers of pieces. Above all the group works with international clients in the fields of mechanical engineering and construction, energy production, underground and tunnel construction as well as rail vehicles. TRASYS possesses production and sales facilities in Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, India and the USA. The company group is represented by managing partner Franz Hrachowitz.

    http://www.trasys.at/

    European Capitals of Culture 2017

    The cities Aarhus (Denmark) and Pafos (Cyprus) were appointe cultural capitals for the year 2017. European Capital of Culture is a title which is awarded annually since 1985 by the European Union. In 2004, the title was awarded for the first time to two cities. Throughout the year, many cultural events take place in the European Capitals of Culture. The appointment is supposed to point out the richness, the diversity and the similarities of the cultural heritage in Europe and to enable a better mutual understanding of the European people.

    This event, which is financially supported by the EU, presents special cultural aspects of the city, the region or the concerning country to the European public.

    Aarhus
    The region Midtjylland along with the region´s 18 municipalities supports the project Aarhus 2017. Politically and culturally, it is the most significant project in Denmark for the past decades. It represents a unique possibility to invest into Aarhus and into the region. Aarhus 2017 means participation. The project is the result of a process, in which more than 10,000 people from the whole region have already taken part. And Aarhus 2017 will keep starting initiatives with the citizens.
    The motto Let’s Rethink illustrates that Aarhus 2017 will transform the region Midtjylland into a cultural laboratory, in which alternative solutions can flourish.
    Aarhus is Denmark’s second-biggest city, the economic centre of Jutland and home to a diverse industry.

    Pafos
    Pafos is a seaport city in the South West of the Republic of Cyprus. After Nikosia, Limassol and Larnaka, Pafos is the fourth-biggest urban area of Cyprus with 51,300 inhabitants (as of 31st December 2004). The city itself has about 27,500 inhabitants. It is located in the Greek-speaking part of the island. The most important sight of Pafos is the medieval castellet directly at the harbour as well as the antique ruins. The ruins of numerous temples and places of sacrifice prove that Pafos has been a place of pilgrimage for almost 900 years. At the same places, the Bronze Age goddess Astarte, the Greek Aphrodite and the Christian Virgin Mary have been and are worshipped. Apart from the ruins of the public buildings, the floor mosaics are especially worth visiting. The kings’ graves belong to the most interesting archaeological excavations. They are part of the UNESCO world heritage.

    More information:
    http://www.aarhus2017.dk/de/
    http://www.pafos2017.eu/?lang=en

    Balancing Sustainability and Affordability in Regional Housing

    IRE Expert Conference on Sustainable and Affordable Housing:

     

    The population worldwide is growing and Austria expects one million more inhabitants by 2050. The reason is not only the slight increase in birth rates but also migration.  Housing is a fundamental right guaranteeing home to every person. Hence, the housing policy needs to be adapted to the fast changing society structure with more single households, nursing facilities for elderly people and higher equipment standards.

     “All these developments cause challenges for the economy and politics. Regions and cities are key stakeholders in the field of housing and need to set up a variety of modern, flexible, sustainable and affordable housing models for the future”, said IRE-chairman Franz Schausberger at the opening of the IRE expert conference.

    Many families decide to live in the suburban areas which makes the availability and affordability of the land scarce and expensive, explained Johannes Ebner, mayor of Hallwang a town near Salzburg. Furthermore, a good public transportation system and a broadband internet access are two important factors for families who move to the rural areas. The challenge is to offer a quiet and green environment with flawless infrastructure. 

    “Many people commute to the city centers every day, which makes subsidized housing and a sustainable mobility plan go hand in hand”, agreed Hans Mayr, Salzburg state minister for infrastructure and housing. The Region of Salzburg has lately worked intensively on a new housing reform to guarantee liquidity for housing subsidies. The reform will also include new housing designs such as starter apartments for young people with small income.The state government tries to implement the new concept without allowing for new debt.

     

    Housing subsidies is not common in all European countries, explained Susanne Bauer, chairwoman of the Eurocities Working Group Housing.  The average construction cost has increased by 46% in the past 10 years to over 2,000 Euros per square meter which makes subsidies so important. Moreover, subsidies not only benefit the tenant but also secure jobs and promote the construction industry. Vienna has developed a new housing policy offering small-scale units which are compact, cost-effective and flexible. Today, one third of all subsidized apartments in Vienna are “smart”. The Austrian housing system is well-structured which dates back to the 1980s, when Austria did not follow the trend to sell real estate´s on the free market but restructured and extended the promotion of housing and housing subsidies, explained Wolfgang Amann, Director of the Institute for Real Estate, Construction and Housing in Vienna. The federal government has achieved to establish a system with great benefits for today´s circumstances.

     

    However, offering non-profit housing and investing in modern and efficient construction measures while the at the same time considering the high land prices is an additional challenge for the housing business in Salzburg, said Christian Wintersteller, chairman of the Public Housing Association in Salzburg. The land prices in Salzburg have risen by 123% in the period from 2001 to 2011. Martin Clemens Weber from the Erste Bank AG, added that an efficient financial system for housing is significant and financial support is offered at European level. The European Investment Bank, for example, provides for long-term funds with fixed interest rates.

     

    The Austriancompany GAP solution GmbH wants to achieve a balance between sustainability and affordability for housing construction. Johann Aschauer, managing director of GAP solution GmbH, presented the project “The House” which supplies the household with clean energy not using fossil fuels. It consists of a sustainable, ecological wood construction and a respiratory active facade with a honeycomb technology. “The house” has a positive energy balance which is generated from water heating, heat recovery and solar energy. Approximately 2000 houses have been modernized or newly built with the solar honeycomb technology.

     

    Affordability is the trademark of NEUE HEIMAT TIROL. Managing director Klaus Lugger condemns the high prices for rent and demands a 20%-limit for rent according to the personal income of the tenant. NEUE HEIMAT TIROL is one of the leading property developers and property management companies in Western Austria. As a consultant and problem solver in residential construction projects, NEUE HEIMAT TIROL offers its services to all Tyrolean municipalities and institutions. High value is placed on cost-oriented architecture, high living quality and increased environmental consciousness.

    Another best-practice example is the KlimaHaus Agency Bolzano, a public institution of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano for the energetic certification of buildings. To date, it has certified almost 7,000 buildings in Italy alone. The KlimaHaus agency is committed to the training and further education of all actors involved in construction. It promotes initiatives to raise awareness among the population on energy efficiency, sustainability and climate change. Energy efficiency requires a combination of several actors: builders, planners, building contractors and building materials traders, as well as research, training and development, politics, administration and service. “This is the only way we can save energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the building sector”, explained Stefan Walder, from the Autonomous Province of Bolzano. The advantages of KlimaHaus speak for themselves: greatly reduced heating costs, healthy and comfortable living while at the same time increasing the value of the property.

    “Energy Efficiency plays a crucial role, also in the housing business”, said Josef Schwaiger, Salzburg state minister for energy. A constant development of energy efficient methods will improve sustainable living. Furthermore, less land is being built on in Salzburg, which already shows the positive effects of the coherent land and housing policy that the regional government is currently optimizing. Housing policy is in constant development in which a variety of aspects need to be considered: changing society structures, efficient technology, affordability and many actors who have their part in this process.

    For more pictures, click here.

    “European Reform Agenda” for Kosovo in final phase

    Franz Schausberger met with the Prime Minister of Kosovo Isa Mustafa on 26 October 2016 in Pristina:
     

    The government of Kosovo together with the EU Commissions Directorate-General for Enlargement is currently working on the lat details of a “European Reform agenda” for the country, said Prime Minister Isa Mustafa at a meeting with Franz Schausberger, the chairman of the working group Western Balkans of the European Committee of the Regions. He sincerely hopes that the work will be completed in time so that the reform agenda can be presented to the public in mid-November together with Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

    According to the Prime Minister visa liberalization is particularly important for his country, which already fulfills 93 out of 95 benchmarks. The two open points are the ratification of the agreement on the border with Montenegro and effective measures against organized crime and corruption. The first point fails in the Kosovarian Parliament because there is no two-thirds majority for ratification.

    Franz Schausberger underlined the need for reforms in the area of local self-administration. Mustafa announced a reform law for more financial independence of municipalities and cities. A revision of the right to vote is underway and attempts are being made to reach an agreement with the opposition for the local elections in 2017.


    from left: Lutfi Haziri, Mayor of Gjilan, Franz Schausberger, Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, Arban Abrashi, Minister for  Labour and Social Affairs

    Franz Schausberger met Kosovos Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj

     

    The 19th Meeting of the Working Group Western Balkans was held on 25 October in Gjilan, Kosovo, at the invitation of the Gjilan Municipality. In the first session of the meeting, which was attended by Kosovo’s Minister of European Integration Ramadan Ilazi, the Deputy Minister for Local Self-Government Bajram Gecaj and by EU representatives, an assessment of recent developments in Kosovo’s European integration process was made; the second session focused mainly on the “Connectivity Agenda” for Western Balkans, launched in the framework of the “Berlin Process”.
    The representatives of Kosovo mentioned the importance of EU visa liberalization for their citizens. However, a number of important preconditions need to be met by Kosovo. A particularly big problem is the high youth unemployment and the resulting migration of thousands of young people from Kosovo to the EU.
     
    Prior to this conference, Franz Schausberger was received by Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj for a meeting in the ministry. Schausberger stated that during the EU integration process decentralization and the transfer of further competences to the regions and cities is just as important as the implementation of other EU criteria. Hoxhaj agreed and promised a quick implementation of the requirements. Kosovo  wants to enter the status of EU candidate country as soon as possible and continue the negotiations even more intensively.

     

     

    Danube Business Forum has an important function for the successful development of the Danube area

      

    The Danube Business Forum took place for the fifth time in Novi Sad, Serbia, on the 24-26 October 2016.
    The objective of the Danube Business Forum is to provide a platform for institutional and corporate leaders to exchange views on emerging regional issues related to the EU Danube Strategy, utilize resources in the fields of energy, transport, agribusiness and IT, and discuss mutual investment opportunities. The Forum aims to encourage partnerships between companies, cities and regions to build prosperity and competitiveness of the Danube region.
     
    On this occasion, IRE President Franz Schausberger, in his function as chairman of the CoR Working group Western Balkans, was invited to hold a speech at the Forum. Schausberger pointed out that the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, whose capital is Novi Sad, is already functioning as a “small Europe within Europe” because of its ethnic and religious diversity. He congratulated Novi Sad on the nomination of European Capital of Culture in 2021 and noted that this is another important step in the overall development of Serbia towards the EU.
     
    The Danube region is a natural spatial, economic and cultural environment, and since 2010 it is covered by the EU Strategy for the Danube Region. This area extends from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, and includes 14 countries and over 215 million inhabitants. The countries in the Danube area are: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Moldova and Ukraine.
     

    Franz Schausberger appointed Special Advisor for the European Commission

    On 12 October 2016 the chairman of the IRE Franz Schausberger got appointed Special Advisor of the European Commission for EU enlargement countries, in particular the Western Balkans and the Ukraine. This position is unpaid and Schausberger is assigned to the Department of European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations with Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

    Schausberger will focus on decentralization and regionalization in the Western Balkans and the Ukraine. The involvement of regions and local authorities of the enlargement countries in the EU accession process is of special concern for the European Commission.

    The strengthening of the Ukrainian regions is being debated for quite some time now, but the conflict between Kiev and the eastern Ukrainian regions blocks any further progress. Schausberger will contribute to the negotiations.

     

    Maribor, Piła and Trebnje: Three Cities join the IRE Network

     In the course of the 12th Conference of European Regions and Cities the IRE has welcomed three new members to its europeanwide network. We are glad that Maribor and Trebnje, two Slovenian cities, as well as the first Polish city in the IRE Pila, have  decided to intensify their European approach and have joint  the IRE platform.

     Maribor  is the second-largest city in Slovenia with about 112.325 inhabitants in 2015. It is also the largest city of the traditional region of Lower Styria and the seat of the City Municipality of Maribor.
    Maribor was crowned Alpine town of the year 2000 and was named Cultural Capital of Europe in 2012. The closest major Austrian city is Graz located 60 km north. Maribor now has a growing cultural and economic interconnectivity. One example is the Euregio Graz-Maribor. Maribor is represented by Mayor Dr.Andrej Fištravec.

     Piła is a city in the Voivodeship Great Poland, 80 km north of Poznań. Piła is the largest town in the northern part of Great Poland. It is the capital of Piła County. The town is located on the Gwda river and is famous for its green areas, parks and dense forests nearby. It is an important road and railway hub, located at the intersection of two main lines. With its numerous industrial plants and large-scale operations in the areas of chemistry, metal and wood processing, agriculture and as a railway junction and as the seat of a large railway repair facility, the city is of great regional significance.
    Pila is the IRE´s first Polish member. A coperation between the IRE and Pila has already been discussed. The scientific project with universities from the region Great Poland will take place next year. Pila is represented by its mayor Ing. Piotr Głowski.

     Trebnje is situated in Central Slovenia in the region of Srednja Dolenjska, at the intersection of the Alps, the Dinaric and the Pannonian landscape. It is a strong transit region and strongly influenced by the highway Karawanken – Obrežje (the border crossing between Slovenia and Croatia). The diversity of the region is evident both in nature and in cultural terms. Trebnje has been an important traffic hub, as the excavation of the old Roman settlement of Praetorium Latobicorum show. Trebnje is represented by the mayor  Alojzij Kastelic.

    Foto Maribor: Photo-alliance/ dpa
    Foto Pila: Stadtverwaltung Pila
    Foto Trebnje: Eleassar

    Regional Elections in the Czech Republic: New political movement ANO becomes strongest party

     
    On October 7th and 8th 2016, regional elections were held in 13 of the 14 regional parliaments in the Czech Republic. No elections were held in the capital Prague. Andrej Babiš and his party ANO (akce nespokojených občanů, „Ano“ also means „Yes“ in Czech) won in nine regions, Bohuslav Sobotka and the Czech social democrats won in two regions, the Christian democrats were able to get the most votes in one region. In the Liberec region, the regional party Starostové pro Liberecký kraj (major for the Liberec region) were able to secure a win. ANO got 21,05% of votes in the whole country, social democrats (ČSSD) got 15,25%. They were followed by communist party KSČM with 10,55% , the civic democratic party ODS with 9,47%, Christ-democrats KDU with 6,30%. SPD with 4,67% and the political movement STAN with 4,02%. Various other parties reached 28,69% of the total votes. Only roughly a third of eligible voters participated in the regional elections.
     
    Bohuslav Sobotka conceded defeat after the elections and acknowledged that the electorate voted for a political change in the regions. The election was also a defeat for the conservative opposition parties like the ODS.
    The government participation of ANO was apparently not a negative factor for party. ANO, which first appeared in 2012, could establish itself as the strongest political power in nine regions in the first regional elections they participated in. Immediately after the party´s establishment in 2012, they managed to win roughly 20% of the Czech electorate. Already at the EU elections in 2014, the ANO party became the strongest political power in the Czech Republic. The ANO also competed in the last parliamentary elections with the slogan “ANO, bude líp” (“Yes, it will get better) and were able to secure second place in this election. As coalition partner, Andrej Babiš became the new minister of finances. Babiš presents himself as a fighter against corruption and dissipation of money. This fact makes him popular among many Czechs. The 61-year-old billionaire is the owner of the Agrofert Corporation, 250 companies in 18 different countries are a part of Agrofert. Besides many other ventures, he also owns two important Czech daily newspapers and a Czech radio station. Critics of Babiš are distrustful of his influence in the media.

    The regional elections are regarded as a trend indicator for the next parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic, which will be held in 2017. The results of the regional elections confirm national polls, which see ANO as leading party. The outcome of the elections also boost speculations that Babiš is planning to become the next head of government after the next parliamentary elections. Czech media sources are reporting that he wants to become the successor of Sobotka after the next elections.
    Considering the competition between the coalition partners in the government ANO and ČSSD, the political opposition almost perished. The civic ODS and the conservative Top09 were still not able to surmount their difficulties after three years. Back then, their administration was toppled because of a corruption and bugging scandal. Both parties only attained single-digit results. This fact must be very disturbing for these parties, because traditionally the opposition parties gain votes in regional elections in the Czech Republic.

     
    Sources:
    Die Zeit (8.10.2016)
    Der Standard (8.10.2016)
    Neue Zürcher Zeitung (9.10.2016)
    ORF (9.10.2016)
    de.wikipedia.org/Regionalwahlen_in_Tschechien_2016 (abgerufen am 11.10.2016)

    Local Elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina

    Milorad Dodik, the president of the Republika Srpska, prevailed again: Just after he was able to achieve victory in a controversial referendum concerning a Serbian holiday, he and his party SNSD won 33 city mayor seats in the council elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) on 2 October 2016. Dodik emphasized after the referendum that he had received congratulations from the Serbian Prime MinisterAleksandar Vučić and “from Moscow”. On Tuesday, October 4th, it was clear that the municipality Srebrenica will also get a Bosnian-Serbian mayor. During the Bosnian war in the 1990s, over 8000 Bosniak (Muslim) inhabitants of Srebrenica were killed by Serbian militias. Bosnian Serb Mladen Grujičić will now assume office as major of Srebrenica and will succeed former major Ćamil Duraković, a Bosnian Muslim. Grujičić will be the first Bosnian Serb acting as a major of this community, his predecessors were all Bosnian Muslims.

    Milorad Dodik and his party were also able to win in the second biggest city of BiH Banja Luka. Furthermore, they also triumphed in 11 other municipalities, which were governed by the opposition party SDS before. However, Dodik´s SNSD party was not the only party which won in this election. The left-wing party Naša Stranka (“Our party”) was also able to chalk up a victory and was able to place 2ndin the two election districts Zentrum and Novo Sarajevo (after the Muslim national party SDA). In the Baščaršija district of Sarajevo, they even placed 1st. The results of the local election were a decent victory for this young party. The left-wing party, which opposes nationalism, will also be represented in other local councils in the Bosniak-Croat federation of the country. The social democrats SDP were also satisfied with the results of the local elections: After a division within the party and a severe election defeat, they were able to recover and gained victory in the city of Tuzla, the 3rd biggest city of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They also won in nine additional cities.
    Some independent nominees also had a reason to celebrate the results of the elections, they had emphasized their opposition to the corruption of the established older parties on their election platforms.

    The controversial referendum which was initiated by Dodik also helped some decidedly Bosniak (Muslim) parties, which because of the polarization between the different ethnic groups received more votes. Bakir Izetbegović, the head of the biggest Bosniak-Muslim party SDA, had previously brought in a charge against this holiday. His party cooperated with the party of oligarch Fahrudin Radončić and they were able to win some inner city districts of Sarajevo. The results of the election can be seen as an indication that the number of liberal thinking Bosnians who oppose ethnonationalism is shrinking. Many of those people have left Bosnia-Herzegovina in recent years. Izetbegović underlined the victory in Sarajevo, stressing that “the victory in the center of Sarajevo is more important than in ten other municipalities”. He probably also made this emphasis because his party had lost in some other communities. His party is still dominating in Sarajevo and 33 other constituencies, but they lost 12 of their former strongholds. The Croatian HDZ party, a branch of the conservative party in Croatia, won in the predominantly Croat regions of the country.
    There were also reports from massive electoral fraud: Opposition members reported “bought votes”. Votes were apparently bought for amounts of about 25-200 Euro. In addition, votes were also seemingly bought in exchange for food and debt cancellations (for example for electricity or coal). Citizens lend their ID card, while someone else voted for them. However, these allegations are not proved yet.
    In the city of Mostar, the capital of the Herzegovina region, the elections was not be held at all. Over 90.000 people were thus not allowed to vote. The hostile ethnic groups were not able to reach a consensus. The president of the electoral commission Ahmet Santic and the President Dragan Kovic were also not able to participate and vote, both of them are from Mostar.

    According to official information, voter turnout was about 54 per cent (about 50 per cent turnout in the Bosniak-Croat Federation and about 60 per cent turnout in the Republika Srpska).

    In summary, it can be concluded that nationalism is rising in Bosnia-Herzegovina. These developments are damaging the central state. Tensions between the different ethnic groups
    are still noticeable. Lately, those tensioned have further tightened.

    Sources:
    Die Presse, 05.10.2016 (Online)
    Der Standard, 03.10.2016 (Online)
    ORF, 02.10.2016 (Online)
    Salzburger Nachrichten, 02.10.2016 (Online)
    Bild: http://www.balkanforum.info/

    12th Conference of European Regions and Cities: Results and Pictures

    The conference of European Regions and Cities took place for the 12th time this year. About 220 representatives from politics and economics met in the Salzburg Congress to discuss and work on sustainability strategies in the fields of finance, integration, land use, water management and tourism. 

    First results and pictures are availabe on the IRE website und on flickr

                              



    Fotos: Franz Neumayr

    The 7 best reasons to participate in the 12th Conference of European Regions and Cities

    The annual Conference of European Regions and Cities brings together about 300 representatives of politics and business from the various European regions. It focuses on current topics for European regions and cities with regard to future strategies and challenges for politics and businesses.

    The 12th Conference of European Regions and Cities focuses on a number of regional sustainability issues. Firstly, the current topic of sustainable integration of immigrants in Europe will be discussed, which includes new tasks regarding housing and employment. Secondly, we will look into the sustainable use of soil and water. Finally, the preservation of cultural heritage makes an important contribution to the promotion of sustainable tourism in cities and regions, which we will talk about on Tuesday. Also, the question of how to obtain financial aid for major, sustainable regional projects from European funds will be discussed at the very beginning of the conference.

    The 7 best reasons for your participation:  Your benefits!

    1. At the Conference of European Regions and Cities current issues are being discussed. Your personal contribution to the discussion is highly appreciated.
    2.  We offer internationally high-profile speakers and experts who will inform you about the latest developments in various fields. In addition regional and local best-practice examples and projects, that have already solved a problem successfully, will be presented.
    3.  Sustainable and modern venue: The Salzburg Congress is an exclusive conference location in the city center. Modern rooms with free WIFI connection offer an ideal working environment. The international conference is organized as a Green Meeting. The Salzburg Congress inspires its visitors due to its unique location right next to the Mirabell Garden.
    4. Free participation: As president or representative of a region, as the mayor and representatives of a city or town, as well as IRE member and sponsor, the participation in the programme is free of charge. All other participants pay 350€ of conference fee for all three days. The programme offers informative key note speeches and panel discussions, meals during the conference and evening programmes at two evenings.
    5.  Unlimited Networking: Meet decision-makers from economics, politics, science and media, investors and cooperation partners. Get in direct contact with important companies and entrepreneurs. Profit from the Europe-wide network of the IRE. National and international contacts are guaranteed. B2B meetings will give you the opportunity to talk to high-profile international participants from different fields.
    6.   The exhibition area on the first floor of the Salzburg Congress offers enough space to present your town, region or company to the conference community (if interested please contact martina.balazic@institut-ire.eu).
    7.   IRE social events: We will conclude the successful day in a relaxed atmosphere at the evening events. A reception at the Salzburg Residenz on Sunday and a Salzburg evening at Stiegl´s Brauwelt on Monday will give you the chance to meet like-minded people in a casual way. (The dinner on Monday is charged with 20€, drinks are free.)

    Register now:

    12th Conference of European Regions and Cities „Sustainability in Regions and Cities of Europe“

    25 – 27 Sept 2016, Salzburg, Austria

    Information and Registration: martina.balazic@institut-ire.eu or www.institut-ire-eu

    IRE-Patron possible successor of Ban Ki-moon

    Danilo Türk runner-up in first vote on new UN Secretary-General:
     

    In the first of several test votes to choose the next UN Secretary-General, former President of Slovenia Danilo Türk came second, right after former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. For now, the UN Security Council remains deeply divided, which is why a strong initial support is even more important for Türk. Many believe that the time has finally come for a female UN Secretary-General, while some are also convinced that the next UN Secretary-General should come from the Eastern Europe group, which includes Slovenia and Danilo Türk.
      
    Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the United Nations Andrej Logar said that Türk is one of the leading candidates in terms of the support he has received, adding that the results confirmed what he had already heard in informal discussions at the UN. Türk is a very credible candidate with an extensive knowledge of international relations and UN-related topics. According to Logar, the results also show that the Slovenian Government had made the right decision in supporting the candidacy since Türk proved to be a very strong candidate. The final decision on the new Secretary-General is expected in October or November.
     
    Danilo Türk joined the IRE “Board of Patrons” a few months ago and supports the IRE in its objective to strengthen the political and economic position of the regions and municipalities in Europe.
     
     
    Source: Slovenia Weekly, Government Newspaper.
    Foto: Luiz Rampelotto/EuropaNewswire

    Housing Alliance founded in Baden-Württemberg

    News from the IRE network:
     

    The German state of Baden-Württemberg has founded a housing alliance together with the housing industry, the association of local authorities, the parliamentary groups, banks and environmental organizations. The new housing alliance gets all actors of the housing market at one table in order to provide fast and sufficient affordable housing. Baden-Württemberg is a member of the IRE network since 2005.
     
    The housing alliance for Baden-Württemberg was founded at the invitation of the Minister of Economy, Labour and Housing Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut.  ”It is a central concern of the state government to provide quick and sufficient affordable housing, which proves to be more necessary than ever,” said Hoffmeister-Kraut. In the metropolitan and rural areas of Baden-Württemberg rents and real estate prices have risen dramatically. Particularly cheap apartments for people with lower incomes were short, said the Minister. Efforts to provide housing should therefore be a priority. The state increases the funds available for the housing assistance to 250 million Euros in 2017. 
    The “Housing Alliance” has a consultative and advisory role on housing related issues.

    The IRE is planning a conference on “Regional Housing” on 2nd December 2016 in Salzburg, where housing location and housing funds are being discussed.
     

    Source: Homepage Baden-Württemberg
    Foto: Die Welt, Homepage Baden-Württemberg

    Meeting for better regional and local cooperation between Hungary, Slovenia and Austria

    Accompanied by IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger, representatives of the regional and local level from Austria, Slovenia and Hungary met on 22 July 2016 at the office of the Mayor of Szentgotthard (Hungary) Gábor Huszár. The second president of the Parliament Rudolf Strommer, the district governor of Jennersdorf Hermann Prem, the Deputy Mayor of Jennersdorf and Member of ParliamentBernard Hirczy, the District govenor of Szentgotthard Orbán István and the representative of the Maribor Igor Kos attended the meeting. Common cross-border problems and projects were discussed, which includes a joint industrial park, the three-country nature park, the electrification of Rababahn and better transport links across the region.

     
    IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger pointed out the importance of the three-country nature park and the common cultural heritage and suggested to organize a conference dedicated to the natural and cultural heritage of the three border region.
     

     
    from left: Bernhard Hirczy, Hermann Prem, Huszár Gábor, Franz Schausberger,
    Rudolf Strommer, Igor Kos.

     

     

    Commissoner Hahn at Paris Western Balkan Summit: 146 Mio. € for connectivity projects in the Balkans

    The European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn has recently announced the release of €146 million for projects linked to connectivity in the Balkans during the Western Balkan Summit in Paris. “We have decided to provide €96 million for 3 railway infrastructure projects in Serbia, Albania and in Kosovo. We will also provide €50 million for greening measures such as energy efficiency in residential buildings and small-scale hydro projects”, he said at the Balkans summit Business Forum.

    Hahn also stated that connectivity is not just about building new infrastructure but about ensuring the best use of infrastructure. “Investment without reforms makes little sense”, he said, underlining that the countries in the region should respect the commitments taken, especially on reform measures concerning transport and energy.

    “The connectivity agenda has the potential to improve the competitiveness of the region by reducing the costs for businesses when goods are moved through the region. That potential will only be fully met if all the identified reforms are implemented in full whilst countries focus their limited fiscal space on the most important investment priorities”, Hahn concluded.

    picture: SN/EPA

    After the Local Elections in Arad, Romania: Make full Use of EU-Funds

     

    A new president was elected in the IRE Member Region Arad after the local elections in Romania on 5 June 2016. Iustin Cionca of the National Liberal Party PNL will hold the office of county president for the next four years. Representatives of local authorities, the 41 counties and the capital Bucharest were elected. 
    “My priority for the next legislative period is to invest in all areas accessing European funds. So far, the county has not made full use of this potential,” said Cionca in an interview.
    The former Romanian Minister of Labour and Member of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies Claudia Boghicevici (PNL) and former councillorSergiu Bîlcea (PNL) were elected vice-presidents. ”Working at regional level will be a new experience for me, but it was a conscious choice and I look forward to the challenges. I want to build a foundation for infrastructure projects and social services to increase the quality of life in Arad “said Claudia Boghicevic to the news portal Ziare.

    Arad county borders with Hungary in the west and has a population of  430.629 (2011). The county is member of the IRE network since 2008.

    Regions and cities launch investment plan for a citizen-centred EU: A fresh start for Europe

    The EU must address an alarming fall in public investment in order to tackle growing regional disparity, support sustainable growth and restore faith among citizens, said politicians across Europe today during a two-day Summit of Regions and Cities in Bratislava. 

    A week after Slovakia took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time, local and regional leaders have adopted a declaration during the 7th European Summit of Regions and Cities on 8th of July 2016 in the Slovak capital that calls on the EU to improve regulation and attract greater private-public investment to create more jobs and tackle the investment gap.
     
    “If we are to restore faith in the EU, we must demonstrate how joint EU operations benefit citizens’ daily lives. Citizens demand results, which is why investment – in people, places and ideas – must start locally. Around 60% of public investments within the EU are made by local and regional authorities. Policymakers need to redirect all their efforts to increasing public and private investment in all the European regions. It is no longer business as usual. We must spread a new and innovative entrepreneurial mind-set across Europe,” said Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).

    The representative of Land Salzburg in the CoR Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger met in Bratislava with a number of regional representatives from across Europe, including the president of the Croatian region Brod-Posavina Danijel Marušić and invited him to the 12th Conference European Regions and cities to Salzburg, which takes place from the 25th – 27th  September 2016. The IRE has organized this conference for the past 12 years, which brings together more than 200 public officials and representatives from business every year to boost investment in the regions. New company locations and new job opportunities are being established in the regions.
    The IRE network of more than 130 members compromises already 17 regions and cities from Croatia, which resulted in a big benefit for the regions during Croatia’s EU accession two years ago. Brod-Posavina is a member of the IRE network since 2014.
     
    Source: CoR press release 08.07.2016

    News from IRE members: Land Hessia celebrates 70 years

    Regional Prime Minister Volker Bouffier and State Secretary Lucia Puttrich: “Hessia is 70 years old and in good shape”.

    High-profile personalities from politics, business, science and culture met this year for the annual Hessen Festival in the Hessian State Representation in Berlin. About 2000 guests from Hessia, Brussels and Berlin and numerous Ambassadors took the opportunity to talk about the past year and the tasks ahead. Hessia is one of the 16 German states.

    Prime Minister Bouffier said: “Hessia is 70 years old and in good shape. Since the foundation of the state it has become one of the strongest economic regions in Europe. Several generations have contributed to a state, which offers more than ever before. Something we can all be proud of. “
    On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the German-Polish Neighbourhood Treaty Hessia also invited its Polish partner region Wielkopolska (Greater Poland), whose Vice Marshal Krzysztof Grabowski was present at the event. State Secretary Puttrich explained that Hessia is in a dialogue with Poland for many years. “Nowadays, our European Union is being put to a severe test. Therefore, it is more important than ever to fight in great unity for our community and our values”.
     
    Source: Land Hessen, Press Release 05.07.2016

    International Know-How for Regional Migration Policy

    Intensifying the cooperation between ICMPD and IRE:

    IRE chairman Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger met with former Austrian vice chancellor Dr. Michael Spindelegger in Vienna, who holds the office of Director General of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) since January 2016. They discussed the current migration situation in Europe and both agreed that regions play an important part in migration and immigration policy and need to be granted a stronger say on this topic.

    Michael Spindelegger will take part in the 12th Conference of European Regions and Cities, which takes place from the 25th-27th of September 2016 in Salzburg, and is one of the keynote speakers on the subject of „sustainable integration“. The ICMPD and IRE will intensify their cooperation in future.

    The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) was established by Austria and Switzerland in 1993 and has since grown to 15 member states. ICMPD was founded to carry out research, projects and activities on migration-related issues and to provide policy recommendations to the governmental agencies of states, as well as to external governmental and intergovernmental agencies. ICMPD also has observer status at the United Nations. Although ICMPD has global operations, it is primarily focused on the European area and is headquartered in Vienna, Austria. ICMPD is currently composed of 15 Member States, around 200 staff members, a mission in Brussels, as well as representatives in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East.
    ICMPD cooperates with governments, other international organisations, research institutes and members of civil society in developing policies in migration-related areas, as well organising trainings, etc. to transfer know-how on dealing with migration issues.

    For more information see: www.icmpd.org

    New Member from Georgia: Borjomi joins the IRE-network

    The Georgian city of Borjomi has joint the IRE-network, which now consist of more than 130 members.

    Borjomi (Georgian: ბორჯომი) is a resort town in south-central Georgia with a population of 13,826. It is one of the districts of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and is situated in the northwestern part of the region in the picturesque Borjomi Gorge on the eastern edge of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park. The town is famous for its mineral water industry (which is the number one export of Georgia), the Romanov summer palace in Likani, and the World Wide Fund for Nature-site Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.  The bottling of mineral water is a major source of income for the area. Because of the supposed curative powers of the area’s mineral springs, it is a frequent destination for people with health problems. Borjomi is also home to the most extensive ecologically-themed amusement park in the Caucasus.

    Borjomi was mentioned as Tori for the first time in the 7th century.  A historical trade route led through the canyon in Barjomi and was a military gateway to Georgia during times of war. Borjomi is now the second IRE member from Georgia and is represented by its mayor Dimitri Kipiani. The Autonomous Republic of Adjara has previously joined the network.  

    We are looking forward to the cooperation with Borjomi.

    More understanding and solidarity for national and regional measures to prevent illegal immigration

    The representatives of Salzburg in the European Committee of the Regions Franz Schausberger called for more understanding and solidarity towards those countries and regions that are affected most by the refugee, migration and asylum problem.  

    The meeting of the Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX) on 23 June 2016 debated on issues like reforming the Common European Asylum System, the legal immigration, integration of third country nationals, security and combating terrorism and the European Neighbourhood Policy.

    Austria is a country that has received a high number of refugees and the Province of Salzburg is affected in particular because of its border with Germany. As long as the protection of the EU’s external borders is not guaranteed member should have the possibility to take national and regional measures to prevent illegal immigration. Even countries that are known for their liberal immigration policy, like Sweden, were recently forced to take very restrictive measures, explained Schausberger. Therefore, criticism from countries that are not affected by the issue is inappropriate.

     

    Franz Schausberger (right) and the CIVEX chairman Olgierd Geblewicz (left), Governor of the Polish Province of West Pomerania.

    News from IRE Members: Lower Austria awarded “European Entrepreneurial Region 2017″

    The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) annually nominates regions with the most convincing and promising entrepreneurial visions. On 15 June 2016 the province of Lower Austria and the regions of Western Greece and Extremadura (Spain) were awarded “European Entrepreneurial Region”. Governor of Lower Austria Erwin Pröll accepted the award for the strategy on “Lower Austrian economy 2020″ at the award ceremony in Brussels.

     
    “The award for “European Entrepreneurial Region 2017″, the “Award of Excellence” in 2002 and the award for most innovative region in Europe in 2007 are milestones in the regional policy of Lower Austria” said the Governor during the ceremony. “It is a clear recognition of our efforts in economic policy.”  Lower Austria has invested heavily in location quality, for example in transport infrastructure, the development of education and research infrastructure, which also contributed to higher quality of life in Lower Austria.
     
    Markku Markkula, the President of the European Committee of the Regions, said that SMEs are the driving force for sustainable growth and jobs in Europe as 8 out of 10 work places are with SME´s. The award winning regions remind us that local and regional authorities play a key role in strengthening entrepreneurship.
     
    Three regions are annually awarded for their excellent economic power and outstanding and innovative business strategies.


    from left: Governor Erwin Pröll, President of the CoR Markku Markkula and
    State counsellor Petra Bohuslav
    (© NÖ Landespressedienst/Pfeiffer)

    IRE Chairman Schausberger met with the first Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union Ján Figeľ

    The Institute of the Regions of Europe offers its support to the new and first Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union Ján Figel, said IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger at a meeting in Brussel on 14 June 2016.

    Ján Figeľ (2004-2009 European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, and from 2010 – 2012 Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transport) was appointed first Special Representative for the promotion appointed by religious and ideological freedom outside the European Union by the President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker in May this year. Figeľ will be in office for one year.

    According to Ján Figeľ, the promotion of mutual respect and understanding in a fast changing social environment are key elements for a more human world in the twenty-first century. Therefore, he decided to hold his inaugural speech to local and regional politicians, who are politically responsible for the subnational level and in direct contact with people. “The promotion of religious freedom or the freedom of beliefs, as well as the fight against radicalisation and violent extremism, are not primarily housed in the abstract world of ideas, but rooted in the daily realities of our towns and cities. Religion and belief is a fundamental right in the European Union. Even today, religious and ethnic minorities are being persecuted. This makes the protection and promotion of freedom inside and outside the EU even more important. This issue deserves more attention”, said Figel´.

    This initiative was called by the European Parliament in a resolution on 4 February 2016.

    Local elections in Italy 2016: Political earthquake at local level

    In the Italian local elections on 5 June and in the run-offs on 19 June 2016, the voters clearly rejected the politics of the PD party of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. In Rome the candidate of the protest movement “Five Star” Virginia Raggi, won the elections with almost two thirds of the votes. Turin has also elected a five-star candidate, which was regarded as a historic breakthrough by the new party.

    The 37-year-old Raggi wants more transparency and legality in daily politics. The five-star candidate Chiara Appendino in Turin, who won 54 percent of the votes, said that this is not only a protest vote but a vote for change and dignity.

    A narrow victory was achieved by the PD Party in the economic capital Milan, where former director of the World Expo Giuseppe Sala won the elections. Rienzi’s party has managed to defend its position in the left-stronghold Bologna. In Naples, the left Mayor Luigi de Magistris was re-elected, however, he is a critic of Renzis policy.

    The five-star party has not made it into the run-offs in Milan, Naples and Bologna. Yet the polls in Italy were considered an important test for Renzi. The five-Star-party was founded by star comedian Beppe Grillo as a protest movement seven years ago. Parliamentary elections will be held in Italy in June 2018 and Grillos hopes to benefit from the results of this year´s municipal elections.

    More than 13 million people in 1350 towns and cities were called to the polls. The turnout was at 50 percent according to the ministry of the interior.

     

    Source: dpa, N-TV, taz

    Photo: http://www.cataniavera.it/2013/03/beppe-grillo-leader-del-movimento-5-stelle-il-parlamento-e-sovrano/

    First IRE Alumni Meeting: Sharing common interests and memories

    The young professionals from all over Europe, who came to visit Salzburg on the 17 und 18 of June 2016, share two things: interest in European politics and memories of their internship at the IRE.

    The Alumni Meeting was organized by the IRE in order to stay in contact with the former interns and to give them the opportunity to get to know each other and exchange experiences with like-minded people. Since the IRE´s founding 12 years ago almost 250 interns have completed an internship at the headquarters in Salzburg.

     
    After a brief welcome at the IRE office by IRE Chairman Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger, the group paid a visit to the Salzburg Regional Parliament, where they engaged in a discussion with President Dr. Brigitta Pallauf. Afterwards the IRE-Team invited the former interns to the Salzburg Museum for an exhibition on the 200th anniversary of Salzburg as part of Austria. Vivid talks and the exchange of experiences continued during the relaxing atmosphere at dinner.
     
    The group enjoyed the sunny weather on Saturday to take a walk along the city mountain Mönchsberg and enjoy the beautiful panoramic view of Salzburg. The Museum der Moderne is situated on top of the Mönchsberg, where a guided tour was offered through contemporary art exhibitions.  It was great to see many familiar faces and to learn more on the whereabouts and careers of our former interns. Many of the IRE-alumni now work at ministries in Vienna, consulting companies in Germany, at various universities in Europe, or at the European institutions in Strasbourg and Brussels.
     
    The IRE offers internships to students from all over Europe and has also a cooperation agreement with the Salzburg College, where students from the United States apply for an internship at the IRE. The internship gives interns an insight into the daily work of a NGO and furthermore, promotes research activities. 
     

     
    photos: IRE & Neumayr/Leo

    European crisis can only be overcome with the support of strong regions

    IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger at the European Forum Wachau, Austria:
     

    The crisis-shaken development in Europe can only be challenged successfully with the support of strong regions, said President of the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE) Franz Schausberger at the European Forum Wachau in Göttweig on 11 June 2016. The current government crisis in the Ukraine is essentially based on the fact that the country is highly centralized and has long failed to establish strong regions and guarantee a degree of autonomy. A solution to the conflict would be a new federal constitution.

    from left: Member of the Landtag of Lower Austria Lukas Mandl, IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger, Gerald Steiner, Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Globalization of the Danube University Krems, publicist and author Hubert Wachter and Oliver Paasch, Minister President of the German-speaking community in the Kingdom of Belgium.

    The increasing need for integration of many asylum seekers caused by the refugee influx to Europe can only be met successfully with the strong commitment of regions and municipalities. Sustainable integration is based on a decentralized integration policy, when refugees are not only settled in the metropolitan areas, but also in small cities and towns. The integration of smaller numbers of asylum seekers in many towns and cities will automatically increasing their acceptance in the host country.
     
    Globalization, the refugee influx and terror cause increasing nationalism, stated Schausberger. And nationalism promotes political centralism, the breakdown of democratic structures and authoritarian tendencies. Embedding people into their regional culture, strengthening their identity and guaranteeing reliable political institutions is the key counterweight to globalization, anonymity and lack of transparency.

    Based on this, the competences of the European institutions can be enhanced in the fields of refugee crisis, the fight against terrorism and international crime.
     
    The member of the Lower Austrian State Parliament and member of the IRE Board of Trustees Lukas Mandlpresented how initiatives and activities of regions can provide indispensable support to tackle the European crisis.
     
    In the course of the European Forum Franz Schausberger met the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov. Since Bulgaria is still a very centralized country, Schausberger offered the Bulgarian Foreign Minister the expertise and the support of the IRE to reform the decentralization and regionalization of Bulgaria. The Minister confirmed that the decentralization discussion is being discussed for years now and especially the financial decentralization of municipalities and cities is a priority for Bulgaria.

    More funding for cities and regions in Slovakia

    Congress of the Union of Towns and Cities of Slovakia in Bratislava:

    The 27th Congress of the Union of Towns and Cities of Slovakia (UTCS) was held on 3 June 2016 in Slovakia’s capital Bratislava. The Congress was chaired by the President of the Association of Towns and Cities of Slovakia and Mayor of Bratislava Ivo Nesrovnal. Most participants were mayors of Slovakian cities.
     
    The UTCS set out priorities and objectives for the next time period such as a closer cooperation of regional governments with the private sector and an increasing energy efficiency for which a platform will be established. Representatives of several ministries discussed possible development chances for marginalized regions in the country.

    The Secretary General of UTCS Milan Galanda pointed out that due to newly implemented laws more funding for the cities and regions is possible, which also comes with more responsibility. Other priorities are the improvement of health services and waste management.
     
    Member of the IRE Board of Trustees Georg Krauchenberg took part in the meeting.

    Catalonia has positioned itself in Europe

    “Catalonia’s way in Europe” a discussion, 25.05.2016 in Salzburg:

    “The independence movements in Catalonia and Scotland are pro-European movements, even if independence means splitting-up from an EU member state,” said Jordi Solé, Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the European Union of the Regional Government of Catalonia. Politicians and scientists have discussed the current situation of Catalonia in Spain and in the EU at a panel discussion on ” Catalonia’ way in Europe “, which was organized by the IRE on 25 May 2016 in the International Salzburg Association in Salzburg.

    “The roots of the current independence movements in Europe are extremely complex and difficult to compare to one another. There are diverse ethnic, geographical, religious, historical, economic and linguistic reasons,” explained IRE Chairman Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger. “The formation of new states in Europe is certainly nothing new for the 21st century. But increasing globalization, internationalization and, thus, the anonymization of the labor markets and economic relations causes a greater and stronger identification with the home region. In the past states have separated and unified. Europe has seen disintegrated states and empires in the last 150 years; many new, small states have emerged.”

     

    The turning point for Catalonia was in 2006 when citizens have adopted the new Statute of Autonomy (with 74%) in a referendum. However, the decision of the Spanish Constitutional Court in Madrid on 28 June 2010 brought no progress for the Catalan government, and even put it one step back. This and the lack of alternative proposals from Madrid were the trigger for increased independence movements in the past 10 years. In a non-binding public consultation on 9 November 2014, a large majority of 80.1% has voted for independence of Catalonia from Spain.

    The refusal of negotiations of Madrid and the reinforced centralization pressure led to the belief that an independent state is the best for the citizens of Catalonia. An additional problem is the current absence of a full-functioning government in Spain. Since the last parliamentary elections in December 2015, no new government has been established, so that no calls can be made. New elections for the Spanish Parliament are scheduled for June 2016.

    But talks with Madrid would not only include fiscal reforms, said Solé. The Catalan government is planning elections in 2017 to legitimize independence by a parliamentary majority, and by then prepare a plan for their own state including a constitution. The goal is to transform the region with 7.5 million inhabitants into an independent state by mid-2017.

     

    Krystyna Schreiber is a German author and journalist and has been working on the independence movement in Catalonia for the past years. In her book “Die Übersetzung der Unabhängigkeit” she interviewed several personalities from Europe on this subject. In her research she found that independence movements are an European issue and not only a national or bilateral problem. Dr. Kai-Olaf Lang from the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, German Institute for International Politics and Security, supports this idea and noted that independence movements have become a question of European domestic policy, which the EU must begin to deal with. A creative concept must be worked out because chances are high that Catalonia´s efforts will lead to further independence movements throughout Europe.

    The region of Catalonia has already established contacts abroad and has opened an office in Vienna in June 2015. Austria is a very important location for Catalonia in order to have a representation in Central Europe and to build relationships with these countries, explained head of the office Adam Casals. The office functions as a Chamber of Commerce to expand business contacts with investors.

    photos: Neumayr/Leo

    Southeast Europe Economic Index: Economic climate improves slightly

    Bosnian and Serbian entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. This is the result of a study by the credit insurer Prisma and the market research company GfK Austria.

    64 percent of the Bosnian and 68 percent of Serbian companies expect (very) positive outcomes in the year 2016. “Coperations are the forerunners.” says CEO of Prisma Ludwig Mertes. “This has to do with the fact that the countries are trying to attract foreign investors to the country. Serbia, for example, is positioning itself as an attractive investment location for larger international corporations, which benefit from the low cost structure in the country.”

    36 percent of Serbian companies rate the opportunities as “very good” or “good” and 62 percent believe in better business within the next twelve months. “The current government manages to ensure a positive business climate and to make good PR for their own good,” says Mertes.
     
    Serbia’s economic data reflects the good economic climate this year. In the first quarter of 2016 the economic output grew by 3.5 percent as compared to the same period last year. Last Wednesday, the central bank raised its forecast. The central bank expects an increase from 2.3 to 2.4 percent for 2016. Previously, 1.8 percent was expected. In addition, the budget deficit was amounted to € 110 million for the first four months this year, although originally € 590 million were expected.
     
    Croatia is in a low mood. The economic climate with 53 points is still better compared to a study in 2014, when Croatia only reached a total of 51 points. This leaves Croatia at the bottom: “The reason might be that the high hopes which were placed on the elections last year were disappointed,” says Mertes. Instead of setting new impetus the new coalition government is about to break apart.
     
    Croatia is in a low mood. The economic climate with 53 points is still better compared to a study in 2014, when Croatia only reached a total of 51 points. This leaves Croatia at the bottom: “The reason might be that the high hopes which were placed on the elections last year were disappointed,” says Mertes. Instead of setting new impetus the new coalition government is about to break apart.
     
    After years of low mood for the business climate the neighboring country Slovenia has improved its situation. While the economic climate in 2014 was at its low with only 49 points, the value improved considerably with 54 points this year. After the severe economic crisis the entrepreneurs are looking into a more hopeful future.
     
    Bosnia and Herzegovina reached 57 points, which is the second best index value right after Serbia. However, the estimates differ: coperations (64) have a positive outlook on the future while small and medium-sized enterprises (50) are more pessimistic. “This is a surprising result for us given the political instability and the economic situation in the country. But perhaps the many investments from the Arab world have caused the positive mood,” said Mertes.
     
    Based on a survey of 150 companies per country, the study of Prisma and GfK Austria examined the economic climate in Austria and the countries of Southeast Europe. It estimates the overall current and future situation featuring the planned export and investment activities. The economic climate is measured on a scale from 0 to 100, the higher the value the more positive the economic climate. The study was conducted in January 2016. The target group were small and medium-sized enterprises and corporations that work on a business to business basis.

     source: APA, WirtschaftsBlatt, Print-Ausgabe, 2016-05-18

    Local elections in the UK: An Indicator for UK referendum on EU membership

    In the UK local and regional elections on 5 May 2016 the two major parties suffered losses. The election serves as an indicator for the UK referendum on EU membership next month.

    The Scottish National Party SNP has won most seats in the ScottishParliament, but has lost its overall majority. The nationalists succeeded 63 of 129 seats – six seats less than in the last election. The leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon had already hailed a “historic” victory since the SNP won the third election in a row. Previously, the nationalists governed with an absolute majority (69 seats) but will now need the support of a smaller party – most likely the Green Party. The Scottish Conservative Party came in second with 31 seats – a major achievement for a party that has long been unpopular in Scotland. The Scottish Labour Party lost many votes and became only third strongest force. In March, the SNP has announced plans for another referendum on Scotland’s membership in the UK after the referendum on UK´s EU membership on 23 June 2016.
     
    The Labour Party remains the strongest party in Wales but faces the significant rise of the UKIP party (UK Independence Party). The anti-EU party of Nigel Farage has won five seats in the Welsh regional parliament. The UKIP fights for a withdrawal from the EU, whereas the leader of the Labour Party Jeremey Corbyn is in favour of remaining in the EU.
     
    In Northern Ireland, the two major Irish Republican parties Sinn Fein and the SDLP suffered losses, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the largest party in Northern Ireland, won most of the votes. The Green Party of Northern Ireland won a second mandate and the left-wing Socialist People Before ProfitAlliance has gained two seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time. However, the distribution of seats remains broadly unchanged.

    First Muslim Mayor in London
    With approximately 44 percent of the votes Labour candidate Sadiq Khan was almost ten percent ahead of conservative rival Tory Zac Goldsmith in the mayoral election in London. The labour party takes over the British capital after eight years. Khan became thus the first Muslim mayor of a western capital.
    Khan, a former human rights lawyer and son of a bus driver from Pakistan, describes himself as “British Muslim who takes the fight against extremists.” Khan promised to be “a mayor for all Londoners”. “I ask the people urgently to vote for hope over fear,” he said. London has 8.6 million inhabitants of which more than a million are Muslims.
     
    “Super Thursday”, as the media named the Election Day, is considered the first test for the labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who took over the Labour presidency in late summer last year. Compared to the regional and local elections in the years 2011 and 2012 the labour party must accept losses. But compared to the disastrous outcome of the national election in 2015, the Labour Party has won back some votes. The Tories have also lost some votes compared to the national elections last year. In general, the Labour Party did better than expected. They even defended some of their few strongholds in the conservative dominated south of the UK. 40 million Britons were called on 5 May to elect their regional and local parliaments.

    Sources:
    faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/kommunalwahl-in-grossbritannien-rechtspopulisten-erzielen-wahlerfolg-in-wales-14218188.html
    zeit.de/politik/ausland/2016-05/grossbritannien-kommunalwahl-labour-partei-jeremy-corbyn-verluste

    zuerst.de/2016/05/08/kommunalwahlen-in-grossbritannien-ukip-und-schottische-nationalpartei-gewinnen/
    photos: 
    salzburg.com/
    arynews.tv/en/britain-awaits-results-of-super-thursday-votes/

    Local elections in Serbia: Serbian ruling party wins majority

    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) have achieved the majority of votes in the local elections and even in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, which traditionally is a stronghold of the opposition Democratic Party.
     
    The right-wing SNS won 44.5 percent of votes in the elections for the Regional Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina on 24 April 2016. The Democratic Party (DS), which was in charge previously, only got 7.24 percent. The socialist PLC JS coalition won 8.85 percent, while the Nationalist Party SRS got 7.66 percent of the votes. The League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV) won 6.43 percent and the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM) achieved 4.87 percent. At the same time early parliamentary elections were held in Serbia. The overall turnout was 56.40 percent.
    With 63 of 120 seats the SNS won 50 seats more than in the last elections 2012 and outrun the Democratic Party, which traditionally is the strongest party in the Vojvodina. The Democratic Party lost 48 seats. The SNS is planning a coalition with the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM). The SVM represents the largest ethnic minority in the Vojvodina.
     
    The remarkable victory of the SNS is due to the successful economic reforms and the accession negotiations with the EU. Furthermore, renaming the party’s list played a role. Vučić had his own name put on all electoral lists (list “Aleksandar Vučić – Serbia wins”) instead of the name of his party SNS and have thus reached the preference of Serbs to vote for leaders, instead of parties.
    The Autonomous Province of Vojvodina is an autonomous province in Serbia, a northern part of the country in the Pannonian Plain. Novi Sad is the administrative center of the Vojvodina and the second largest city in Serbia. The AP Vojvodina has a population of around 2 million people with more than 26 ethnic groups and six official languages.
     
    The SNS has also reached the majority of votes in the remaining municipalities and cities, like Smederevska Palanka (central Serbia), Indjija and Apatin in Vojvodina, previously ruled by the Democrats. The SNS also won 14 of 17 municipalities in Belgrade, except Vracar, Stari Grad and New Belgrade, which go to the Democratic Party. Despite a strong campaign the SNS did not succeed a majority in Jagodina (central Serbia), Surdulica and Bosilegrad (in the southeast of Serbia) or Cajetina (southwest Serbia), where the local politicians of other parties have gained the majority again.
     
    In Vranje (Southern Serbia), the elections will be repeated in two polling stations after bribes have been reported. In Nis, in southern central Serbia, elections will be repeated in 20 polling stations as more ballots were casted than voters registered.
     
    Source: www.balkaninsight.com
    Karte:http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/PKGG/Geschichte/geschichte-suedost-osteuropa/studium/exkursionen/vojvodina/projekt.html

    New member of the IRE network: The Regional Association Pongau joins the IRE

     
    The Regional Association Pongau has joined the IRE network and is represented by its Chairman Dr. Peter Brandauer, the Mayor of Werfenweng.
    The Regional Association Pongau is an amalgamation of all 25 Pongau communities, cities and a service facility with a broad field of functions for its member communities, the tourism organizations, business people and its citizens. The Regional Association Pongau owns the mobility center Pongau GmbH (“mobilito”) and supports the Europe Direct Information Centre “EDIC Southern Salzburg – Pongau”.
    The focus lies on promotion consulting, regional planning and regional development, the mobilization and development of commercial sites and the organization and development of public transportation. Furthermore, an information and cooperation center for regional projects and regional diversity handles regional concerns.
     
    About 80,000 people make their living in the 25 municipalities of the district “St. Johann im Pongau”. Pongau is also a region with enormous high recreational value. With around 8.5 million overnight stays and 71,000 guest beds it is the most important tourist destination in Austria. During winter the region of Pongau has already positioned itself as one of the top destinations in Europe.
    Pongau is Austria’s only region that has a nationwide active mobility center (service center for tourist mobility management).
     
    We look forward to the cooperation with the regional association Pongau and hope for a good and close collaboration.
     
    More information about the Regional Association:
    http://www.pongau.org/home.html

    25 May 2016: Catalonia‘s way in Europe

    Invitation 

     Catalonia‘s Way in Europe

    Panel discussion

    (in German language)

    Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 19:00 hrs

    Internationale Salzburg Association (ISA)

    Palais Kuenburg-Langenhof

    Sigmund-Haffnergasse 16, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

     

    Opening address and moderation

    Univ. Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger

    IRE-Chairman and Member of the Committee of the Regions, Brussels, EU

     

     

    Panelists:

    Jordi Solé, Secretary for Foreign and European Union Affairs, Government of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain

    Adam Casals, Envoy and Head of the Delegation of the Catalan Government in Vienna, Austria

    Krystyna Schreiber, German Author of books and publications on Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain 

    Dr Kai-Olaf Lang, Senior Fellow, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin, Germany

    Programme 

    Registration until 23 May 2016:

     martina.balazic@institut-ire.eu       

    Tel: 0662 84 32 88 – 0

    Mayor of Ljubljana welcomes IRE initiative “Green City” conference

    IRE delegation visits Capital of Slovenia:

    The mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković and the Deputy Mayor Tjasa Ficko agreed with IRE chairman Franz Schausberger and IRE Secretary General Joachim Fritz to conduct a conference on “Green Cities” in Ljubljana. The capital of Slovenia, which is a member of the IRE network since last year, has been named “European Green Capital 2016”. Ljubljana has been redesigned according to the sustainability principle and has excellently preserved green areas, even in the city center. The main goal of the conference is to share experiences and to encourage other cities to get involved. There is no better place to hold a conference than Ljubljana, which has done a lot in recent years to become a sustainable city. The development of the city is clearly visible, said Schausberger in his conversation with Mayor Zoran Janković and Deputy Mayor Tjasa Ficko on 25 April 2016.
     
    The IRE continues its conference series “Smart Cities” in Ljubljana in cooperation with the city of Ljubljana on 10 November 2016. Similar conferences were organized in the past four years in Tübingen (Germany), Vienna (A), Wroclaw (PL) and Trieste (IT).

    In most European cities and towns the urban infrastructure cannot keep up with the rising population, the increasing number of private cars and the enhanced mobility demand. The question of how to enhance mobility while at the same time reducing congestion, accidents and pollutions is a challenge to all major European cities and towns.  The aim of this event is to analyze the current traffic situation in Europe, the problems and perspectives, best practice examples, innovative traffic programmes and technological solutions as well as creating impulses for new activities, cooperation and projects.
     
    For more information contact:
    Martina.Balazic@institut-ire.eu

    Slovenian President joins the IRE Board of Patrons

    Franz Schausberger visited Borut Pahor in Ljubljana:

    The President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor has joined the IRE “Board of Patrons” and signed the certificate on the occasion of a visit of IRE-President Franz Schausberger to Ljubljana on April 25, 2016.
    The Slovenian President, therefore, supports the Institute of the Regions of Europe, a European, supra-regional, non-partisan and independent institution for all European regions and municipalities inside and outside of the EU, with the aim to strengthen the political and the economic position of the regions and municipalities in Europe. Borut Pahor stated that the IRE’s activity address the idea of a “Europe of the Regions” based on the principle of Subsidiarity, which is one of the supporting pillars of the European Union as defined in the Lisbon Treaty. 
     
    IRE-President Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger with the President of Slovenia Borut Pahor
    The regionalization of Slovenia, which was operated by President Pahor during his time as prime minister in 2008, was the core of the conversation. Slovenia is one of the most centralized countries in Europe with no regional structure and weak municipalities, which are subject to the central government.
    In a referendum in 2008, a clear majority of the population voted in favour of regionalization but the attempt failed because the issue of number of regions was disputed.
    The current government has not touched this issue yet. President Pahor, however, is convinced that regionalization will regain relevance in Slovenia. He thanked the IRE for sharing its expertise.
     
    Furthermore, President Pahor was extremely interested in the current events regarding the presidential election in Austria and was concerned about the increase of right-wing populism in Europe and, consequently, the weakening of the European Union. The parties must tackle popular topics that are of concern for the people, for which the right-wing populists only offer simple and radical answers.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina´s way to the EU has begun

    IRE Expert Conference and Café d´Europe Régional in Sarajevo, BiH:

    The EU has been questioned a lot lately. Both, the economic and the refugee crisis have shown that the European project is not yet a perfect one. Some long-time Member States even think about leaving the Union. Nevertheless, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has officially applied for EU membership on 15 February 2016.
     
    “We all welcome the European aspirations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially after the adoption of the reform agenda and the associated action plan. Now Bosnia and Herzegovina need to provide concrete results,” said IRE Chairman Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger at the opening session of the conference at the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH in Sarajevo.
     
    The IRE has organized an expert conference on the topic “Bosnia and Herzegovinas way to the EU and the impact on regional and local authorities” on 15 April 2016 in cooperation with Canton Sarajevo, the Central European Initiative, the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation and other international partners. International experts from eight European countries and high-level speakers from business and politics attended this conference. The aim of the conference was to raise awareness of topics such as rights, opportunities and benefits for the citizens and their region from the (future) EU membership as well as the impact of the EU membership on the local and regional authorities.
     
    Regional assemblies in the EU candidate countries need to deal with the implementation of EU legislation at an early stage and provide information to its citizens. Representatives from Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia presented their approaches and European projects and concluded that 70% of the EU acquis is to be implemented at subnational level.
     
    “It is absolutely necessary for the integration process to strengthen the country’s capacity and to respond with one voice on EU matters,” said Franz Schausberger on. The regional structure of BiH with its two entities and the Special Administrative Region Brčko is very complex and the financial autonomy at the local level is still weak. It is therefore important to involve all regional and local authorities in the EU process from the very start.

                 
    From left to right: Elvis Kondzic, Advisor to the Council of Ministers BiH, Mirko Šarović, Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations BiH, IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger, Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, Dragan Mektic, Minister of Security, and Austria’s Ambassador to BiH Martin Pammer

    Bosnias Minister of Security Dragan Mektic stated that BiH takes the EU integration process seriously and will implement all preconditions as quickly as possible to take advantage of the economic benefits. Therefore, all levels of governments must work together on the issue of internal security. This also includes the fight against organized crime and against corruption. Internal security will bring investors into the country contributing to the economic development. The 2016 is a crucial year, emphasized Mirko Šarović, Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, because after BiH´s submission of the EU membership application it must actively continue to pursue the European path. And this is done especially at regional and local level, where public life takes place.
     
    In the last one and a half years Bosnia has made notable development, reported the EU Special Representative and Head of the EU Delegation in BiH Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark. The reform agenda last year and the local elections in October 2016 are the best chance to convince the citizens of the EU and the related positive development of Bosnia. The predominant ethnic politics should not stand in the way. People are looking for work and a better education in the country not abroad. There are already more than 200 Austrian companies in the country that are looking for skilled workers. Austria is thus the largest foreign investor in BiH, reported the Austrian commercial attaché in Sarajevo Sigmund Nemeti. Nevertheless, sometimes clear conditions for investors are missing in order for them to plan their business and weigh opportunities and risks.
     
    Austria’s ambassador to BiH Martin Pammer expressed his joy about an Austrian Institute which is strongly involved in accompanying BiH on its way to the EU. BiH and its regions can only benefit from the network in Europe.
     
    After the expert conferences in Dresden (D), Vukovar (HR) and Brcko (BiH) in 2013 and 2014, the event series “Local Assemblies and Parliaments” was now successfully continued in Sarajevo.
     
    Café d´Europe Régional 
    In the afternoon the Café d’Europe Régional on “BiH’s rocky way to the EU” took place in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Sarajevo. The relaxed atmosphere of the cafeteria contributed to an open discussion with students on EU topics such as the integration process and the participation of civil society in decision making. Top-class representatives, leaders and thinkers from politics, diplomacy and economy as well as an interested audience have discussed several ideas.
     
    We must give young people a clear perspective to the EU, suggested IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger welcoming more than 60 students, who spoke English as German fluently. The exchange between the experts and the students was very intense and showed both, excitement and reservation towards the EU accession of Bosnia.

    The EU is not a finished project but a process that BiH can contribute to, because it can act as a bridge between religions, said Sigmund Nemeti, Austrian commercial attaché in Sarajevo.
    Prof. Daniela Drobná from the Union of Towns and Municipalities in Slovakia stressed that EU programs such as Erasmus have contributed greatly to the academic concept and its coherence within the member states. The recognition of qualifications boosts mobility of workers within the EU and BiH will also profit from it.
     
    Other high-profile speakers at the podium were the Austrian Ambassador Martin Pammer and CEO of Komercijalna Banka from Belgrade Alexander Picker.