The International Salzburg Association (ISA), a platform for friends and supporters of Salzburg from all over the world, who feel particularly connected to the province of Salzburg, visited Transylvania in Romania from 28th of September until 1st of October 2017. The delegation was headed by Salzburg’s governor Dr. Wilfried Haslauer and met the mayor of Hermannstadt (Sibiu), Astrid Fodor. The ISA members were extremely impressed by the historical heritage and the great upturn of the city, especially since it was European Capital of Culture in 2007. Governor Haslauer guaranteed the mayor a support for young, talented artists as well as for a handicapped girl. Subsequently, the delegation visited several old fortified churches and finally came to Kronstadt/ Braşov.
The young pianist Paul Cristian Ionescu and the Kronstadt student Sabin Păduroiu received support from the International Salzburg Association (ISA). Under the leadership of the Kronstadt City Councilor Cristian Macedonschi, the ISA delegation visited Kronstadt. Sabin Păduroiu studies medicine in Kronstadt and wants to provide a mobile blood donation facility with other young people from the Red Cross branch from the city. Currently there are no such facilities in Kronstadt / Braşov. The award of the symbolic check was carried out by Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger, ISA Honorary President, Chairman of the Institute of Regions of Europe and former Governor of Salzburg as well as Dr. Ing. Dieter Soltmann, ISA Vice President.
Source: Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung für Rumänien, 25th year’s issue Nr. 6216, 3rd of October 2017, Photo: Ralf Sudrigian
Plenary session of the Committee of the Regions in Brussels
A debate with the President of the Council, Donald Tusk, on the situation of the European Union from the point of view of the regions and cities as well as a debate on the current situation in Catalonia were in the focus at the plenary meeting of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in Brussels on 11th of October 2017. Discussions of various opinions were at the center of the debates. Salzburg was represented in the EU Regional Council by Franz Schausberger and Landtag President Brigitta Pallauf.
Franz Schausberger demanded a disarmament of the words from the conflict parties in Spain, a return to the negotiating table and the beginning of a dialogue which could only be a peaceful political solution in the end. In a situation such as it currently exists in Catalonia, there is never a single fault.
The two representatives of Salzburg, Brigitta Pallauf and Franz Schausberger
It cannot be satisfactorily solved either by constitutional violations or by force, nor by threats of the takeover of power by the central authority. The negotiations should ultimately lead to a strengthening of the autonomy of Catalonia, as it had already been decided by the Spanish Parliament in 2006 and eliminated again in 2010. Only this could lead to that all Catalans seeing their future in Spain and not in their independence. President of the Landtag Brigitta Pallauf emphasized at the plenary session in Brussels how important the regions and their involvement in Europe were.
The Committee of the Regions dealt, inter alia, with an opinion on the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which introduced a new infrastructure financing instrument for transport, telecommunications and energy. After reductions, 24.5 billion euro are available for investments in the transport sector, with more than eleven billion of which are reserved for cohesion countries, i.e. Member States, where per capita gross national income is below 90 percent of the EU Community average. Money is available for transport projects to eliminate bottlenecks, establishing missing links and expanding cross-border sections, ensuring long term viable and efficient transport systems and optimizing the interconnection of the various modes of transport, improving the interrelationship of transport services and safeguarding the transport sector access to transport infrastructure.
The CoR calls for a better integration of the regions. So far, EU grants totaling more than 700 million Euros have been awarded for Austrian transport projects, which account for about 94 percent of the rail infrastructure area, in particular the Brenner basin tunnel and the Koralm railway. In addition, comments on traffic issues, the monitoring of environmental requirements, the financing of climate protection, the development of a European data management system, the protection of minor migrants and the European Semester 2017 were discussed.
In addition, efforts have been made to strengthen relations with Member States and with international institutions. Forthcoming events of the CEI presidency, the UN General Assembly session in September 2017 in New York and the Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology on the 26th of October 2017 in Minsk were discussed.
For more information please visit: www.cei.int
Local and regional elections in Russia 2017:
A total of 16 new governors were appointed and in some of them (in Moscow, for example) also the office for the city council or district council. 36,000 seats were awarded and 88,000 people ran for the election. Almost everywhere, the candidates of Putin’s Kremlin party “United Russia” were ahead.
In Moscow, where the voter-turnout was 14 percent, deputies were elected in 124 district parliaments. 7,500 candidates applied for a total of 1,502 seats. The party “United Russia” won with 76 percent of the votes and reached 1,151 seats. The social-liberal party “Jabloko” was second-placed with 11.9 percent of the votes and subsequently reached 177 seats. The Liberal Party has thus increased its seats by seven times (25 seats so far). Third place went to the numerous independent candidates with a total of 7.2 percent of the votes.
In the governor’s elections in 16 Russian regions, the participation rate between 30 and 80 percent was comparatively much higher. The candidates of the Kremlin-based party “United Russia” were victorious in all governor elections. The governors received between 60.5 (in Tomsk) and 89 percent of the votes (in Mordowa). In the 17th region, Adygea, the governor was elected by the regional parliament.
In the elections to six regional parliaments (in Northern Ossetia, Udmurtia, Krasnodarsk, Pensa, Saratov and Sakhalin) Putin’s party reached between 44 and 70 percent. The second and third place went to the Communist Party of Gennady Zyuganov (between eleven and 14 percent) and the Liberal Democrats of Vladimir Zhirinovsky (between seven and thirteen percent).
The election was considered to be a mood barometer for the Russian presidential election on March 18th, 2018. It is expected that Putin will run for a fourth term of office.
Source: www.wikipedia.org, www.jungewelt.de, www.deutsch.rt.com and www.spiegel.de
What is the EU’s position on enlargement? “We want to complete what is obvious”, said EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn during the 13th Conference of European Regions and Cities organized by the Institute of European Regions (IRE) in Salzburg on Sunday, 24th of September 2017. The six countries of the Western Balkans Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania should, according to Hahn, become members as soon as possible. The speech by President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, on the State of the Union in September has provided “positive excitement” in this regard. Juncker has stated in his speech, that in 2025 the EU would have more members than today. It is of great importance to use the dynamics in the momentum, says Hahn towards the accession aspirants of the countries to make the states ready for the EU. 2025 is a “moving target”, but there are no speed restrictions.
Commissioner Hahn, who held the keynote speech on the first panel discussion on the topic “The Next Generation of EU Member States”, considers important challenges in the lack of economic cooperation among the countries of the region and the high unemployment rate. The latter leads to the fact that the well-qualified are going abroad and the less qualified are left frustrated. However, increased trade between countries and the reduction of regulatory hurdles could be used not only with a view to economic prosperity but also as a test run for the later extended EU single market: “The daily work would be, in fact, a real preparation”, says Hahn, who also strengthens the rule of law. Foreign investors, as well as domestic companies must be able to rely on an “independent judiciary that works correctly and without corruption”. Corresponding positive developments regarding the rule of law should now be “consolidated”. Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetterpointed out, that in the fight against the corruption of aws alone are not enough, and however, this can only be implemented by independent courts as well as well-trained judges and prosecutors. Herewith the Western Balkan countries can pick-up support from the EU.
It sometimes fails at political will, Igor Crnadak, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina comments. On the one hand, when it comes to combating corruption, on the other hand, if EU enlargement is to be defined as a national and cross-party objective which is not sold for short-term political small pocket money. Jadranka Joksimović, Serbian Minister for European Integration, sees the pillars of European integration in economic development and the strengthening of the rule of law. However, “Euro-realism” has replaced “Eurofanaticism” in the Serbian population. Nevertheless, she considers an accession in 2025 realistic for her country.
Despite the fact, one should not forget the mood in the old EU, declared Montenegro’s Minister of European Affairs Aleksandar Andrija Pejović. The majority of Austrians, for example, do not want any new EU members, although Austria has benefited economically from the EU enlargement. The Brexit has also shaken the EU into its foundations, namely the idea of bringing the entire continent together. The EU is no longer the only option on the Western Balkans. “There are dangerous alternatives”, says Pejović, referring to the growing influence of Turkey and Russia in the region. The Western Balkans became a “geopolitical chess game” due to these increasingly popular foreign forces, including Islamic fundamentalist associations, the Vicepremierminister of Kosovo, Enver Hoxhaj, agreed. The refugee crisis – in 2015 most refugees came across the so-called Balkan route – had changed the situation.
The panelists agree that Juncker’s speech sent an important message to the Western Balkans, especially that the expansion process continues. In Albania, which has been politically transformed into a reform of the judiciary, this momentum has been “triggered by the EU perspective”, says Odeta Barbullushi, Albanian Deputy Minister for European and Foreign Affairs.
For Albania as well as the rest of the Western Balkans, it would have to be the goal and the motivation, added Hahn, “to be perceived by the other EU members as an asset and not a burden at the time of accession”.
In the Austrian state of Burgenland, the first round of the municipal and mayor elections took place on Sunday, 1st of October 2017. 81.05 percent of Burgenlanders from 171 municipalities have voted. Of the 3.143 municipal councils to be awarded, the SPÖ registered 1.461 (previously 1.411), the ÖVP 1.364 (so far 1.363) and the FPÖ 144 (previously 79) seats. The Greens remain the same with 27 seats, the Alliance List reached 45 (so far 39) seats, the NEOS one seat and other lists 101 city council mandates.
After the end of the first elections, the Social Democratic Party and the Austrian People’s Party are now equal among the mayors and municipal councilors. In ten municipalities mayors changes took place: the SPÖ represent four and the ÖVP six of the local leaders. Both parties present 74 mayors after the election. Since no absolute majority has been reached in 19 municipalities, run-off elections will be held on the 29th of October 2017.
In Jennersdorf, there will be a run-off between two ÖVP-close lists candidates. In Neusiedl am See and Bad Tatzmannsdorf there will be a run-off between the ÖVP candidate and the SPÖ candidate. In Eisenstadt the ÖVP, with 60.3 percent, built its absolute majority with 17 municipal seats, the SPÖ lost two seats and received seven seats. Member of the Landtag Mag. Thomas Steiner (see picture) remains the mayor of the state capital.
State result of the municipal council (second table) and mayor elections (first table) 2017, 1st round:
Source: www.diepresse.com, www.kurier.at, http://wahl.bgld.gv.at/wahlen/gr20171001.nsf, APA, http://www.eisenstadt.gv.at
Numerous prominent regional and local politicians at the 13th Conference of European Regions and Cities in Salzburg
For the detailed program please click here:
Investing in more than just education – Private institutions as a key factor for the Next Generation
The aim is to improve and increase the quality of higher education institutions in Europe and, above all, to develop national standards in order to meet the longer-term competitiveness of the European economy. The following panelists will discuss information about best-practice examples:
(Executive Dean of the University of Salzburg Business School, Austria)
(Executive Dean of the University of Applied Sciences, Salzburg, Austria)
(Chancellor of the Paracelsus Private Medical University of Salzburg, Austria)
(Rector of the European University „KALLOS“, Dean of the Faculty of Law and Chairman of Council of European University of Brčko District, BiH)
(President Alma Mater Europaea, Maribor, Slovenia)
The Member States are called upon to invest sustainably in education, to develop an integrated approach to the improvement of educational institutions, to introduce national qualifications frameworks as key competences and to promote tailored educational results.
Developments show that start-ups are increasingly attracted to regions and that they are indispensable from the European Union’s political agenda. Irmfried Schwimann (Deputy Director General in European Commission’s Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SME’s, Brussels, Belgium) will as keynote speaker on “Start-Ups in the Regions – the Future for the Young Generation“ demonstrate, that start-up companies are now assuming an increasingly important role across sectors and regions. The EU promotes these innovative companies so that they can thrive beyond their country borders as well as be competitive on the international market.
For this topic, the following panel representatives will discuss the extent to which start-ups in rural areas can successfully create new jobs and counteract rural depopulation. Furthermore, proven and tested practical examples will be presented and further steps for the promotion of rural start-ups in the EU will be proposed.
(Consultant for the European Semester of economic policy coordination, Representator of the European Commission in Austria)
(Director of ITG Salzburg, Austria)
(Co-Founder & Managing Director Impact Hub Belgrade, Serbia)
(CEO Vendotel, Novo Mesto, Slovenia)
(Mayor of Bialystok, Professor at the University of Bialystok, Member of the Committee of the Regions and Triple Helix Association, Poland)
(Partner of Speedinvest GmbH, Munich, Germany)
IRE Chairman Schausberger at the Demography Conference in Budapest:
The demographic development is closely related to the geographic component. While population growth has been observed in the central areas and in the large urban centers, the population figures are decreasing in remote rural areas. Young people move into the centers, the number of children decreases, the older generation remains. This serious development of the aging of rural regions is urgently needed to be tackled throughout Europe through targeted measures, IRE Chairman Franz Schausbergerexplained at the EPP Conference of the Committee of the Regions in Budapest on September 8, 2017.
The emigration from rural areas is increasingly being driven by women, as they do not have enough jobs and too little childcare centers are available. Also the supply of fast Internet connections, which are absolutely essential for home workplaces, leaves much to be desired. Additionally, there are unsatisfactory transport and infrastructure connections which are necessary, for example, that children can access higher education institutions in central locations.
State Secretary Takacs Szabolcs Ferenc and IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger
Schausberger referred to the exemplary master plan of the Austrian Minister for Agriculture, Rupprechter, to strengthen the rural regions and the emigration as well as called for greater attention to the emptying of the remote regions in EU regional policy.
Immigration from rural regions to the urban centers, on the other hand, brings great problems, since they have too few apartments available, urban transport increases and education is additionally burdened, Schausberger explained. In the future, the regions would have to be given greater capacity to deal with the problem of emigration. This means, that the decentralization of competences and finances would be absolutely necessary, and that any kind of centralization only exacerbates the problem.
President of the Hungarian Parliament Köver Laszlo with Franz Schausberger
In addition to the conference, Schausberger met separately with the Hungarian Secretary of State for European Integration, Takacs Szabolcs Ferenc as well as with the President of the Hungarian Parliament, Köver Laszlo, on euro-political issues.
New government of Kosovo:
On Saturday, September 9, 2017, the new Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, presented his government to the Parliament. The government is based on a coalition of AAK, AKR, PDK, Nisma and the Serb List (10 members of the Serbian minority). It has the narrow majority of 62 of the 120 seats in the Parliament of Kosovo. The opposition from the LDK (Democratic League of Kosovo) and the radical nationalist Vetëvendosje (self-determination) had left the parliament before the vote.
The new Prime Minister, Haradinaj, had held this function from December 2004 to March 2005 for several months, but resigned because he was accused by the UN War Crimes Tribunal. The trial ended with an acquittal. At the beginning of 2017 he was temporarily arrested in France on the basis of a Serbian arrest warrant.
On 7th of September 2017 Kadri Veseli, head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), was elected President of the Kosovo Parliament by a narrow majority of 62 of the 120 delegates.
The new government’s priorities include:
- Economic development of Kosovo
- Health Care improvement
- New jobs
- Foreign investment
- NATO accession
- EU approach
- Continuation of the normalization dialogue with Serbia
- Resolution of the open border questions with Montenegro
Prime Minister: Ramush Haradinaj (Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK)
First Deputy Prime Minister: Behgjet Pacolli (New Kosovo Alliance, AKR)
Deputy Prime Minister: Enver Hoxhaj (PDK)
Deputy Prime Minister: Fatmir Limaj (“Initiative“/Nisma)
Deputy Prime Minister: Dardan Gashi (AKR)
Deputy Prime Minister: Dalibor Jevtic (Serb List)
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Bahgjet Pacolli (AKR)
Ministry of Internal Affairs: Flamur Sefaj (AKR)
Minister of European Integration: Dhurata Hoxha (Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK)
Minister of Finances: Bedri Hamza (PDK)
Minister of Justice: Abelard Tahiri (PDK)
Minister of Kosovo Security Force: Rrustem Berish (AAK)
Minister of Infrastructure: Pal Lekaj (AAK)
Minister of Health: Uran Ismaili (PDK)
Minister of Culture and Sports: Kujtim Gashi (PDK)
Ministry of Innovation and Enterprise: Besim Beqaj (PDK)
Minister of Education: Shyqyri Bytyqi (Nisma)
Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning: Albena Reshitaj (AKR)
Minister of Diaspora: Dardan Gashi (AKR)
Minister of Agriculture: Nenad Rikado (Serb List)
Ministry of Local Government Administration: Ivan Teodosijevic (Serb List)
Minister of Rural Development: Rasim Demiri (Coalition Vakat, KV)
Source: https://www.evropaelire.org/a/28726123.html, http://infokusi.com/thaci-ramush-haradinaj-kryeministri-ri-kosoves/, http://derstandard.at/2000063758890/Kosovarisches-Parlament-hat-wieder-einen-Praesidenten and http://derstandard.at/2000063840277/Haradinaj-stellt-Kosovos-Parlament-seine-Regierung-vor
The forecasts and scenarios made in recent decades have in some cases greatly underestimated the potentials of the first generation of renewable energies. Now we have to go into the Next Generation of renewable energies, concentrating on decentralized and autonomous energy supply.
Monika Weber-Fahr (Chief Operating Officer, SustainableEnergyForAll, Austria) will address these specific aspects of renewable energy supply as the introductory speakerof the panel discussion “The Next Generation of Renewable Energy“. Through alternative sources of energy, we do not only ensure a sustainable future for generations, but also achieve considerable economic importance; however, there is still room to expand its market share.
In order to adopt these energy strategies, the following persons from industry and politics will discuss this topic in the panel discussion:
(Head of Group Sustainability Office, Erste Group Bank AG, Vienna, Austria)
(Vice president at Confindustria Bulgaria, CEDEC – European Federation of Local Energy Companies, Alliance of the Producers of Ecological Energy, Sofia, Bulgaria)
(Head of Department Strategy, Corporate Development and Innovation, VERBUND AG, Vienna, Austria)
(Managing Director Environment Agency Austria, Vienna, Austria)
(Councillor for Energy, Land Salzburg, Austria)
Local government debt in Serbia: Novi Sad most stable, Kragujevac at brink of bankruptcy
Cities and local governments in Serbia owe the state roughly one billion Euros and are more than 300 million behind in paying matured obligations. The responsibility for the poor state of public finances lies with the local governments; however, the central government has intensified this problem. In 2011, a law was passed which distributes 40 billion dinars from the state budget to local governments, which led to difficulties of the state finances.
The latest report by the Fiscal Council, underscores that the financial problems of cities and local governments jeopardize the public finances of the state and hinder economic growth. The analysis shows, that because too much is spent on subsidies and too little on capital expenditure.
The Fiscal Council thoroughly analyzed the budgets of the four largest cities in Serbia: The capital city Belgrade has balanced household income and expenditure and pays its debts on time. Only a prerequisite to the financial problems would help to solve the massive public transport problems. The capital of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, Novi Sad, has more stable finances than Belgrade but lacks the money for investment. The city currently has a credible and fairly balanced budget and is paying its obligations on time. The city of Nis is in serious fiscal trouble, but can still get out of it if it is changing its method of managing public finances. Kragujevac is by far in the worst fiscal position, with debts at the end of 2015 that nearly equaled the annual budget.
If the Serbian government does not take the necessary steps, the debts of local governments, which currently reach 4 percent of GDP, will force public finances into massive problems, according to the Fiscal Council.
Source: http://www.euractiv.rs/ and http://novisad.travel/de/
The President of the Republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, has decided to schedule the elections for the local self-government bodies on 22nd of October 2017.
According to the President, setting the date for the local elections is within the statutory deadlines, because the recent local elections were held in November 2013 and the final election results were not certified until December 2013.
Kosovo dissolved in 2008 from the Serbian Republic and declared its independence. Meanwhile, the majority, 23 of the 28 EU Member States, recognize the Republic of Kosovo. Kosovo is the only Balkan state yet to submit an application for EU membership. The IRE will report on the political developments of this year’s local election on the western Balkan Peninsula.
Around 1.7 million voters were able to vote in the 34 municipalities in 2013, whereby the following persons were elected to the mayor’s office:
You can find more information about the final election results 2013 here
Source: www.europeanwesternbalkans.com, www.derstandard.de/international/kosovo andwww.kas.de/kosovo/de/publications/35945/
Regional development plans against rural depopulation – concept to increase the life quality for the next generation
The Austrian Federal Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Andrä Rupprechter, will be the highly topical representative of the IRE panel discussion “How to keep Rural Areas attractive for Future Generations”, who will, among other things, refer on the Masterplan for rural areas. “We need more equal opportunities for regions, we want more future perspectives for people living in rural areas” according to the minister, who takes position on this issue in Austria’s largest participation process in rural areas.
Furthermore, emigration, especially of young people, into the large urban centers of Europe is an acute problem in many countries. This leads to the emptying of the rural regions and to serious problems in the larger cities. Concrete measures must be created to guarantee a sustainable and, above all, a healthy future for future generations.
Introductory keynotes on this utterly important topic are held by Elisabeth Köstinger (Member of the European Parliament, President of the Eco-Social Forum Europe, Austria) and Thomas Stelzer (Governor of Upper Austria, Linz, Austria).
Subsequently, in a panel discussion perspectives on this topic will be analysed. The following panelistswill provide information about the formation and future of rural areas:
(Vicepresident, Mihai Eminescu Trust, Sighisoara, Romania)
(Director General Kommunal Kredit Austria AG, Vienna, Austria)
(Head of Department I/5 Mobility Transport, Noise, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Vienna, Austria)
(Professor, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria)
(Director General of the Österreichische Hagelversicherung, Vienna, Austria)
These dedicated entrepreneurs, as well as representatives of European, national and regional levels, are discussing ways to address the above-mentioned development in order to keep the rural regions attractive for the next generation.
Österreichische Hagelversicherung warns against “concreting over“ the landscape
Every day uncontaminated soil in the size of 30 soccer fields is re-sealed and destroyed. The consequences of steadily increasing obstruction concern all Austrians, according to the Österreichische Hagelversicherung (Austrian Hail Insurance). Since the sealed soils can no longer store water, this leads to floods and high tide, but also to drought. Hence, the company presented its latest signing campaign against excessive land use in Salzburg on 24th of August 2017.
If the development continues as before, Austria has no more agricultural areas in 200 years. Around 500,000 jobs in and around agriculture are at risk. In addition, Austria would become unattractive for tourists due to the destruction of the countryside, according to Kurt Weinberger, the chairman of the Österreichischen Hagelversicherung, who is also represented in the IRE-Economic Board. Mainly due to storms and floods, the insurance company expects this year a loss of 200 million Euros.
Meadow, forest or farmland, which was once installed, is irretrievably destroyed, according to Weinberger. It should not be built on the outskirts of towns and cities but in the core areas: ”This also means a condensation in the city. This ultimately leads to the fact that we can spare the most important basis for life, ‘soil’”, Weinberger continued. If nothing will be changed, an area as large as the entire city of Salzburg will be re-concreted every year in Austria, warns CEO Weinberger, who will address this problem as a panelist at this year’s IRE Conference of European Regions and Cities in September 2017.
The Chairman of the Board of Management looks positively towards the ‘Master Plan for Rural Areas’, in which a considerably lower new conversion is provided. Environment Minister Andrä Rupprechter will hold a highly-topical speech at the 13th Conference of European Regions and Cities, organized by the IRE from 24th until 26th of September 2017 in Salzburg, where he will address this subject matter.
More information on the campaign can be found at: www.bodenlos.info
In this period, accession negotiations and their future for the next generations are one of the most central policy areas of the European Union. The focus lies now on the countries of the Western Balkans, whose following 6 Foreign and European Ministers will participate in the IRE forum as panelists to explain and discuss the future of the next generations of EU Member States:
(Minister of Foreign Affairs, BiH)
(Minister of European Integration, Albania)
(Foreign Minister, Kosovo)
(Minister of European Integration, Serbia)
(Deputy Prime Minister responsible for European Affairs, FYRO Macedonia)
Aleksandar Andrija Pejović
(Minister of European Affairs, Montenegro)
VIVIANE REDING: New Member of the IRE-Board of Patrons & KLAUS MANGOLD: New Member of the IRE-Economic Board
IRE extends its European Network:
Dr. Viviane REDING – Member of the European Parliament
Viviane Reding (* 27. April 1951 in Esch an der Alzette, Luxembourg) is a Luxembourgish journalist and politician. She optained a doctorate in human sciences at the Sorbonne in Paris. After her studies, she worked as a journalist for the daily newspaper Luxemburger Wort.
Reding has more than 25 years of professional experience in European politics. For the first ten year she was member of the European Parliament. From 1999-2004 she served as European Commissioner for Education and Culture and subsequently became the Commissioner for Information Society and Media (2004-2010). From 2010 to 2014 she was Vice-president of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. Since July 2014, she has been again a member of the European Parliament.
In addition, Reding also pushed for strengthen the EU’s commitment to equality between women and men and consequently adopted a Women’s Charter. Moreover, Viviane Reding has also presented measures to improve the representation of women in boardrooms of publicly listed companies. A proposal for a directive on the strengthening of victims’ rights was also adopted on Reding‘s proposal. Furthermore, she played a very important part in promoting the Erasmus Mundus Program, which promotes student exchanges among the Member States. The “Year of the European Citizens” in 2013 was supervised by her. Hence, she has set herself the goal of bringing Europe closer to the citizens and a debate on the future of Europe.
Prof. Dr. Klaus MANGOLD – Chairman of Mangold Consulting GmbH
Klaus Jürgen Mangold (* 6. June 1943 in Pforzheim, Germany) is a German manager. He studied law and economics in Geneva, London, Heidelberg, Munich and Mainz.
After having held various positions in German industries, he served as Chairman of the Board of Management and Member of the Board of Rhodia AG, a subsidiary of the Rhône-Poulenc Group in France, from 1983 to 1990. From 1991 to 1994 he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Quelle AG and from 1995 until 2003 he was Member of the Management Board of DaimlerChrysler AG. As a former member of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler, Klaus Mangold was responsible for the business unit Services and the Central and Eastern European markets of DaimlerChrysler AG. At the same time, he was Chairman of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler Services AG. In the years 2000 to 2010, Klaus Mangold was Chairman of the Eastern Committee of the German Economy.
Klaus Mangold is a member of several supervisory and advisory boards, including Metro AG, Germany, Alstom S.A., France, E.ON AG, Germany, Continental AG, Germany und TUI AG, Germany. Klaus Mangold is also Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Bank Rothschild, Frankfurt. In 2003 Klaus Mangold founded the internationale Wirtschaftsberatungsgesellschaft (IWB). He is a member of the IRE with his company. Since 2005, Klaus Mangold has been Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation for Baden-Württemberg.
Integration as a central theme for a united Europe:
For many years, the Institute of the Regions has been working closely with the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs. Each year the ministry produces a well-founded integration report.
This year’s report provides a detailed overview of the current situation of integration policy and deals with the control integration as well as the accounting of refugee integration. A competent expert council prepared this annual report, which consists of a static yearbook and an integration report.
A major part of the Integration Act (IntG) entered into force on June 9th 2017, with the aim of ensuring the rapid integration of persons entitled to asylum and subsidiary protection from the age of 15 (whose status has been awarded after 31 December 2014) as well as the integration of lawfully established third-country nationals.
For more information please visit:
Integration Report 2017: Accounting refugee integration – thematic control integration
Statistic Yearbook “Migration & Integration 2017″
Database: “Integration projects in Austria”
Air pollution and unpredictable fuel prices are problems, against which the EU has already taken a number of measures to improve the situation of its citizens. The conversion of the EU from fossil and nuclear fuels to renewable energies helps to reduce greenhouse gases and create a coordinated energy union.
Europe’s governments announced plans to create a coordinated energy union to further reduce dependency on fossil fuels. This does not only create economic advantages, but above all a sense of community, by which local citizens are more closely involved in their future energy.
from 24th to 26th of September 2017 in Salzburg
To this IRE- event in the Salzburg Congress we were able to win top-class speakers, inter alia minister Andrä Rupprechter, EU-Commissioner Johannes Hahn, the 6 Foreign/European Ministers of the West Balkans (Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina) as well as international participants.
Our conference is devoted this year to the theme “Next Generation – Attractive Regions and Cities for Future Generations”. Rural areas, renewable energy supply, start-up companies, new EU member states and private educational institutions are addressed and discussed.
This conference brings each year around 250 political and economic decision-makers from different regions of Europe together.
The participation in the conference is free of charge for IRE members, Sponsors, Regions, Cities, Municipalities, Diplomatic Services, Students and NGO’s.
The IRE plans to organize this conference on the criteria of the Austrian Ecolabel
The City of Ljubljana (Member of the IRE network) received URBACT Good Practice title for its “Citizens’ Initiative”
The Citizens’ Initiative focuses on promoting direct communication of citizens with the Mayor and the City Administration. Through various communication channels (personal, via online media or via the web portal of citizens’ initiatives) citizens can submit issues, concerns and inquiries directly to the city government. Additionally, each month during the Open Doors Day, the mayor is personally available for talks with the citizens. Since last year, people can also get involved through the Information Office 65+ where comprehensive information on services and activities for the elderly and people with disabilities is available. This enables citizens to actively participate, to strengthen their sense of belonging and give feedback.
97 (out of 300) good practices were selected from 25 European countries. The City of Ljubljana saw this call as an opportunity to present Ljubljana’s good practices, to promote the recognition of the city, to deepen the participation in the creation of European policies in the field of sustainable urban development and to increase further cooperation with the EU.
The IRE has participated in the competition of the Austrian Foreign Ministry for the European State Award. Over 70 applications were submitted and that IRE came under the top 10 through its importance of regions and cities in European politics and in economic development.
Until today, more than 130 regions, cities, companies and cooperation partners have chosen the IRE as a principal interlocutor for the promotion and support of their interests on the European level.
In addition, the liaison office of the region of Salzburg in Brussels (“EU Information”) as well as the EU citizens’ service/Europe Direct Salzburg (“EU your Vision”) took part. We congratulate the prize-winner Katharina Moser (“Route 28″) from Salzburg, to whom the prize went!
The Europe State Award of the Federal Republic of Austria honours extraordinary commitment by citizens and organizations that promote greater European awareness and understanding of Europe. The European State Award, which is awarded for the third time this year, goes back to an initiative of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA) and is endowed with 10.000 Euros.
The CPMR Intermediterranean Commission declaration contributes to the debates on the future of the EU, cohesion and the multilevel cooperation at basin level. It includes reflections on emerging strategies and initiatives, migration, neighborhood, youth, maritime affairs, tourism, climate, environment, water, energy and transports, amongst other themes. The General Assembly agenda reflected on following three main sections, which are outlined in the document:
- Future of the EU: Mediterranean views;
- Supporting emerging initiatives and strategies that can strengthen Mediterranean cooperation and governance towards sustainable development;
- Boosting sectoral policies at the core of regional sustainable development in the Mediterranean
It is open to all the different sub-national levels in Mediterranean countries and focuses on the development of the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue and territorial cooperation, concentrating its efforts on transport and integrated maritime policy, economic and social cohesion, water and energy. Furthermore, it is calling for a macro-regional strategy for the Mediterranean and fostering the emergence of Mediterranean citizenship and improving migration policies.
The Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) brings together 160 Regions in 25 States from the European Union & beyond. Representing over 200 million people, the CPMR campaigns in favor of a more balanced development of the European territory.
Global agenda of the meeting
High up-to-date topic for this year’s 13th Conference of European Regions and Cities in Salzburg
As the theme of the rural depopulation concerns the regions all over Europe, the IRE focuses on this topic in this year’s 13th Conference of European Regions and Cities in Salzburg: In a panel discussion, Elisabeth Köstinger (Member of the European Parliament), Thomas Stelzer (Governor of Upper Austria), Alois Steinbichler (Director General of Kommunalkredit Austria AG), Robert Thaler (Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environment and Water Management), Gerlind Weber (University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna) and Kurt Weinberger (Director General of the Österreichische Hagelversicherung) will discuss on how to make rural regions attractive for future generations.
“We need more opportunities for Austrian regions, we want more perspectives for people in the country”, emphasized Federal Minister Andrä Rupprechter concerning the master plan, which has emerged as the largest participation process so far in rural areas. Since the beginning of the year, more than 3,000 participants and experts from all over Austria have formulated concrete perspectives and measures for the future of rural areas. The spectrum of the strategic document ranges from digitization to decentralization, from energy development to the honorary office, from child care to culture, and from health to green care. ”The commitment within the framework of the Master Plan process shows that a new movement was initiated. Strong regions are not a matter of course, but our shared responsibility”, said the Minister.
Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Governor of Lower Austria, emphasized that “especially in digitization, deregulation and decentralization, there are great future opportunities for additional jobs in rural regions”. With the presentation of the Master Plan for Rural Areas, the implementation phase starts contemporaneously. Support is provided by the former Governor of Lower Austria and IRE-Patron Erwin Pröll, who will coordinate the implementation measures as Master Plan patron.
The West Balkans still have prospects for an approach to the EU. In addition, a joint economic area of the countries of the Western Balkans will provide for growth and employment as well as more cross-border cooperation. Concrete measures for regional cooperation and the better connection of infrastructures, economies and people were agreed upon.
The establishment of the Western Balkans Regional Economic Area aims at developing an area where goods, services, investments and skilled workers can move without obstacles. In this way, the market for potential investors is expanded into the region, providing access to nearly 20 million consumers. This promotes the economic attractiveness of the western Balkan regions, whereby trade relations with the EU can also be used. The concept will be put into operation through a multi-year action plan which included the dimensions trade, investment, mobility and digital market. To this end, measures to successfully implement the additional protocols to the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) need to be taken into account, a regional investment approach needs to be developed, obstacles to the mobility of qualified workers through the mutual recognition of professional qualifications needs to be removed, mobility for students, researchers and university teachers should be facilitated as well as extending roaming and broadband networks.
Its role is to provide CoR members with an instrument aimed at encouraging greater inclusion of the territorial dimension in the enlargement process for the Western Balkans region. The twelve CoR members of the working group meet with the representatives of the regions and municipalities at least twice a year in one of these countries and thus make a valuable contribution to the EU accession process of the West Balkan States.The next meeting of the Working Group is planned in autumn 2017 in Banja Luka, BiH.
President of the Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz and former Governor of Salzburg Franz Schausberger
Laying out his presidency priorities, he said that the CoR will continue to analyze on the EU’s future and would fight to protect the cohesion policy. The President-elect committed to reinforcing the CoR’s ties with all of Europe’s cities and regions and strengthening relations across the EU’s institutions.
“Europe must urgently re-establish a true bond of trust with all its citizens by reinforcing policies that protect them and rethink how the EU works. Europe is rooted in its cities and regions. Being on the frontline, local and regional authorities must be given a greater say in deciding Europe’s future“, Lambertz said.
Previous CoR-President Markku Markkula, who will take over as the CoRs’ First Vice-President addressed the plenary saying: “From the halls and chambers of Brussels, Bratislava and Amsterdam to the streets of Rome, Maastricht and even Marrakesh, we have shown that the EU’s renewal and rebuilding citizens trust begins with increasing collaboration and partnership between European regions and cities.“
Markkula after serving a two and a half year term as President of CoR was now elected as First Vice-President. The election of President and First Vice-President is in keeping with the agreement made between the Committee’s two largest political parties – European People’s Party (EPP) and Party of the European Socialists (PES) – which ensures an equal share of the leadership during the five-year term of the office.
Karl-Heinz Lambertz has been a PES-member of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) since 2001 and held numerous government ministerial posts between 1990 and 1999 before being elected its Minister-President (1999-2014). He was then President of the German-speaking Community Parliament until 2016.
“Supporting start-ups locally to scale-up internationally”
Supporting innovative entrepreneurship and dismantling the obstacles to its development through improved access to finance and the single market, better connections between regional entrepreneurial ecosystems and raising awareness about the need to give failed but honest entrepreneurs a second chance are the objectives of an opinion drafted by Tadeusz Truskolaski, Mayor of the Polish City Białystok. The opinion was adopted during CoR plenary session on 12th July.
The opinion of Mr. Truskolaski therefore suggests to create new opportunities through:
- Creating a start-up visa and a catalogue of conditions enabling a safe use of qualified intellectual and financial capital from third countries
- Additional funding for start-ups to develop and protect intellectual property rights
- Expanding the Enterprise Europe Network’s (EEN) range of services including advice on scaling up and cooperating more with local business incubators, science and technology parks
- Creating a separate instrument dedicated to networking projects in less-developed regions
- Encouraging new public procurement procedures exploiting the potential of start-ups and scale-ups
- Establishing a European venture capital fund of funds
- Creating innovation brokers linking buyers interested in innovative public procurement with innovative companies and helping them to access venture capital
- Increasing the budget for COSME, the EU’s main instrument supporting the competitiveness of SMEs
- Looking into the opportunities of and a regulatory framework for crowdfunding platforms
“SMEs will succeed through smart regulation”
SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) access to public procurement, the Single Market and finance, SME-friendly VAT and taxation rules and striking a better balance between SME needs and labour, consumer and environmental protection are critical factors behind SME success in Europe. The “smart regulation for SMEs” opinion of the CoR rapporteur Christian Buchmann (Member of the Styrian Parliament) was adopted during the CoR plenary session on 12th July.
SMEs are the main engines for growth and jobs in Europe, creating two out of three jobs and generating more than half of Europe’s economic production. Nevertheless regulation doesn’t always take into account the SME-specific circumstances, thus hampering local economic growth and innovation.
“An SME-friendly regulatory environment is an essential precondition for establishing and developing successful businesses and generating more jobs and growth in Europe“, said rapporteur Christian Buchmann.
The free “European Citizen Travel Card” would have “a positive effect on Austrian tourism, unites citizens and at the same time allows discounted prices for Europeans, such as public transport and museums”, according to Franz Schausberger, CoR-representative of Salzburg, who represented the amendment introduced.
Topics such as refugee problems, the integration of migrants, and measures against populism as well as extremism in Europe were discussed. In addition, it was debated how to foster the cohesion of the 28 EU Member States and the European Union to bring people closer to the local level.
In the discussion on “Reflecting on Europe” Markku Markkula, President of the CoR, underlined the importance of stressing the role of the local and regional levels during citizens’ debates. Furthermore he told members that the local and regional levels are acknowledged more frequently to be the governance levels which can be operated more closely to citizens. Concerning the Rome Declaration that was signed by 27 Member States and all the EU’s key institutions, he underlined the importance of mentioning subsidiarity and acknowledging the need to work together on levels where it makes sense. Finally he stressed the need for the CoR to influence the renewal process of the EU in a pro-active way and to get in contact with all the political leaders through the CoR members. He concluded by reminding members that the future of the EU should be for and with the citizens.
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions, stressed that the debates are very important to see in which direction the EU should go and to decide on what the EU should look like in the future. He emphasised the importance of having diverse ideas but at the same time reminded members that it is also important to know how to realize them as it would be counterproductive to have a big report on the future of the EU but no ability to implement it. He also pointed out that there should not just be a discussion about competencies but also about their impact on citizens, about solidarity and financial resources. He concluded by underlining the need of going all together in the same direction.
Arnoldas Abramavicius (Deputy Mayor of Zarasai/Lithuania, IRE-member) told members that as there are 795 municipalities in Armenia, most of these municipalities are very weak, have few financial resources and a very small range of services they can offer. He also reminded members that since 1987, Armenia is in state of war with its neighbouring country Azerbaijan. The local elections in Yerevan were held one month after the national elections, which is a reason that there were only three political parties participating in the elections. As a political comment he stressed that only 40 percent of voters participated in the Yerevan elections: an alarming sign which shows the high level of political apathy and mistrust in the political system, even on the local level.
Source: liaison office of the region of Salzburg to the EU in Brussels and CoR
Demographic challenges for future living
The event “Together is one less alone – What can alternative housing offer?”, which took place on 29th of June and 4th of July 2017, showed alternatives for seniors on the basis of a project. Around 80 interested persons were included in the two editions. During the implementation of the project, location marketing and the inclusion of people were seen as priority challenges for the future of East Belgium. This regional future approach, which is to be implemented by 2025, must particularly involve the young generation.
To cope with these challenges, the focus was mainly on different alternatives to the usual forms of housing, such as the retirement home or the home for elderly. The goal is that seniors can determine and shape their future housing form themselves. Based on this, it can be said that alternative housing forms represent a suitable model against housing shortages in urban centers and vacancies in rural areas.
The event was attended by Deputy Mayor of Linz Detlef Wimmer, a delegation of the city government, a representative of the Romanian Embassy in Vienna, Romanian Honorary Consul Wolfgang Berger-Vogel, the official delegation of Braşov/Kronstadt and, of course, many Romanians, who have chosen Linz and the state of Upper Austria as a new electoral home. “Kronstadt has impressed with dance, tradition, craftsmanship and good classical music” highlighted Cristian Macedonschi, city councilor in Braşov/Kronstadt and representative ofthe Democratic Forum of the Germans in Kronstadt.
The meeting took place in the new town hall of Linz. Topics such as e-mobility, district heating, international relations and dual training as well as the future of the Kronstadt airport were discussed. In September of this year, an official delegation from Linz will travel to Braşov / Kronstadt to deepen the relationship between the cities. Meanwhile, a European mobility conferenceis planned in Braşov, where mobility specialists from “Smart City Linz” will also be speaking, according to Cristian Macedonschi.
Source: Office of the City Council in Braşov/Kronstadt and Romanian Cultural Association Carpatia
CoR-Task Force on Ukraine met near Lviv. Decentralisation reform in Ukraine is
currently focusing on the local level.
An outstanding voluntary amalgamation process of small municipalities reduced the high number of small municipalities and villages. The new hromadas (communities) formed so far might be the “low hanging fruits”. These communities often unite the most active mayors and citizens and their amalgamation was voluntarily. Within less than two years over 1800 municipalities have merged voluntarily to create 413 communities (“hromadas”), a number much higher than experts ever expected.
Major obstacles – such as inexperience of local authority staff, especially in managing budgets and legal uncertainties on the rights and responsibilities of new municipalities – must be accounted for Rayon/oblast state administrations continue to block local initiatives and substitute functions of local self-government bodies. There are still weak links between regional planning, budget management and project formulation and a lack of public oversight alongside low citizen awareness and trust.
One key element of the support of the EU, including the Committee of Regions, is to share relevant experiences about successes, but also about risks and even failures. This sharing is about learning from each other, not copying. The system of government and responsibilities at different levels in EU Member States are very different, and reflect very different administrative traditions. Ukraine needs to finds its own system of checks and balances between national and local levels.
It seems that there is a need for careful reflection on how to proceed further with the reform of state administration and self-government bodies at a regional level. A careful step-by-step approach is recommended. But Government and Rada (parliament) seem not to be capable or sufficiently interested in adopting legislation in support of the decentralisation process.
The European Union supports the decentralisation reform not only with words but with concrete actions, with technical assistance and significant financial support. One of the main EU programmes is U-LEAD, a joint programme of the EU and its Member States Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Poland and Sweden. The EU is committed to support the reform process with significant amount of funds, exceeding EUR 200 million, mostly (102 million) from U-LEAD. The assistance is delivered through 24 Regional Centres all over Ukraine. These regional centres are very important platforms, providing tools to support the bottom-up dimension of the reforms.
The goal is to bring decision making closer to the Ukrainian people and in this way, helping Ukraine to build a more effective and transparent system of multi-level governance, ensuring benefits for ALL citizens. The Decentralisation process is crucial for achieving this result and, therefore, an integral part of the European integration process of Ukraine.
These were the main results of the Third Meeting of the “Task Force on Ukraine“, organised by the European Committee of the Regions, held in Khyriv, Ukraine, on 30th of June 2017. IRE-chairman Franz Schausberger, in his capacity as special adviser of Johannes Hahn, Commissioner on enlargement and neighbourhood policy, mentioned in his speech the European Court of Auditor’s criticism that the EU funds unfortunately are not always allocated to the intended beneficiaries in a proper, transparent and impartial way by the national authorities of Ukraine.
“Austrian companies have begun to settle in Bosnia and Herzegovina and companies from the West Balkans are on the best way to establish themselves in Austria”, said Dr. Franz Schausberger, Chairman of the IRE and Special Advisor to the EU, at the opening of the discussion. Apart from the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the “most complex governmental systems in the world”, according to Schausberger, Austrian companies such as NETQM have successfully established themselves in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for more than 10 years.
Since 2000, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a potential candidate for EU-membership. The overall state, however, is a complex construct which is divided into the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. Within the country, there are always difficulties in finding a common position aligns with the EU.
“It is hard to say whether we have the specific economic construction to become a member of the European Union, but we need to accept and accelerate those EU processes”, stressed Igor Davidović, former ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Washington and Brussels. This, above all, applies to investment in jobs to reduce unemployment. To achieve this, “regional cooperation between the various cities, cantons and municipalities is important, so that regions can be seen as attractive habitats and thus the rural exodus can be counteracted”.
In contemplation to reduce unemployment in BiH, Ambassador of BiH in Austria, Tomislav Leko, emphasized the need to improve the conditions for foreign investors, the introduction of a free-trade zone as well as the development of transport corridors. “In pursuance to develop towards the EU, the country needs foreign investments, otherwise the development of the country is difficult to achieve. BiH needs an EU-integration process for transnational development”, added the ambassador.
As an intermediary to promote the corresponding foreign investors in BiH, the telecommunication company MTEL Austria GmbH, which, according to the director, Dipl. Ing. Milenko Cvijanović, advises Austrian companies to invest in BiH. Based on this, the people from the West Balkan countries who live in Austria represent a “bridging-role” for outstanding cross-border relations.
Mag. Mladen Filipovic, head of the Republika Srpska office in Austria, drew attention to the priority of persons living in Diaspora from BiH. “BiH’s natural resources are its people”. It is only necessary to enter the country, which is accessible in just a few hours due to its central geographical location. Hence, this offers great advantages for companies. Additionally, a huge asset for investments are the “60 percent of jobseekers who have secondary or higher education”, says Filipovic and “30 percent of them are under 30 years of age”. To foster the entrepreneurial and economic potential of Austrian investments in BiH, low tax rates, low tax ratio of 33 percent of gross salary, cost-efficient labor and liberalized laws, have been provided to offers great incentives. Most importantly, the equal treatment of foreign investors paves the foundation for a successful economy.
Dr. Franz Schausberger, summarized the discussed free trade zone of the West Balkans as a first step towards the EU. To establish themselves within the European market, competitiveness must be achieved. The EU offers funds to facilitate easier access to the market. The panel discussion organized by the IRE opened the possibility of promoting economic contacts between Austria and BiH and thus, according to former Ambassador Igor Davidović, leading BiH to “no longer be an unknown partner for Austria”.
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
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.
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.
News from Brussels:
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).
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.
More information under:
E: email@example.com T: +43 (0)662/84 32 88 – 0
F: +43 (0)662/84 32 88 – 5050 www.institut-ire.eu
In Cooperation with:
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)
For more information please visit: www.ises.org.al
IRE- Chairman Dr. Franz Schausberger met IRE-Patron Dr. Theo Waigel in Salzburg
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
European Affairs, Media & Public Relations
Tel: +43 662 843 288 20
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.
IRE-chairman Dr. Franz Schausberger and the author
of the study within the IRE-internship program, Sophie Jenerwein, MA
The IRE warmly congratulates the member region in Romania on its anniversary
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.
Source: Arad County Council
Incorporated Master Mobility Plan
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.
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
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.
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.
Schausberger: Increase the integration of citizens at regional and local level
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
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/
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.
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.
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
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.”
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?
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.
And did Europe managed to cope with the refugee crisis?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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/
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.
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.
“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.
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/
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.
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/
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org,
tel.: +386 1 788 87 59.
More information about us: www.mrc-eu.si.
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.
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:
In 2017 local and regional elections will be held in nine European countries. The list below is not exhaustive.
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
|21 November||5 Regions||Regional Councils|
|98 Municipalities||Municipal Councils|
|14 May||North Rhine – Westphalia||Landtag|
|9 April||297 Municipalities||Municipal Councils|
|3 June||9 Cities, 110 Municipalities||Municipal Councils|
|8 Oktober||Cities and Municipalities||Municipal Councils|
|March||90 Municipalities||Municipal Councils|
|29 January||Lower Austria||Municipal Council (Waidhofen/Ybbs)|
|5 February||Steiermark||Municipal Council Graz|
|Direct Election of the Mayor|
|October||Lower Austria||Municipal Council Krems|
|October||308 Municipalities||Municipal Councils|
|United Kingdom |
|4 May||England||35 Councils|
|England||9 Direct Elections of Mayor|
|Scotland||All 32 Councils|
|Wales||All 22 Councils|
(no guarantee of completeness)
|29 January||Municipal Council||Waidhofen/Ybbs,|
|5 February||Municipal Council Graz||Steiermark||Austria|
|March||Municipal Councils||90 Municipalities||Macedonia|
|9.April||Municipal Councils||in 279 Municipalities||Finland|
|4 May||35 Councils||England||United Kingdom|
|9 Direct Elections of Mayor||England||United Kingdom|
|All 32 Councils||Scotland||United Kingdom|
|All 22 Councils||Wales||United Kingdom|
|14 May||Landtag||North Rhine – Westphalia||Germany|
|3 June||Municipal Councils||9 Cities, 110 Municipalities||Latvia|
|8 October||Municipal Councils||Cities and Municipalities||Luxembourg|
|Direct Election of the Mayor|
|October||Municipal Council||Krems, Lower Austria||Austria|
|October||Municipal Councils||308 Municipalities||Portugal|
|21 November||Regional Councils||5 Regions||Denmark|
|Municipal Councils||98 Municipalities||Denmark|
(no guarantee of completeness)
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Franz Schausberger met with the Prime Minister of Kosovo Isa Mustafa on 26 October 2016 in Pristina:
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Foto Maribor: Photo-alliance/ dpa
Foto Pila: Stadtverwaltung Pila
Foto Trebnje: Eleassar
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.
Die Zeit (8.10.2016)
Der Standard (8.10.2016)
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (9.10.2016)
de.wikipedia.org/Regionalwahlen_in_Tschechien_2016 (abgerufen am 11.10.2016)
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.
Die Presse, 05.10.2016 (Online)
Der Standard, 03.10.2016 (Online)
ORF, 02.10.2016 (Online)
Salzburger Nachrichten, 02.10.2016 (Online)
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 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!
- At the Conference of European Regions and Cities current issues are being discussed. Your personal contribution to the discussion is highly appreciated.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 email@example.com).
- 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.)
12th Conference of European Regions and Cities „Sustainability in Regions and Cities of Europe“
25 – 27 Sept 2016, Salzburg, Austria
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
photos: IRE & Neumayr/Leo
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.
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’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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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:
Catalonia‘s Way in Europe
(in German language)
Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 19:00 hrs
Internationale Salzburg Association (ISA)
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
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
Registration until 23 May 2016:
Tel: 0662 84 32 88 – 0
IRE delegation visits Capital of Slovenia:
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:
Franz Schausberger visited Borut Pahor in Ljubljana:
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.
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.
IRE Expert Conference and Café d´Europe Régional in Sarajevo, BiH:
“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.
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.