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    Catalonia records highest economic growth in nine years

    News from the IRE Member Catalonia:
    Catalonia records highest economic growth
    in nine years

    A plus of 3.4 percent in 2015 – this trend is due to the high demand of spending in households (by 3.6%) as well as spending of public administrations (by 1.6%). On the other hand, the exports have risen because of the low interest rates and the low oil price. La Generalitat, the Catalan regional government, pointed out that Catalonia has experienced a stronger growth than Spain (3.2%) and the average Euro zone (1.9%). Only four countries in the EU area have experienced a higher growth namely Ireland, Malta, Luxembourg and Slovakia.
    • Measured by economic sectors: Services are at the top with a growth of 3.8%. The number of tourists grew by 3.7%.
    • The industry grew by 2.7% compared to 2014 and has steadily grown in the past three years.
    • For the first time in 7 years the construction sector has grown by 3.5%.
    • The agriculture and forestry declined slightly by 0.9%.
    in %  2014 2015 2016
    GDP 1,5 3,2 2,8
    Private consumption 2,5 3,1 2,8
    Public spending  1,2 2 1,5
    Export 4,2 5,6 5
    Import 8,1 6,1 5,5
    VPI 0,1 -0,2 0,8
    Employment growth. 2,1 3,1 2,8
    source: Katalanische Handelskammer in BarcelonaThis positive development of the economy has a direct impact on the labor market , where 3.5% more people are insured than in the previous year. The increase is due to higher employment in the service sector. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate of 17.7% remains a weak point in Catalonia.
    Moreover, Catalonia stays economically strong despite the independence debate and continues to attract foreign buyers. Foreign investment has reached a value of EUR 4.8 billion last year, which is the best figure since of 2010.

    source: 7.4.2016 von  Mag. Ruth Sackl

    Municipal elections in St. Pölten, Lower Austria

    Municipal elections in St. Pölten, Lower Austria:
    SPÖ expands majority
    The social democratic party SPÖ won 59.0 percent of the votes in the municipal election in St. Pölten, and the conservative ÖVP gained 20.27 percent, which is its worst performance since 1950. The right-wing FPÖ reached 14.70 percent, the Greens received 2.74 percent. The SPÖ gained 2.24 percentage points and the ÖVP lost 5.02 percentage points. The Freedom Party gained 3.99 percentage points whereas the Greens lost 2.10 percentage points.
    The final result of the municipal elections in St. Pölten
    Also, Mayor Matthias Stadler (SPÖ) repeatedly received the majority of preferential votes of 3,703.
    The 42 seats in the council are distributed as follows: SPÖ 26 (in 2011: 25), ÖVP 9 (11), FPÖ 6 (4), Green 1(2). For the first time since 1996 the turnout has risen again from 58.01 to 63.62 percent.
    Distribution of Mandates

    Source: ORF &

    The IRE scientific library grows with every intern

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

     from left: Gerard Ribas, IRE-Chairman Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger, Tsira Zauner,
    Demet Demir, IRE Secretary General Dr. Joachim Fritz
    Last week three IRE interns have presented their papers. Mrs. Tsira Zauner analysed Georgias economic situation and the investment possibilities, Ms. Demet Demir presented the special position of the city of Izmir as the most western-oriented city in Turkey and Mr. Gerard Ribas compared potential investment and cooperation opportunities of the Spanish region Catalunya with regions in the Balkan countries.
    We thank all three for their support and wish them all the very best for the future!

    Cultural Tourism in Lithuania: Relax in Zarasai

    News from the Members: 

    Zarasai is one of the most beautiful towns in the Aukštaitija region. The town is surounded by blue lakes and healthy pine forests. The town, with its rich past, will celebrate its 510th anniversary. Zarasai has an interesting spacial arrangement of the town square and its streets. The value of Zarasais urban development is due to a distinct but regular layout with a radial circular network of streets and the single Sėliai Sąuare, where all radial streets meet. The land of Zarasai attracts tourists with a plenitude of lakes, rivers, hills scattered over like beads and forests which guard tranquillity.

    Zarasai town focuses on wellness, sport and cultural tourism. Therefore, all past and current projects are related to these three priorities. During last year the town government has finished some projects which are important for the region, such as the establishment of a new infrastructure on the Great Island of Zarasas lake. A cableway was installed on the lake, which is 600 meter long. The Public library has opened a new modern extension of the building for art exhibitions, new information, media, „3D cinema“, music, a place to play for children, a reading-room and „coffe club“. There is also terrace on the roof with a view to Zarasaičio lake. Furthermore, in small towns of the Zarasai region squares were reconstructed, sport playing fields and community centers were built.
    In 2008 Zarasai was pronounced the first cultural capital of Lithuania. In the same year, Zarasai was granted the status of a resort area. It is expected that this status will help Zarasai attract investment, will stimulate the development of cultural tourism, active recreation, increase the number of offered services, as well as improve the quality of current offers.
    The city of Zarasai is member of the IRE network since 2010 and continues its membership under the new Mayor Nikolajus Gusevas.

    For more Information:

    15 April 2016 – Expert conference & Café d´Europe Régional, Sarajevo, BiH

    Bildergebnis für sarajevo

    Expert conference

    The task of mayors and regional parliamets and assemblies is to inform citizens about Europe and the EU. The event wants to raise awareness of topics such as rights, opportunities and benefits for the citizens and their region from the (future) EU membership.


    Café d´Europe Régional

    The aim of this event is to discuss European topics such as integration process and participation of civil society in decision making in the relaxed atmosphere of a traditional coffee house. Top-class referents from the areas of politics, diplomacy and economy as well as an interested audience, especially students, are invited to take part in this discussion.

    Conference_programme Café_d´_Europe


    E:        F: +43 (0)662/84 32 88 – 5050

    T: +43 (0)662/84 32 88 – 0                


    In Cooperation with:

    Canton Sarajevo

     Bildergebnis für parlamentarna skupstina bih


          Bildergebnis für federal ministry european and international affairs

    Bildergebnis für konrad adenauer stiftung

                                                       Bildergebnis für raiffeisenbank

    Bildergebnis für university sarajevo




    Against centralization plans

    IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger visits the Croatian region of Međimurje:

    The enforced merging of regions and communities is the wrong way and no solution, explained IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger addressing the centralization plans of the Croatian government during a visit to the Regional President of Međimurje Matija Posavec in Čakovec on 14 March 2016.
    Croatia has 4.2 million inhabitants but only 552 cities and communities, whereas Austria accounts for 2,100 cities and communities with 8.7 million inhabitants. Therefore, Croatia could easily double its number of towns and communities to reach the Austrian standard. Not only economic arguments, which very often are false, should play a role during a merging processes, but also the grassroots democracy of public administrations to its citizens.

    Posavec and Schausberger agreed that apart from the decentralization of responsibilities and administration, a financial decentralization needs to be achieved as well because regions and municipalities otherwise cannot solve the tasks transferred to them. Schausberger explained that the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE) has intensively dealt with the questions of decentralization and regionalization and would be pleased to provide information and facts against centralization. The region of Međimurje is a member of the IRE network.
    Međimurje is one of the smallest Croatian regions with about 114,000 inhabitants and an area of 730 sqKm. It is located in the very North between the two rivers Drau and Mur and makes a great effort to develop economically. Approximately one quarter of the 2,400 enterprises is engaged in trade, 20 per cent operate in the production sector, the construction business accounts for 14 per cent. Small and medium-sized enterprises as well as agricultural businesses play an important role. The unemployment rate amounts to 11 per cent. There is still space for investors in three business districts with an area of more than 50 ha each. Parts of it are designated for scientific centres and educational facilities. The region offers support and advantages for investors.
    For more information, please visit: 

    Summit of 300 best entrepreneurs from Central and Southeastern Europe in Dubrovnik

    Schausberger: Small and medium-sized enterprises contribute to the stabilization of a region

    The second Regional Summit of entrepreneurs from Central and Southeastern Europe “TOP 300″ took place from 4 – 6 March 2016 in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The event was organized by the International Economic Forum (MEF) “Perspectives” to highlight the importance of entrepreneurship for the economic and social development and to contribute to the development of entrepreneurship in Southeastern Europe. The best entrepreneurs were honored for their successful projects and investments. Various meetings, workshops and networking opportunities were held during the three days where business leaders shared their ideas and professional experiences.

    “The event takes place every year in cooperation with numerous partners and companies from 13 different Central and Southeastern countries” said Prof. Dr. Jugoslav Jovicic, President of Summit Council.

    In the course of this event, the award “CREATORS FOR THE CENTURY” was awarded to personalities who have contributed crucially to the development of entrepreneurship in Central and Southeast Europe. Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger was honored as “CREATORS FOR THE CENTURY” for its commitment to regional development and for the numerous initiatives of the Institute of European Regions to promote entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises in Southeastern Europe.

    Due to the historical development many countries in Southeastern Europe lack the culture of free entrepreneurship. The EU’s western countries, therefore, need to share their experiences and provide support to strengthen entrepreneurship and to enable many small and medium-sized enterprises in Southeastern Europe, demanded Franz Schausberger. This creates a significant number of jobs and a broad social middle class, and thus, contributes to the stabilization of these regions.

    “These personalities are recognized as important visionaries and leaders of the future. Their work, their knowledge, ideas and creativity has led to successful initiatives and incentives for entrepreneurship and supported the economic development,” said Prof. Dr. Siniša Zarić, chairman of the Committee for the awards of “CREATORS FOR THE CENTURY”.

    Among the winners for entrepreneurship was also the Montenegrin harbour of Tivat, which is a member of the IRE network since last year.

    Elections in three German states

    The established parties have to fight for their coalitions 

    On 13 March 2016 new state parliaments (Landtag) were elected in three German federal states. The results of the established parties such as the CDU and the SPD in comparison to the newly-established Euro-critical “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) were of main interest. , Chancellor Angela Merkel had hoped to win the South-West of the country, despite the resistance against her refugee policy. However, the AfD performed considerably well and managed to establish itself on the right side of the political spectrum.
    AfD becomes the second strongest force in Saxony-Anhalt
    After the previous Landtag elections in Saxony-Anhalt in 2011 the coalition of the CDU and the SPD has continued governing the federal state under Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff. In December 2015, three months prior to the election, the federal state’s CDU Chairman Thomas Webel excluded any cooperation with the AfD. His aim was to sustain the black-red coalition. However, this is no longer possible.
    Despite minor losses, the CDU of Prime Minister Haseloff won the Landtag election, the seventh elections of the new state after the German unity. Due to the preliminary results, the party accounts for 29.8 per cent. However, compared to 2011, that means a decrease of more than two per cent points.
    The AfD managed to become the second strongest power right from the starting position. The right-wing populists gained 24.2 per cent of the votes. The SPD plummeted to 10.6 per cent and had to register its worst result ever accomplished in a Landtag election. In 2011, the party still achieved 21.5 per cent. The Left Party had to accept a loss of seven per cent points. With only 16.3 per cent, it fell back to the third place. The Green Party accounts for 5.2 per cent and can thereby barely win seats in the Landtag. The FDP, with 4.9 per cent, failed to reach the five-per-cent threshold.

    Due to the SPD’s weakness, the black-red coalition cannot continue governing in Saxony-Anhalt. It is likely that the CDU and the Social Democrats will search for a third partner. The voter turnout increased considerably – from 52.2 per cent in 2011 to 61.1 per cent in 2016.
    SPD Prime Minister asserts herself in Rhineland-Palatinate  
    In January 2013 Kurt Beck (SPD), who had governed the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate since 1994, resigned from his office as Prime Minister. He was replaced by his fellow party member Malu Dreyer. She ran for Landtag elections for the first time. On several live TV shows, she competed mainly with the CDU candidate Julia Klöckner about the refugee policy issues.
    Dreyer succeeded in sustaining the SPD’s position as strongest party. According to preliminary results, the Social Democrats account for 36.2 per cent. Compared to 2011, this is an increase of about two per cent points. The CDU with front runner Julia Klöckner gained 31.8 per cent and lost more than two per cent points of its previous result. The Green Party plummeted to 5.3 per cent. After an absence of five years, the FDP returned to the Rhineland-Palatinate Landtag with a result of 6.3 per cent. The AfD instantly achieved 12.6 per cent.
    The Left Party, the Free Voters, the Pirates’ Party and the NPD failed to cross the five per cent threshold but, nevertheless, gained at least one per cent of the votes and thereby qualify for party financing.

    Due to the weakness of the Green Party, a continuation of the red-green coalition will not be possible in the state´s capital Mainz. For the future, a grand coalition of CDU and SPD or a tripartite alliance of the SPD, the Green Party and the FDP are probable.
    The voter turnout rose to 70.4 per cent, which is an increase of 8.6 per cent points compared to 2011 (61.8 per cent) and the highest turnout ever recorded for a Landtag election in Rhineland-Palatinate since 1996. 

    Historic victory for the Green Party in Baden-Württemberg
    The Green Party has managed to become the strongest party on a local level for the very first time in Germany. Current projections show a result of 30.3 per cent. Thus, the party took over its toughest contester, the CDU, by about 3 per cent and improved its result of the previous state elections in 2011 by 6.1 per cent. Therefore, the incumbent green Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann was confirmed in his office.

    For the two established parties, the liberal-conservative CDU and the social-democratic SPD, the Election Day was a black day. The CDU lost 12.0 per cent in its former stronghold and plummeted to 27.0 per cent. The SPD has lost almost half of its votes and could only gather 12.7 per cent, making it fall behind the new, right-wing populist AfD. The latter achieved 15.1 per cent and, thereby, became the third strongest force in the federal state. With a result of 8.3 per cent, after 5.3 per cent in 2011, the liberal FDP will probably return to the State Parliament. The Left Party, in contrast, only accounts for 2.9 per cent and does not pass the required five-percent threshold.
    70.4 per cent of the population who is entitled to vote went to the ballots. Compared to 2011, this is an increase of 4.2 per cent.
    The success of the AfD is putting the country into turmoil and the Green Party faces another problem: The previous green-red coalition lost its majority after this year´s elections and has to look for a new coalition partner. A rarely-occurring green-black coalition with the CDU would be possible, or a triple alliance together with the SPD and the FDP.  
    The elections in Baden-WürttembergRhineland-Pfalz and Sachsen-Anhalt were considered a test for the grand coalition in the German Federal Parliament. The parties losses and the rise of the AfD is probably due to internal disputes, especially about the refugee policy. According to polls, 70 per cent of the AfD voters did so because they are disappointed with the other parties.


    Runoff elections in Tyrol, Austria

    On 13 March 2016 the cadidates for mayor of 20 Tyrolean communities competed in the runoff elections. Five incumbent mayors were deselected – in St. Jakob, Rattenberg, Mieders, Trins and Fügen. In other five communities – in Telfes, Hainzenberg, Neustift, Fulpmes and Mieming – the mayors were confirmed in their offices and in ten communities new local leaders were elected.

    In Fügen, the 25-year-old Dominik Mainusch (young ÖVP) surprisingly asserted himself against the incumbent mayor Walter Höllwarth. He achieved 6 per cent of the votes and is the youngest mayor in Tyrol.
    For the very first time, there was a woman elected mayoress, Monika Wechselberger gathered 51.52 per cent in Mayrhofen.The incumbent FPÖ-mayor of St. Jakob in Defereggen lost the runoff against the 26-year-old Ingo Häfele. However, this defeat for the FPÖ was compensated as Bernhard Freiberger, who ran as an independent candidate on an FPÖ-list, became the new mayor of Rattenberg.  He reached 54.47 per cent of the votes.
    The only candidate of the Green Party did not manage to win the election in Axams.