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

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


    IRE-Chairman Dr. Schausberger held lecture in Brussels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    CDU wins Landtag election in North Rhine-Westphalia

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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


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


    Success for the CDU in Schleswig-Holstein

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

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

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

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




    Clear Victory for Conservative Party in Great Britain

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

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

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

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

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





    Konrad Schupfner: New EuRegio president

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




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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


    Lisa-Marie Stauffer, MSc
    European Affairs, Media & Public Relations
    Tel: +43 662 843 288 20