Plennary sesion day 1: Diplomacy of cities

In the world of globalization, cities want to have more influence on politics. They organize in networks, which can become an efficent tool of diplomacy. Cities can perfectly find themselves in the era of globalization, but it requires from them deliberated cooperation and smart alliances – these are some major conclusions from the plenary session, which took place on the first day of the 5th European Congress of Local Governments in Cracow.

 

 

Cooperation creates the effect of scale

Europe is the most urbanized continent. Over 80 percent of residents live in cities, cities use 80 percent of total energy and create 70 percent of waste – stated moderator of the session Emilio D’Alessio, spokesman for Coordinamento Agende 21 Locali Italiane, an Italian association of cities.

Panellists from France, Romania and Poland focused on the opportunities for cities which could be obtained through building a network of connections. This gives the effect of a scale that even small municipalities can create significant partners for governments.

– We do not have to invent a circle, we should first of all have twin towns and solve similar problems, such as migration and security. The relationship of twin towns helps in sharing experiences and working for the residents – said Emil Boc, mayor of Cluj-Napoca and former Prime Minister of Romania. He noticed that during the development and catching up of the civilizational differences, cities in the former communist countries, have a chance to avoid mistakes made earlier by the West.

– We try to explain to residents, looking at the experiences of Western cities, that we should not make the same mistake and fill cities with cars. We want to emphasize the benefits of the joint use of cars or bicycles – added Mr Boc.

He illustrated it with an anecdote that a car should be treated like a mother-in-law, which, of course, is worth having, but you cannot let her take control of your life.

 

 

City co-operation also includes education and tourism.

– Orleans and Krakow exchange between secondary and higher schools, and as part of the diplomacy of cities we are wondering which topics we can also share. Today we talked about tourism, this is the topic that partner cities want to develop. We have topics that can be shared with associations, residents and other structures – said Martine Grivot, deputy mayor of Orleans, France.

Subsidiarity

City cooperation also allows for the development of principles of subsidiarity, i.e. the development of areas of cities’ tasks which are implemented at the national or even European level, and which remain at the local level.

– I believe that the less the government interferes in local affairs, the better – said Grzegorz Napieralski, senator of the Republic of Poland. – Cities want to learn solutions from their partners, but they do not want state interference. The more such state interference in self-government, the worse.

Jacek Majchrowski, mayor of Krakow and vice-president of the Union of Polish Cities, agreed with him. – It often happens that our voice is not taken into account. In a government bill, there is an obligation to consult a committee on common issues. So the government is doing a bypass, many laws are dealt with as MPs, bypassing consultations with cities.

– France has a strong tool for cooperation between a municipality and the government. There are 36 thousand often cooperating with each other municipalities. Many municipalities are associated and jointly responsible for schools and water. Recently, we have been able to create municipal associations. We are small towns, much smaller than Paris, but thanks to the grouping of municipalities we are heard in Paris – said Martine Grivot.