4 mins

Outlook of the Slovenian presidency

Blanka Bartol
 TomaẐ Miklav iḈ 

In the past year, our habits and activities have changed dramatically, to an extent that was hardly imaginable before. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have changed our daily routines, and our daily living space has shrunk to our homes, neighbourhoods, cities or regions.

More than ever before, we have realised how places that we call home shape our lives and how this affects our quality of life: the diversity of public spaces and good cycling infrastructure as an alternative to other forms of traffic; accessible, high-quality green areas that enable city dwellers to relax and recreate in a close-to-natural environment; efficient digital infrastructure in rural and urban areas supporting work and schooling at home; and sufficiently large and bright apartments in which we have spent more time than ever before. These concepts are therefore worth putting higher on the policy agenda.

The Territorial Agenda 2030 sets out improving the quality of life and wellbeing of all as an underlying objective of all public policies and an important prerequisite to overcome the increasing regional imbalances and inequalities among people. Promoting the territorial agenda motto'A future for all places'strongly advocates improving the quality of life. The COVID-19 pandemic will be overcome, but major and more long-lasting challenges will remain. As also stressed in the Territorial Agenda 2030, we have to act and it is time to act now. The issues, such as reduction of imbalances and inequalities, traditionally addressed in spatial planning by supporting balanced and polycentric territorial development, and addressing the growing ecological problems and territorially specific effects of the climate change, are equally as crucial for quality of life as for economic growth and prosperity.

'We are discovering that an adequate response can occur only if there are strong cross-sectorial approaches"

Quality of life is a red thread of the Slovenian presidency in the field of territorial cohesion. It aims to support its further development and use of the concept in territorial development policies. With the strong support of the ESPON European Grouping on Territorial Cooperation, territorial quality of life will be tackled in the policy brief prepared based on the completed applied research and the working paper. Some additional events and activities have been planned, such as a testing the use of the quality of life concept in a spin-off project for the Slovenia-Italy-Croatia cross-border area.

Slovenia will hold the Presidency of the Council in the second semester of 2021. It will conclude the Trio Presidency with Germany and Portugal. The Territorial Agenda 2030 was endorsed by the ministers responsible for territorial development, and the New Leipzig Charter was endorsed by the ministers responsible for urban matters during the German Presidency. This gave new impetus to intergovernmental cooperation on territorial and urban development during the Portuguese Presidency. After a successful start, the six territorial agenda pilot actions, which were specially designed as the agenda's implementation mechanism, are now in full swing.

Tackling different challenges in various types of territories, the pilot actions are promoting place-based approaches and policy coordination in multilevel policy framework, and they will provide interesting and transferable results for other territories and stakeholders. Encouraged by their work, we shall look forward to keeping pace and introducing new topics while establishing new partnerships to address territorial challenges and priorities.

The priorities of Europe's spatial development are not only being realised through the implementation of the pilot actions. Many projects and other activities in different thematic areas are implemented in Europe. Some of these practices will be presented in September 2021 at an international conference in Maribor, Slovenia, dedicated to the discussion on the implementation of the Territorial Agenda 2030. By showcasing projects, we would like to stimulate the uptake of the principles and priorities that the Territorial Agenda 2030 sets, enabling national and regional authorities, municipalities, cities and other stakeholders to translate policy concepts and priorities into territorial realities. We need to communicate policy goals more clearly and showcase examples that can support us in pursuing this. We all hope that the conference will be an inspiring event where we will, hopefully, be able to meet in person.

The New Leipzig Charter is a document that paves the way for integrated urban development for just, green and productive European cities, neighbourhoods and regions. Multilevel governance is crucial for a balanced polycentric urban system that will secure jobs, services and infrastructure to serve all inhabitants in urban and remote areas. The ministers responsible for urban matters will meet during the Slovenian Presidency to reach an agreement on the further development of the urban agenda for the EU by following the principles of the New Leipzig Charter and its implementation document.

In addition to preparing the Ljubljana Agreement, the Presidency will focus on housing and green aspects of cities. Access to suitable housing and green spaces is a basic condition for ensuring that people are safe and satisfied and have a high quality of life, especially in urban areas. Slovenia will emphasise the importance of housing and green areas in urban and spatial policies.

Blanka Bartol and Tomaž Miklavčič, Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning  Directorate for spatial planning, construction and housing Department for Strategic Spatial Development)

This article appears in Rural areas: an eye to the future

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