REPORT on the International Meeting of Mayors on the Topic of Development and Exchange of Participatory Practices
(Škofja Loka, 26th – 28th September 2019)
The municipality of Škofja Loka is a leading partner and developer of the two-year-long international project entitled “The Young and the Elderly – Active Aging”, with which it won the tender of the European Commission – Europe for Citizens Programme. The project includes 12 partner towns – and 11 of them are Douzelage towns: Škofja Loka (Slovenia), Judenburg (Austria), Bad Kötzting (Germany), Asikkala (Finland), Bundoran (Ireland), Sušice (Czech Republic), Rokiškis (Lithuania), Kőszeg (Hungary), Holstebro (Denmark), Siret (Romania), Meerssen (the Netherlands), and the city of Kruja is in Albania. Within the project, we will organize 6 thematic events that will take place between September 2019 and May 2021 in five partner towns: Škofja Loka, Judenburg, Kőszeg, Kruja and Bad Kötzting.
The main topic is to achieve successful Intergenerational coexistence of population and transfer of good practices from partner towns. The aging of the population is a pressing issue for the whole European Union, and upon completion of this project, we want use our newly acquired knowledge and understanding to become an elderly-friendly municipality. Work topics of the meetings will include elderly care, e-literacy, intergenerational cooperation, accessibility, participation and participatory budget.
The introductory event of the project entitled ”An International Meeting of Mayors on the topic of Development and Exchange of Participatory Practices” was hosted in Škofja Loka from 26th to 28th September 2019. Mayors, deputy mayors and directors of municipal administrations mostly from Douzelage towns, and other twinned and partner towns actively participated in the international meeting on the current topic of participation, which took place on Friday, September 27th , 2019 at Sokolski dom in Škofja Loka. The meeting was attended by delegations from Douzelage towns: Bad Kötzting, Judenburg, Kőszeg, Rovinj, Chojna, Rokiškis, Sušice, Siret, Meerssen, Sherborne and Sesimbra. Representatives from our twin-town Maasmechelen (Belgium) also took part in the meeting.
Due to problems with Adria Airways airline, participation was truncated as participants and delegations from Holstebro, Oxelösund and Kruja (Albania) had to cancel their trips. Albania was thus represented by an ambassador accredited to the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Pëllumb Qazimi.
The international meeting was also attended by some mayors and representatives from partner Slovenian municipalities: Gašper Uršič (Mayor of Cerkno) Rok Roblek (Mayor of Preddvor), Janez Černe (Deputy Mayor Kranj) and Silvana Markič (Director of the Municipal Administration in the Municipality of Medvode).
After the introductory greeting by Tine Radinja, the Mayor of Škofja Loka, Miha Ješe, who is in charge of international cooperation in the Municipality of Škofja Loka & vice-president of the Douzelage and Annigje Kruytbosch, the president of the Douzelage, the official program of the international meeting began. The programme of the conference, which focused on various forms of public participation, was carried out in English by hosts Alenka Blazinšek Domenis and Matej Cepin. Following the introductory presentation of the central topic, methods and goals of the meeting, Raf Terwingen, the Mayor of the twinned town Maasmechelen, Elke Florian, Deputy Mayor of Judenburg, and Janez Černe from the neighbouring Municipality of Kranj, presented selected examples of good participatory practices. A common thread of various successful practices is in creating and building trust that strengthens the community and cooperation, in introducing practices that are very inclusive, can be used by all citizens, are sustainable and encourage (intergenerational) cooperation.
In the second part, the two hosts introduced the step-by-step process and procedures that led to the introduction, implementation and functioning/operating of the participatory budget in the municipality of Ajdovščina, where the employees have done pioneering work in this field in Slovenia.
In the final part of the international meeting, participants took part in the workshop, presented ideas and made concrete suggestions on how participation could be implemented and how it could be successful for the elderly and the young in their local communities.
Upon completion of the workshops, the participants were informed about the future course of events and about the programme of the international project Europe for Citizens, which will culminate with the organization of 45th General Meeting of Douzelage in Škofja Loka, in May 2020!
In the evening part of the meeting, the participants discussed the topic addressed and made plans about the organisation and contents of the next five meetings, which will be held in Judenburg, Škofja Loka, Kőszeg, Kruja and Bad Kötzting.
Jernej Tavčar, PR department of the Škofja Loka Municipality
(Photography by Peter Pokorn)