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Cities4Europe - Interview with the Mayor of Lodz and the Mayor of Rennes

  • culture
  • economy
  • environment
  • knowledge society
  • mobility

The Mayor of Lodz Hanna Zdonowska and the Mayor of Rennes Nathalie Appéré have answered our questions on the 'Cities4Europe - Europe for citizens' campaign.

What opportunities does ‘Cities4Europe - Europe for Citizens’ present your city?

Hanna Zdanowska: I would definitely reverse this question: What possibilities does my city of Lodz open for this campaign. Lodz is a great example of the success of the locally implemented Europe 2020+ strategy of introducing, alongside the local community, the EU principles of sustainable development, social inclusion, innovation, and participation to the city’s management practices. Furthermore - this was done without recycling the model of EU documents! It was simple - eight years ago, I agreed with our Lodz social activists and experts and decided that we will construct an entire integrated medium-term strategic planning system for Lodz from scratch in a participatory manner.  Specialists and social activists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and officials of the city of Lodz prepared an insightful diagnosis which was used as a basis for choosing the most important developmental challenges, and the citizens, by submitting over a thousand notices, chose the most important ones. And when we finally had a list, we realised that we had a document which was 95% conformant with the EU agenda!

Nathalie Appéré: Our agenda perfectly fits with the C4E campaign as we decided, 2 years ago, to adopt an innovative approach to better promote European citizenship. It aims to foster citizens’ commitment in the European debate by designing new innovative tools and methods for citizen dialogue, allowing everyone to discuss European project and policies. The City of Rennes has had a long tradition of promoting Europe, and has acquired a reputation for being a “European” city. Nevertheless, in view of the risk of identity-based withdrawal and weakened democracy, we believe that Europe needs a democratic renewal. We believe that cities are an outstanding vector when it comes to strengthening the notion of European citizenship. The C4E campaign is our bridge to link what we do locally with the European level.

How do you involve citizens in decision making in your city?

H.Z.: Our Strategy for Lodz 2020+ assumes a significant increase of the social capital of my city as the basic requirement for its continued development. And that’s precisely what we are doing. Today, public consultation is part of EVERY city development project. There are a number of environmental and social advisory and consultancy bodies operating with our City Hall which independently devise solutions for urban policies, the recent demographic policy to name one. The participatory solutions applied in Lodz were even included in the Polish President’s book of good practices. Additionally - we are also attempting to include on-line public consultation, as part of the city’s website. There, we regularly ask our citizens for their input on particular topics ranging from street names, to the urban transport system.

N.A.: Three years ago, we decided to take a step forward to involve citizens in making the city. We set up the “Fabrique citoyenne”. It’s a new participatory approach in Rennes, widening opportunities for citizen dialogue and improving citizens’ co-creation and participation to local public policies. It’s based on a Local Democracy Charter and concerns all fields of local policies. It seeks commitments of all actors and stakeholders: citizens, associations, enterprises and the municipality of Rennes (elected council and administration).Overall, the “Fabrique citoyenne” impacts all the City administration and we are proud to say that it has created a participatory culture in the city.

Can you share one idea or project linked to participatory democracy your city feels proud of?

H.Z.: Of course, our Citizens Budget to which we have been for many years allocating one percent of the entire Lodz budget, currently 9-10 million euros. Out of the 700 hundred thousand inhabitants of Lodz, the number of people voting in the annual contest for CB projects, from the smallest, to those affecting the entire city, is consistently over 100 thousand. This is particularly true for young people, as the voting on CB projects is opened to youths attending school in Lodz. It is their participation on the one hand, and the higher than expected participation of the “third age” citizens which comprise the bulk of our social capital.

N.A.: The culture of participation has a lot to do with the Participatory Budget, when inhabitants have a key on the City budget. It’s obviously not a new idea, but we wanted to give it all the necessary means. As a matter of fact, we dedicate 5% of our investment budget, €3.5 million every year to the participatory budget. The projects are not only submitted by inhabitants, associations or communities, but they are also selected by inhabitants: 102 projects have been carried on since 2015. The selected projects are really binding for the City administration, and are to be implemented with no delay. This is a strong commitment for us as city leaders. When you ask for citizens’ participation and involvement, there has to be very concrete results. Why not then imagine a European participatory budget?

What role do you see cities playing in developing future European democracy?

H.Z.: The vast majority of EU citizens dwell in the cities and thus their role in the development of European democracy is paramount. Long ago, in the 18th century during the Polish noble democracy, it was said that such will our Republic be, as the upbringing of its youth. Thus, it could be said that such will the EU and European democracy be, as the upbringing of its youth in the cities. This is where I see a chance and a necessary goal for EU intervention, projects developing the citizenship spirit, the spirit and atmosphere of community: it needs to be a proposition directed mainly to the younger members of local communities. Their cooperation, joint projects and an extensive network of exchanging local experiences, so that they can be disseminated around the world! Without it, there’s nothing!

N.A.: As I said, we believe that cities are an outstanding vector when it comes to strengthening the notion of European citizenship. The challenge is to find the right form of grassroots democracy across Europe. Within the framework of the “Fabrique citoyenne”, we created the Labo Europe which is designed to come up with new ways of talking about Europe. In other words we want it to nurture, at a grassroots level, the European debate, in a citizen’s empowerment approach. The Labo Europe of Rennes gathers a community of more than a hundred of various local and international stakeholders from different fields, with different skills.

Now please complete the following statement: ‘My Europe in 2030 will…’

H.Z.: “My Europe in 2030 shall be an effectively cooperating community of communities developing on the basis of an unbridled creative energy of the local communities”.

N.A.: “My Europe in 2030 will be participative, inclusive, inspiring and enthusiastic"