With the objective of gaining direct insight into European practices of local socio-ecological policies, and exchanging thus helpful ideas and experiences in the region, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung organized a study visit to the Republic of Croatia titled “Sustainable Budgeting at the Local Level through Innovative Socio-Ecological Policies” in the period of May 7-11, 2022. Mayors and other progressive decision-makers at the local level from North Macedonia used the chance to initiate and commence long-standing cooperation with their counterparts in Croatia, with the ultimate goal of sustainable development in the region.
The study visit began by learning about the positive experiences of the island of Krk which grew to become the pioneer of sustainable growth in the past several years, by utilizing renewable energy sources, minimizing and ensuring adequate treatment of waste, preserving the public and green spaces and fostering small-scale sustainable tourism. The two-day visit to Krk finished with exchange of experiences of mayors from both the host and guest country who will be the agents of positive changes at the local level and champions of sustainable development initiatives for development focused on the well-being of citizens.
Rieka, the city-forerunner in the region which successfully positioned itself on the map of European smart cities, is a champion of utilizing the benefits of new technologies and digitalization. Mayor Marko Filipovich gave us a warm welcome, and shared with us their experiences and suggestions on how to tap into the available European funds for reshaping the cities into smart ones, in a manner which will meet the needs of citizens, businesses, researchers and investors, without leaving behind the small innovative examples such as the project “Riperay” of the “Cistocha” municipal enterprise, aimed at educating citizens and offering them possibilities of repairing and extending the living cycle of many different items used in our everyday lives.
The delegation was particularly interested in the experiences shared by municipalities Koprivnica and Krizevci which are implementing many different socio-ecological policies and innovative projects, one of which is the first energy cooperative, the entrepreneurship hub, the urban garden, composting plant, passive social buildings and many other sustainable practices which have been put in place, the effect of which is crucial for the attainment of the shared commitments for sustainable future and carbon-neutral continent.
Lastly, we witnessed a direct insight into the results of nature protection policies with our visit to the “Plitivicka Jezera” National Park, whose representatives introduced us with the ecological, social and financial benefits enjoyed by the municipalities in turn for their commitments which entail plenty of hard work and dedication, but promise a lot more than the commonly known practice of mere one-off use of resources.
The cities and communities which are developing in harmony with nature have the power to integrate all the potentials for economic development, to incentivize efficient communication and social cohesion and to ensure due involvement of all marginalized groups. This is just one of the conclusions from the study visit which helped enable exchange of experiences and strengthened cooperation of the progressive decision-makers at the local level in the region, which surely represent and have immense powers to bring about and shape the impending socio-ecological transformation in a socially-just manner.