Network conference 1999 overview conferences

The Future of Old Industrialised Cities and Regions Undergoing Structural Changes: Central and Eastern European Experiences in Comparison

Kraków, November 1999

To support the research of young scientists, a competition between young researchers was carried out during summer 1999. For each of the three working groups, three to four papers were selected. In addition to this, experienced scientists were invited to give a lecture to the plenary. More than 70 people from research institutions in 13 countries attended the conference at the Hotel Continental in Kraków; simultaneous translation into German, English and Polish made communication easy.


Plenary sessions

In the plenary sessions, some general statements were given by experienced scientists. Bernhard Müller from IOER / Dresden provided an overview of the FOCUS project in the frame of the European Spatial Development Plan (ESDP). Bolesław Domański from the Jagiellonian University of Kraków shed some light on the role that old industrialised regions play in the impressive economic growth in Poland. He compared the regions of Upper Silesia, Łódź and Sudety, stressing the factors of foreign investment and endogenous local growth for a succesful change, whereas regional policies seemed to have only minor effects in the last decade. Zbigniew Kamiński from the University of Technology of Gliwice spoke on development tendencies in space and settlement structures of old industrialised regions, giving special reference to „winners“ and „losers“ in the Upper Silesian Industrial District. Horst Foerster from the University of Tübingen gave an interesting outline of the new conditions for industrial regions in Post-Socialism, providing an overview over Central and Eastern Europe. André Müller from the Federal Office for Building and Spatial Organization / Bonn (BBR) gave an introduction to the European Metropolitan Regions Project which tried to define strategies for a sustainable development of metropolitan regions, including old industrialised metropoles such as Katowice in Upper Silesia. An outline of the following steps in the FOCUS project was given by Karina Pallagst of the Network Secretariate.


Working group 1: Problems of old industrialised regions

Interesting case studies were presented in the working groups, mostly by younger researchers. In working group 1, which discussed the character of problems in old industrialised cities and regions, the presented examples had very different branch structures and starting conditions: The Valley of Vah in Western Slovakia with its armament production, the former uranium mining area of Johanngeorgenstadt on the German-Czech border and the struggling harbor region of Gdańsk do, for the first sight, not have much in common with the city of Tatabanya which once was dominated by an open pit mine but had the power to "break free" from depression, attracting numerous investors in the field of light industries. However, the discussions showed that a common set of problems may be regarded as typical for all industrialised regions facing a severe decline (e.g. economic, social and ecological problems), modified by the dominating branch structure of the region. The barriers for future development are problems which are not necessarily typical for industrial regions and differ from one region to another. This may be obvious problems like the peripheral location or the outdated infrastructure, but equally important are the "soft factors", e.g. mental barriers against structural change, political barriers or the bad image of a region. 


Working group 2: Reasons for Problems

Working group 2 focused on the reasons for problem situations, based on two examples from Austria, one from Estonia and again Gdańsk. Discussions stressed the role of "physical" reasons, such as location and infrastructure, the importance of endogenous potential for future development and the role of the political framework, e.g. the course of system transformation and the instruments of spatial planning. A point was made to the scale of phenomenons: Some reasons for problems are located in the region itself (e.g. the endogenous potential), others may account for the nation as a whole, while other reasons are common in all post-socialist countries or even in all countries with industrial tradition.


Working group 3: Indicators for old industrialised regions

Indicators for the characterisation of old industrialised regions were the topic of working group 3. The examples reached from the Ukrainian regions of Donbass and Donezk with their enormous ecological and social problems over the coal-mining area of Hunedoara in Western Romania to Leipzig in former GDR, where solutions for a sustainable development of suburban space were suggested. In discussion, some "classical" indicators were identified as useful, e.g. from the field of geography, economy and social sciences. However, the system transformation makes it often difficult to monitor development continuously by statistical data. Some features of old industrialised regions which are vital for development can hardly be measured by the traditional set of indicators. This accounts, for example, for "social capital", cultural assets and the activities of administration. 



In general, it became obvious that the problems of old industrialised regions seem to have similar reasons in the states of Central and Eastern Europe. The project FOCUS is therefore on the right way, linking the research capacities and experiences from different CEE countries together in a joint research project.


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