Nr. 142

The Future of Industrial Regions in Decline ? Conversations between the U.S. and Europe

Hazel A. Morrow-Jones, Bernhard Müller

Redeveloping industrialized regions is an urgent task in most of Central and Eastern Europe today. After the rapid political changes of the 1990s the conversion of the economy turned out to be a long-term process including challenging economic and social changes ? especially for those regions which had specialized in mining and heavy industries. Several regions in Western Europe and the U.S. have undergone similar processes for at least forty years. Consequently, it seemed promising and useful to provide an opportunity for an exchange of experiences and expectations between regional planners and scientists from different areas.

In November 2001 a real-time video conference on the topic was organized under the title "The Future of Industrial Regions in Decline ? conversation between the U.S. and Europe". For this purpose the annual meeting of the Network of Spatial Research Institutes in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE-Network) which took place in Dresden (Germany) was connected with a conference of the North American Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) in Cleveland, Ohio.

On the European side, the research project ?The future of Industrialized cities and Regions ? Central and Eastern European Experiences in Comparison (FOCUS)? formed the basis of the discussion. Between 1999 and 2001 the project was carried out by a consortium of members of the CEE-Network from 11 countries under the stewardship of the Institute of Ecological and Regional Development, Dresden (IOER). It was funded within the European Union?s INTERREG II C programme as well as by the German federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing (BMVBW) and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. Main results of the project, which were published in the Leipzig Declaration on the Future of Industrialized Cities and Regions in Central and Eastern Europe, comprised:

1. Greater attention needs to be given at all levels of politics and international cooperation to former industrial cities and regions in Central and Eastern Europe with difficult structural conditions. In addition, a new vision for the future has to be developed.

2. The question of how the burden of revitalizing and developing former industrial cities and regions with difficult structural conditions is to be shared out needs to be rethought. In many cases, former industrial cities and regions with difficult structural conditions are neither responsible for developments in the past nor are they in a position to bear the cost of tackling the attendant economic and social challenges or clearing up inherited ecological liabilities.

3. Cities and regions ought to be supported in their endeavors by means of decentralization measures enabling them to mobilize their own forces for the tackling of structural problems. This requires organizational support during the initiation of necessary restructuring processes in such cities and regions that do not as yet have their own regional agencies or other similar institutions.

4. Structural problems should not be addressed in isolation, instead it is necessary to establish conditions whereby their interrelatedness can be studied and solutions elaborated on this basis. Plenty of strategies for tackling structural challenges exist in Central and Eastern Europe. These are to a large degree sectoral in nature, however, and geared towards the subsidization of existing industries.

5. There can be no universal strategies for solving the structural problems concerned. Co-operation and exchange of experience between former industrial cities and regions with difficult structural conditions need to be encouraged.

During the video conference, scholars and scientists from both sides of the Atlantic discusses strategies and tools for the further (re-)development of declining industrial regions in Central and Eastern European countries. These countries have to deal with both, the effects of the transformation from planned to market economies and the general shift towards high technology industry and the service sector in today?s world.

The following points emerged as the core of the discussion:

  • Similarities and differences in the redevelopment of specific regions in regard to the different legal and institutional frameworks in CEE-countries,
  • The general economic shift and its role in a region?s future, including the importance of creating a new or extended economic base,
  • The role of the public and private sectors in redeveloping industrial regions,
  • The relationship between external inputs like consulting and investment on one hand and the use of endogenous potential on the other hand,
  • Ways of creating ongoing and extended research on the topic.

Das Leibniz-Institut für ökologische Raumentwicklung e. V. wird gemeinsam durch Bund und Länder gefördert.

FS Sachsen

Diese Maßnahme wird mitfinanziert mit Steuermitteln auf Grundlage des vom Sächsischen Landtag beschlossenen Haushaltes.