The green heart of Europe is inhabited by many people with green hearts. This was evident during a debate at the ITB Berlin Convention, where environmental activists and tourism decision-makers discussed ways in which the world’s first green destination could continue to develop in the future.
The debate began with a review of the current situation: with sixty per cent of the countryside protected and with a basic right to clean drinking water that is even stipulated by the country’s constitution, Slovenia is already showing the way.
The Netherlands-based organization “Green Destinations” has specified 100 criteria that should be met by such destinations, of which Slovenia satisfies 96, according to Zdravko Pocivalsek, the country’s Minister for Economic Development.
Last year Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, was selected as European Green Capital by the EU Commission.
Factors contributing to this success include the city’s zero refuse strategy, its commitment to clean air and a ban on traffic in the city centre, explains Petra Stusek, Director of Ljubljana Tourism.
The foundations for the country’s transformation into a green destination have been provided by educational and information campaigns and a certification programme, which have already led to the recognition of eleven suppliers and 18 destinations, with a further 20 destinations currently undergoing the acceptance process.
Visitors to the country can experience green tourism at first hand, for example by staying in a tree house in the “Garden Village Bled”, where they can also help in harvesting organic vegetables, engage in various outdoor activities and enjoy the publicly accessible drinking water.
Our vision is for a 100 per cent green Slovenia, explained Maja Pak, Director of the Slovenian Tourism Office.
Pak added that Slovenia wants to set an example for the world, with its authentic and sustainable products.
The event GREEN NIGHT.FOR YOU. featuring the Perpetuum Jazzile group concluded the year-long project of Ljubljana – European Green Capital 2016, on 2 January 2017.
The title European Green Capital 2016 was marked by a year-long program divided into twelve thematic months. January was characterized by smart waste management, February focused on local self-sufficiency, March on responsible waste management, April on quality of the acoustic environment, May on green spaces, June on energy efficiency, July on biodiversity and bees, August on sustainable tourism, September on sustainable mobility and air-quality, October on wood, November on climate change adaptation and in December the programme wound up with eco-innovations, green jobs and sustainable local management.
The information office Point.For You., set up in front of the City Hall, offered a free-ofcharge program all year long to different focus groups. During the whole year over 600 events were held at the information point and almost 34,000 people attended.
All district communities were actively engaged in the program – each of them served as the European Green Capital 2016 Ambassador for three weeks and during that time they prepared diverse activities and events in their own district; over 220 in total.
In addition to district communities numerous partners, from public companies and institutes operating under the umbrella of the City of Ljubljana to schools and kindergartens as well as nongovernmental organizations, individuals and private companies, contributed to the preparation of the program.
Over 300 stakeholders were co creating the program. At the end of the program the information office was moved to Podutik to be used for the promotion of cycling.
In addition, 24 European Green Capital Ambassadors actively took part in the green year program.
Among our colleagues at the City of Ljubljana and its public institutes and companies, notable personalities and regular people living in Ljubljana we chose those who convinced us with their view of the green Ljubljana.
Deputy Mayor Tjasa Ficko indicated that the title European Green Capital 2016 has many positive effects on Ljubljana at home and abroad, and she expressed her delight that the overwhelming majority of Ljubljana’s residents know about the title and that many of them participated in diverse green activities which additionally increased our common environmental awareness.
Especially active were the youngest, namely, over 37,000 children from Ljubljana’s kindergartens and schools participated in the program, and they will most certainly be the best ambassadors of environmentally-friendly development in future.
One of the positive effects of the title is the increased recognizability of Ljubljana abroad; the eyes of the public were focused on us the whole year, we have reinforced the city’s trademark in Europe and beyond, we have received numerous recognitions and awards, the number of foreign visitors has risen and the interest of foreign investors has increased.
All these effects have a positive influence on the quality of life in our city, namely, we have carried out many new projects which have additionally improved the lives of our residents.
Ljubljana, the proud holder of the title European Green Capital 2016, will continue to follow its green path, »as this prestigious title binds us to the principles of sustainable development.
But we are also aware that in all activities we have to keep in mind the green component without which the implementation of planned projects will be impossible in future,concluded the Deputy Mayor Tjaša Ficko.
Ljubljana’s successor at the green throne of Europe is the German city Essen; the official transfer of the title is on 21 January 2017.
The title European Green Capital is the highest recognition the European Commission awards in the field of sustainable city development. Ljubljana, European Green Capital 2016, has in the opinion of the European Commission made the highest number of changes with regard to quality of life in the shortest period of time.
Already in 2007 with the creation of the Vision Ljubljana 2025 we have embarked on the path of sustainable city development and are pursuing set goals within its framework – ensuring quality of life for all residents of our clean, safe, green and orderly city.
The award is of great importance to Ljubljana as it puts us on the European and global map of sustainable cities, and we are the only city in Central and South-East Europe to receive this prestigious title.