The current challenges of European cities: economy, employment, sustainability

Interview with Mr Markku Andersson, Mayor of the City of Jyväskylä (Finland)

1) Which are the strengths/priorities of your city?

City of education
Jyväskylä is known as a youthful city of education. Education offered in the Finnish language has a tradition of more than 150 years in our city. There are in total 45,000 pupils and students in Jyväskylä, which means that nearly a third of the city’s population of 134,000 are pupils and students. The adult population is among the most highly educated in the country. The higher education institutes in our region, the University of Jyväskylä, the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences and the Air Force Academy are among the most popular in Finland. This versatile educational structure provides ample opportunities, ranging from top expertise to lifelong self-improvement and studying.

City of well-being and nature
The city is surrounded by forests and lakes, and the services are within a walking distance. Jyväskylä is one of the fastest growing cities in Finland, and studies have shown that the living environment and the environment for raising children are the best in the country here. The city’s great image has increased its attraction, and the population of our city has grown by nearly 1,500 every year during the 2000s.

City of know-how
The know-how and innovation in Jyväskylä focus on the fields of energy technology, ubiquitous computing, nanotechnology and renewable forest industry.
The close cooperation within the business life in the region brings together resources, and interaction with higher education produces fresh know-how and expertise for business. Several world-class industrial and high technology companies are also located in Jyväskylä.

City of culture and sport
Jyväskylä is also known for its culture and opportunities for sport. Examples of the wide cultural offering are professional and amateur theatres, Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä, four large museums, fifteen libraries, dozens of choirs and bands, dance schools, the first Parkour academy in Finland, and circus and dance groups. The city offers cultural events all year round for every taste and age group. Jyväskylä offers versatile options for outdoor recreation and hobbies. Often it is possible to head for cycling, running, skiing or skating straight from your home door.
Laajavuori, an urban ski resort, is only 4 km from the city centre of the buzzing Jyväskylä. The resort has 12 slopes and 6 ski lifts. The city also has over 500 km of maintained fitness circuits and trails in total, of which roughly 75 km is lighted.
Every August, Neste Oil Rally Finland – the Finnish round of the World Rally Championship – brings speed and excitement onto the streets of the city. JYP represents Jyväskylä in the top professional ice hockey league in Finland. Women’s Finnish baseball team Kirittäret from Jyväskylä has won the Finnish championship on numerous occasions.

City of Alvar Aalto
Jyväskylä is the city of the internationally renowned architect Alvar Aalto. Jyväskylä can boast with more buildings designed by Aalto than any other city in the whole world.

2) Why is it important for your city to be in dialogue with other European cities?

European network cities are important partners for us in several areas. We wish to compare best practices and apply them in the city’s functions, in relation to such issues as the state of the environment, health care and well-being, matters concerning the youth, city construction, and the operational conditions for companies. National and international dialogue is essential for the development of our city. It provides us with great ideas, which we can also offer others, creating a true win-win situation. In the globalised world of today, an active city is naturally involved in dialogue through several overlapping networks. We seek to improve the international visibility and fame, attraction, and competitiveness of our city. For this, we need trustworthy and good partners.

3) Eurotowns is a network for small and medium-sized cities in Europe. Why should your city be part of this network?

The answers to item 2 also apply here. We want to work to promote the subjects considered worthy of pursuit within the Eurotowns network. For instance, we find the goal-oriented operation of the Eurotowns Task Teams together with the concrete results and their application quite significant.

4) What are the challenges that a European city has to face?

The current challenges of European cities are related to the economy, employment and the sustainability gap. Balancing and improving these issues is at the top of the agenda in many cities, also in Jyväskylä. However, we can not only concentrate on stabilising the existing imbalance. We must also look to the future and create new innovations. For Jyväskylä, it means a resource-wise attitude. Resource wisdom is a concept devised to convey a more positive take on sustainability issues. There’s no denying that energy, food, transport, water and waste are quite serious subjects, but a shift in the attitude and a more holistic approach to resources can open up new opportunities and innovations. It is crucial to recognise the role of the largest cities as the key drivers of growth and competitiveness and to highlight themes important for the urban regions’ growth and development.

That is one of the reasons why the City of Jyväskylä, one of Finland’s growth centres, has recognised certain development themes essential for the Jyväskylä region:

1. resource-wise Jyväskylä
2. new bioeconomy value networks, products and services
3. cyber-security
4. learning, exercising and well-being
5. building international growth businesses.

The City of Jyväskylä plans to sign a growth agreement according to these development themes with the State of Finnish for the years 2013–2015.

By developing these items and creating new innovations, the City of Jyväskylä intends to meet the future challenges.


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