Bologna (Italy) and Chongqing
Source : Office of International Relations, Cooperation and Projects City of Bologna
ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability
Character, formal status, start and duration of the partnership
The agreement between the cities of Bologna and Chongqing dates back to 1989 when the cities’ mayors signed a Cooperation Agreement (Protocollo di Collaborazione) which was then revised in 1993. The first initiative was taken by the Chinese Consulate General in Milan which identified the city of Bologna as a model desirable city for a friendly collaboration with Chongqing. The partnership receives all financing through Municipal budgets which are already not sufficient to meet the expenditures related to the collaboration agreement.
Main topics addressed and activities undertaken within the partnership
The Protocol signed in 1989 focused on the four topics :
business, to promote economic and commercial links between both the cities and the private companies, through bilateral exchanges of field experts ; the Municipality of Chongqing has also been invited to the International Fair of Bologna in 1990 ;
culture, for example through the organization of rock concerts and photographic exhibitions called “The city and its citizens” and “Imagines of Chongqing” ;
health system, through the collaboration of the Assistance Centre of Chongqing and one of the hospitals in Bologna; it also included the exchange of know-how on medical technologies ;
education, through high schools and universities collaborations and students exchange.
Key achievements within the partnership
At the moment, only actions for the first topic, business, have been slightly implemented, especially during the first period of collaboration. In fact, one of the main aims for the Italian local government is the establishment and promotion of a trade network between the two competent areas. For this purpose, the Bologna administration promoted the partnership to business stakeholders trying to highlight specific fields of interest. The most visible consequence connected to the agreement is the business collaboration with the Italian joint venture Samp Utensili, which is currently still operating in China.
Chongqing economic delegations are often present at main events organized by the Bologna Fair Group. The Trade Fair Group is also present with a participated company in Shanghai (Bolognafiere Shanghai Exhibition Ltd). To support the partnerships that the Fair Group was developing the ex-mayor of Bologna, Sergio Cofferati, sent a letter to the Mayor of Shanghai to foster the relation also between the local governments.
It is worth mentioning that Bologna is currently present at Shanghai World Expo, in the Urban Best Practice Area : one among the only 40 cities present at this important international exhibition.
In December 2009, the deputy mayor of Chongqing travelled to Italy with the intention of rejuvenating the collaboration which, during the last years, suffered from lack of common activities at a governmental level. Following the 2009 event “The Year of Italy in China”, the “Year of China in Italy” will be celebrated from September 2010 until September 2011 in Italy. An exhibition of antique Chinese coins is scheduled for the next months in Bologna.
Future expectations and expected development of the partnership
There is a strong willingness from the cities for increasing the activities undertaken, especially within the cultural world. Unfortunately, these activities are acutely limited by the lack of funding.
Key obstacles and weaknesses in the partnership
As already mentioned, the main obstacle is related to the lack of financial opportunities. The money is drawn from the municipal budget which is not sufficient to support the needs of the partnership. The city only has a very small budget entry dedicated to international relations – within the Mayor’s Cabinet budget - that is supposed to cover the costs of the activities with all of the foreign twinned or partner cities. From the perspective of project officers, the current strategy of the Italian government to further reduce city funds are not deemed fruitful for the partnership. The national government has, on one hand launched the “Year of China in Italy”, but has not provided the necessary tools and means to ensure a good outcome.
Besides different political guidelines and vicissitudes of the city of Bologna, budget cuts also considerably weaken the collaboration.
Language differences are not deemed to be an obstacle. What sometimes rather constitutes a problem is the difficulty in interpreting the intentions of the numerous Chinese delegations coming to visit the Italian city.
Needs and wishes for support to improve the partnership
Bologna’s administration considers the Chinese market to be a prime target group to address. Therefore, both on a European and national level, more solid foundations should be put into place to support harmonious Chinese partnerships. Although the business side is mainly considered, the role of the public administration is of vital importance in planning long- term inter.
This case study belongs to the file « Europe - China Exchange Platform Survey »