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 :

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.

City of Bologna

Bologna is the capital of Emilia Romagna, a region situated in the Po Valley in Northern Italy. The city counts nearly 400,000 inhabitants and ranks one of the top Italian cities in terms of quality of life. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city and in 2000 was elected European Capital of Culture thanks to its rich history, art, cuisine, music and culture. University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is claimed to be the oldest European one. The city’s economy is well developed also thanks to the strategic position as crossing point of the most important communication routes in the country. Transformation of agricultural products and animal husbandry, footwear, textile, engineering, chemical printing are the most thriving industrial sectors. Bologna’s exhibition area (BolognaFiere Group) is one of the largest in Europe.

City of Chongqing

Chongqing is the largest of the four Chinese directed state-controlled municipalities, together with Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin. Before 1997, it used to be part of Sichuan Province and today is the only municipality holding this status in Western China. Chongqing has a population of about 31 million inhabitants and it has jurisdiction over 19 districts, 17 counties and 4 autonomous counties. The city’s economy is pretty much based on mining activity and the municipality is one of the nine largest Chinese iron and steel centers and one of the three major aluminum producers. The inland geographical position has always hindered city’s economic growth in comparison to coastal cities. An infrastructural improvement plan led to the arrivals of several foreign investors. Chongqing was the provisional capital of China for almost ten years from 1937 to 194 and was considered one of the three headquarters of the Allais in the Second World War.


This case study belongs to the file « Europe - China Exchange Platform Survey »

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