Govor “The vision of Maribor as the first integral city in Slovenia”

Konec septembra 2013 smo bili kot Center alternativne in avtonomne produkcije – CAAP, ki v lokalnem okolju Maribora in v regiji že dve leti vzpostavlja in implementira inovativne, prodorne in uspešne razvojne projekte na socialnem in ekološkem področju, vabljeni, da v sklopu konference Integral Green Economy for a Better World predstavimo vizijo prihodnjega Maribora kot mesta, ki bi se lahko razvijalo po principih Integralne ekonomije. Na konferenci smo predstavili pričujoči govor:

Maribor as an Integral City: The vision of Maribor as the first integral city in Slovenia


Perhaps there are some genius minds that could come up with a perfect and complete vision of a city. However, CAAP center’s vision of Maribor’s future is not such. The birth of a vision is a long and difficult process that can take years or even decades. At the moment, we are all here, being a part of that process. We are certain that a good start to envisioning Maribor’s successful future is by tackling its most threatening inhibitions, for achieving it. We believe, that one of those, perhaps even the most important one, engages us in dealing with a problem that Maribor has had for more than 20 years. It is a problem of not finding its own postindustrial identity or of following too many disperse identities, consequently having none or too many visions.

So if we would ever want to talk about Maribor’s future as an Integral Green Economic model-city, the most important integration, which has to take place as the corner stone of any vision, is integration of its more recent past, present and future realities and identities.

We had a special year in 2012, which (due to Maribor being a European Capital of Culture) has presented us with motivation for questioning the identity of our beautiful city. It was a bit imposed, but also much needed motivation. I vividly remember one performance, within the ECOC 2012 programme, called Was ist Maribor?, which actually captured the heart of one of Maribor’s recent identities.  It showed a reflection of the past, a city of people, who greatly value work and each other as a community, a city of those, who are able to believe in great futures and are willing to bring them about, no matter how cheated of everything they already were. It was a performance on the past identity, but nevertheless, how many years must pass for the city to really lose or change it? We think that it is still quite real and recent massive civil disobedience, which took place in winter 2012 and brought more than 40,000 people to the streets reclaiming their dignity, has proved it to be such.

I suppose, we should always be very weary and most sceptical, when models of a Great New World are being debated and envisioned. Especially, if the theory is very positive and therefore strong and set in much detail. But as said before, we believe, that if an important procedural caution is taken into account, it can bring an appealing theory to a successful fact, and in our case that caution relates to integration of former, present and future identities, subtle as culture or concrete as old habits or rigid as believes, everything.

So allow me to make some (since the time is pressing) quite superficial observations, but possibly such that can help us integrate better what Maribor is, was and can be and in the next few days make a solid basis for a model of Maribor as the first integral city in Slovenia.



From a city with a strong developmentally enlightened and culturally aware urban vividness at the beginning of the 20th century, Maribor has become, from the 50s on, a powerful industrial socialist city.

This is by no means the recent past that could be discarded off the map of identities, because it is the one, which most importantly degraded our attitude to our natural heritage and left us with environmentally degrading concepts of transformation of urban and suburban city areas, which were also very much put into practice.

On the other hand, this period has strengthened the sense of community, common goals, which can be reached only by selflessly striving together, as a community. This, in a way a communitarian attitude, naturally with its set of rigid rules and strict supervision, common to socialist/communist societies, has made one’s community responsibility a MORAL norm.

Most often, the nostalgic reminiscings of Maribor’s inhabitants, who had the socialist experience, still convey a kind of sadness over the loss of community spirit, being overrun by an overnight adoption of solely individualistic free market overachieving and competitive economic concepts as the new Slovenian independence era at the end of the century and the beginning of a new one has brought on. In a way, this deep disappointment upon new modes of achieving wellbeing, the ones, with little regard to developmental interest of the community as a whole, is still present in those, who today, are the most vulnerable segment of Maribor’s population, elderly, unemployed former factory workers, who were unable to adopt their knowledge and standards to new modes of brutal competitiveness.

In the meantime, we’ve became Europeans. If you know or remember that excerpt “What have the Romans ever done for us?” from the Monty Python’s film The life of Brian?, and compare it to an average Slovene person’s attitude toward Europe today, the answer to the question “What has Europe ever done for us?” would be far less praising, more like this photo that I found circling on FaceBook yesterday:




It says: “Born in Yugoslavia. Schooled in Slovenia. Unemployed in EU.”  It emphasises three of person’s most important identity foundations, the answers to fundamental identity questions:

What culture do we belong to?, What are the values we have learned? and What work we do to contribute to the world we live in?

Of course it is cynical and quite a sad post, but it describes a very deep contemporary realization which pinpoints just how hard it is to believe, that we can still coerce some positive faith in future economic models out of ourselves. It’s also sad, because it subtly states, that there are no known good functioning political formations or models, on which we can still hang our identities and our future wellbeing on.

There is no One reliable Model or Club of achievers or One answer to achieving our wellbeing and we are brutally confronted with the world of particularities, bearing it on noone’s shoulders but on one’s own. But we are much forced to learn how to see it as a positive thing, actually, the particularities of identities, people, goods, to see it as potentials, which oblige us to look for smaller solutions and those closer to home. We can call it Locality, the same one, which lies in the core of Integral Green Economics theory.



Looking closer to home and being very mundane and particular while doing it, at the same time seriously discarding spiritualistic compensations and substitutions for the lost Idea with a capital “I” and with no regard to whether we look at the past, as positive or just disappointing, there are some hard facts, so called POTENTIALS in local resources, the recognition and smart respectful use of which can ensure Maribor a future wellbeing. We are able to clearly identify such local resources and potentials of the city, which genuinely correspond to the needs of the city and its inhabitants:






Preservation of our Natural environment – The size of the city makes it perfect to put into practice sustainable mobility models, perhaps becoming the city of cyclers, combined with reinvented efficient public transport, which could largely lessen its current carbon footprint;- Green areas of the city, which there are many,* can be used for quality leisure and sports activities, which would not only raise the quality of living in Maribor, but would also have good touristic advantages,

* but also for food production

Strengthening Sustainable Local Food Supply – Outskirts of Maribor are full of small farms that can be joined in cooperatives with the purpose of supplying Maribor with safe local food and at the same time ensuring farmers their livelihood closely connected to preservation and cultivation of land, instead of being forced to look for other possibilities of livelihood and diminishing the potential of local food self-sustainability;- Green areas of the city can be transformed into Urban organic community gardens, which has also many proven positive social effects, especially in more degraded urban areas, where there is little infrastructure for quality time family activities and intergenerational communication.
New Job opportunities – Young people are highly educated end creative. We should not rely on solutions like looking for foreign investors to build subcontracting factories, which create low-paid manual jobs, while the profits go abroad, but create opportunities for the development of micro creative businesses, by ensuring funds for supporting start-ups;- Maribor has many initiatives (associations, self-employed and others), which already represent a strong potential for developing social economies in the city; 

– The industrial infrastructural heritage ensures enormous spaces for connecting interdependent entrepreneurship into wholesome community cooperative businesses.


 Quality housing –          Our industrial heritage has left us with degraded city areas and modes of massive housing, which do not ensure quality living connected to the green environment. On the other hand poorly calculated and excessive building processes in the last 20 years have left us with an     enormous number of empty buildings, which could be used or adapted for housing within a community based Housing Cooperatives.- Empty buildings could be transformed into energetically self sustainableEco buildings and new ones built, strictly corresponding the same principles.
Quality public services – Since Public or community institutions, the administration and its enterprises have become excessively expensive, we are confronted with inevitable reconceptualisation and reconstruction, which should result in less administratively exhausting,  time-consuming, open and “people-oriented” services;- The surpluses, which reconstruction of these enterprises could bring on, can be re-invested in the green projects in the city or ensure larger support to important work on social correctives brought on by the work of NGOs.
Stronger Democratic participation – Demonstrations in 2012 showed the will of Maribor’s inhabitants to be strongly involved in local policymaking.
The enhancement of Nature, Cultural and Conference tourism – Because of Maribor’s beautiful natural surroundings, interesting historical and cultural heritage and because of its geographical position on the juncture of roads connecting Central Europe with Southern Europe and Western Europe with the Pannonian plain, Maribor represents the gateway into the country as well as to the Balkans.- The Drava river still has two beautiful but mostly unused river embankments, which have the potential to be developed for leisure and tourism purposes.


Urban revival of the old city centre – At the heart of Maribor, there are many empty private and public buildings, where it is possible to cultivate new cultural, educational, entrepreneurial and touristic contents and revive the feeling of Maribor as a contemporary creative city
Strategic social inclusion of many and strongly disconnected groups of socially (economically, racially, culturally) excluded inhabitants – The programmes of civil society organisations in all fields are extremely advanced, inventive, socially responsive and of the highest quality, which is hindered mostly by constant lack of financial support that could be overcome by establishing appropriate Fundations for support of programmes in public interest. It is a great obstacle for developing an inclusive society in times, where there are only a few groups of Maribor’s inhabitants left, who couldn’t be qualified as those with fewer opportunities or socially excluded ones.




Of course these needs and already existing corresponding potentials are not all on which we could reconceptualise Maribor as a Green self-sustainable integral city. But, if we can make good and smart use of all this, we are well on our way.

In the case of Maribor, the fact of indecision about which of historical and other identities a city will adopt and build on, has an upside and is actually a positive one. We are at that stage, where we know, that none of them really has a potential to solely bring us any further into a brighter future and the contemporary crisis is not the place, where we really want to be stuck any further. So perhaps it is time to make up a new identity, integrating the former and all the potentials the present has to offer us in our hardcore city. People, working on the programmes of the Centre for alternative and autonomous production – CAAP in Maribor have started to develop many of the mentioned practices on a smaller scale. And I am happy to say that the results bring hope, that this approach is the right way to develop Maribor as a city.

However, we don’t really believe, that it is possible to bring on the true change, the kind that is needed, by employing the same costly strategies, which Maribor has employed until now – without much effect on people’s knowledge or actions. Through campaigns for raising awareness and educating inhabitants about the principles, methods and requirements of different developmental approaches, for instance.

We believe that we have to take the potentials people and the environment and history has left us with and without modelling it to our new paradigms and theoretical expectations, just offer opportunities for individual and community initiatives to become real. To be put into practice, with little or no red tape, quickly and effectively, systemically ensuring them the shortest possible paths between ideas and their material manifestations.

For Maribor’s identity, a wholesome approach to developing a socially and environmentally responsible economy, culture and society is needed. But right at the beginning of this tremendous process we first need a serious reconfiguration of our own personal attitudes towards each other as people. Finally, perhaps forced on by the unenviable situation this city is in, it is all about the change of attitude to each-other and the micro-differences we are willing and able to make, towards respectful, responsible and inclusive society.


Written by Polonca Podgoršek, programme co-ordinator, Centre of Alternative and Autonomous Production – CAAP



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2000 Maribor
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