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European Commission

Janez Potočnik

Commissioner for Environment

European Green Capital Award 2014 – workshop

Palacio Villa Suso / Vitoria – Gasteiz (Spain)

29 June 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mayor Maroto,

It is a pleasure for me to be with you today in the European Green Capital of 2012. Together with the other winners of the European Green Capital Award, Victoria-Gasteiz is a wonderful example of how much each single city can do to preserve our natural heritage. Because, after all, this is what the European Green Capital Award is about: rewarding and supporting those cities that best show how social, economic and environmental interests can meet to safeguard our common heritage and ensure a better future for all.

The European Green Capital Award was only launched four years ago, but its fruits are already visible. Just look at what Victoria-Gasteiz, Hamburg and Stockholm have done in such a short time. Can you imagine what we could achieve if every European city would set the same ambitious standards?

Last week, at the United Nations' Conference on Sustainable Development, world leaders agreed on the need to move towards sustainable development and recognised the central role of an inclusive green economy to achieve this. The EU has worked hard to secure a positive outcome and world engagement in key areas such as water, oceans, land and ecosystems, food and sustainable consumption and production. Our planet's natural resources are already under enormous strain. As world population continues to grow - if we want to ensure the survival of future generations - we have no choice, but to start living within the limits of our planet… And this commitment… will enhance our ability to manage the planet's natural resources sustainably and to do that.

Maybe the Rio+20 Conference did not bring all of the results we were hoping for at global level, but it did set in motion a process that will start a transition towards a green economy; an economy that places social, economic and environmental interests on an equal footing; an economy that respects the limits of our planet.

I strongly believe that European Cities can in many ways be the engine of this transition, because of the power of innovation that people living in cities can generate. Cities are where change happens and has the greatest impact. Many of you are already moving in this direction. Many of you have already developed innovative ideas to take up the challenge of combining economic growth and quality of life with sustainable urban development.

But you are still too few.

These local 'success stories' need to be replicated and scaled up. And today's Workshop offers the perfect opportunity to do this. Cities differ enormously and sharing concrete examples of what a European Green Capital can look like is essential if we want to make real progress. (So) thank you Vitoria-Gasteiz for organizing this Workshop and giving us this opportunity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Green Capital Award is our way of thanking the most proactive cities for their important contribution.

The Award gives the winners global recognition, visibility and exposure to foreign inward investors, politicians and policy makers. The first European Green Capital, Stockholm, for example, attended almost 80 events across Europe, China and the United States and welcomed 120 international delegations following its nomination. Hamburg, our 2011 winner, built a 'Train of Ideas' that visited 18 cities around Europe, raising awareness on its environmental achievements among stakeholders and the wider public.

But the Award also gives the winners local recognition and visibility, allowing cities to engage their communities, businesses, associations, experts, researchers and academics. Vitoria-Gasteiz, for example, did this very successfully through its awareness- raising initiative “Verde por fuera-Verde por dentro”, that reached out to the entire population. Or, similarly and just as successfully, Nantes, the holder of the 2013 title, mobilised 150 families and will involve 600,000 residents through its Climate Citizens' Workshop initiative.

But … these cities will tell us about their experiences themselves later today. I look forward to hearing directly from all of them and learning how they have benefitted from being a European Green Capital.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Everything we do in our cities is intrinsically linked. Each of the European Green Capital Award’s 12 indicators plays a vital role in our cities’ future sustainability.

I look forward to learning directly from the representatives of Bristol, Copenhagen and Frankfurt this morning, about the efforts they have made to green their cities – before we find out which of the three shortlisted cities is to be nominated European Green Capital for 2014 at tonight’s gala dinner.

Before concluding, allow me to welcome all of you once again and encourage all past, present and future European Green Capitals to continue sharing their experiences and success stories. To continue setting the example for all of us. To continue leading the way towards the future we want.

Thank you for the excellent work and thank you for your attention.

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