ASSET (Action to Strengthen Small European Towns)

6. Professor Dr Ralf Bokermann, from ECOVAST Germany, described his published work on German small towns (up to 7000 inhabitants) in different types of rural areas, covering analysis of features and problems as well as implementation of local action areas.  Since 1972 (in eastern Germany since 1992) there had been a focus on local government, public and private infrastructure in small towns and surrounding villages. This strengthened rural micro-regions as centre points. Since about 1990, there had been an increasing tendency of migration and massive job losses. Small towns had little in-migration.

7. Dr Arthur Spiegler, of ECOVAST Austria, gave a presentation on the characteristics of historic towns in Austria.

The characteristic elements of small towns were illustrated, as handed down from their long lasting history and their current role. They had a part to play in the future of regions and landscapes of Europe.

He pointed to the dangers in taking the population of the historic core as a criterion for defining a small town / historic town, giving the example of the historical town of St. Veit in Carinthia. The present municipality counts about 14,000 inhabitants and is as such a small town. But the municipality also includes some of the surrounding small settlements (cadastral). The city itself has about 7,500 inhabitants and in the "historical centre" now live about 1,400 inhabitants.

He called for further discussion on the question of how many of today's small towns are "historic small towns" (within the meaning of the above criteria). For Austria, he estimated that might be about 90%.

This session was chaired, in turn, by Valerie Carter (President ECOVAST); Phil Turner (ECOVAST UK Section); and Angus Fowler (ECOVAST Germany). The purpose of this session was to look at the programmes and policies in Europe on small towns and what should be the next steps taken after the end of this seminar in Potsdam.

8. Valerie welcomed everyone to this second session.  A message was then read out from Prof. Dr.-Ing.Hagen Eyink, Head of rural infrastructure, cultural landscapes at the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, Berlin.



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