SDG Story: Bratislava

Where are we coming from?

Even though the first mention of Bratislava appears in 907, Bratislava is one of the youngest capitals in Europe (1993).

At the same time, it is a city with a rich history dating back to two thousand years ago as evidenced by the ruins of the ancient Limes Romanum fortification along the Danube River.

Throughout the historical development of state borders and the city’s affiliation to the Austria-Hungary empire, Bratislava has been known under various names according to the official language of the state at that time, such as Prešporok, Pressburg or Pozsony.

 

The population of Bratislava had been cosmopolitan for centuries; however, this trend was disrupted by the events of World War II and the years that followed. The monuments to the Jewish population did not disappear until the 1970s during the construction of the bypass of the city centre, but the tomb of Chatam Sofer remained a destination for pilgrims.

 

Bratislava as we know it today is situated in Central Europe in Western Slovakia, in an eccentric position to the territory of Slovakia, at the crossroads of ancient trade routes and lies on the border of the Little Carpathians and the Pannonian Plain. The Danube River, the longest in the European Union, flows through Bratislava, which connects it with Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia and Romania with an inflow into the Black Sea.

 

Where are we now?

 

Bratislava is the capital as well as the largest city of Slovakia with 440 948 (12/2020) inhabitants. In addition to the official population of the city, another 150 000- 200 000 inhabitants are temporarily living in the city during the work week and another 150 000 people are commuting daily for work.

With 28 % of total GDP of Slovakia, Bratislava region is also its economic engine. Bratislava is known for automotive industry, IT sector, oil processing industry, gas storage and distribution and many others.

 

The concentration of population creates pressure on housing and costs of living in general. Unfortunately, housing is becoming unaffordable to some population groups, which reduces the competitiveness of the city to maintain the most educated and progressive part of the population and to resist “brain drain” driven by the general higher standard of living.

 

The combination of increasing population working in the city with the housing problems resulted in an agonizing urban sprawl over the last 10 years. The main cause is the administrative complexity of the construction process in the city (2 administrative levels) in comparison with a relatively simple process in the surrounding municipalities.

 

Urban sprawl, insufficient competitiveness of public transport in relation to individual car transport, incomplete cycling infrastructure and barriers for pedestrians resulted in large usage of individual car transport, heavy traffic, unregulated parking and negative impacts on the environment.

The city of Bratislava has always been the industrial centre, which left many technical monuments and areas as well as brown fields burdened by industrial activity. The brownfield on the edge of the city centre has only been redeveloped in the last decade. Despite the lucrative location, removing environmental burdens limited the development of the area. A similar case concerns other localities in the city, which do not allow for consistent territorial development of the city and represent a risk to public health.

 

The Little Carpathians, Danube River and vineyards are an integral part of the city’s identity. They function as a cooling element as well as a recreationally important area for residents and visitors.

 

The city emphasizes processes of public participation in its activities by inviting citizens to participate and to co-create public policies and public spaces. The Metropolitan Institute of Bratislava (MIB) was established for the purpose of improving work with the public and public space.

Partnerships with local governments are very demanding in Slovakia due to the incomplete decentralization of public administration and a significant dependence on state funding - 80% of local government revenues come from state transfers. Municipalities are perceived by the state as subordinate and by the private sector as inflexible. The vast majority of investment expenditures are covered by ESI Funds, which are very limited in Bratislava because of the more developed region classification.


 

Where are we going?

 

Bratislava as a metropole. (SDG 8, 17)

 

Bratislava in 2031 is a city that actively leverages its unique position and identity as a metropole of the CEE region given by its geographical proximity to Vienna, Brno and Budapest. This position enables Bratislava to build strategic European partnerships that drive collaboration and sharing of resources, workers and knowledge, making Bratislava an attractive base for living and working for international as well as domestic talent.

 

 

 

Bratislava as an accessible city. (3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11)

 

 

In 2031, Bratislava develops as a city based on the principles of compact urban planning that ensures accessibility of core services and activities to all of its citizens. Well-equipped neighbourhoods are a key strength, providing their inhabitants with core amenities, services and public spaces within a comfortable walking distance.

Public passenger transport is the preferred mean of transportation enabled by a quality network of tram and trolleybus lines. Inhabitants and visitors also enjoy moving around using shared forms of accessible green transport. The planning of transport and public spaces according to the principles of complete streets policy ensures safe and comfortable citizen transit. The city is connected through a continuous network of segregated cycling paths. Pedestrian safety is supported by low traffic streets, respectively 20 and 30 zones and expanding areas of pedestrian zones.

The resilience and sustainability of the city are achieved by reusing the brownfields for new developments with effective density. However, the 15-minutes city principles are applied to all new development projects.

 

Apart from having close access to schools, libraries, sports grounds, cultural activities or public spaces, inhabitants are also using a dense network of shared community gardens, which forms a vital backbone of living neighbourhoods and a place to meet, interact and share. They also represent the first step towards self-sufficiency through the local food supply.

The city intentionally supports the social diversity of the neighbourhoods, providing quality social services and building a fund of affordable rental housing. Bratislava approaches the development of their historically and socially significant neighbourhoods with care, helping to preserve as well as to develop their identity.


 

Bratislava as a resilient city in the era of climate change. (SDG 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16)

 

 

In 2031, Bratislava actively protects the environment and the health of its citizens. The city focuses on the protection of water, soil, atmosphere, biodiversity and waste management. Urban planning places importance on applying measurements that mitigate the impact of climate change.

Bratislava has clearly defined climate zones that enable the city to effectively implement adaptation measures on its territory. The eco-index is used as a legally binding document for urban planning. It evaluates and summarizes the types and amount of necessary adaptation measures for functional areas (such as vulnerability to torrential rain, floods, green rooftops, etc.).

 

The territory of Bratislava does not exceed average yearly limits for pollutants NO2 and O3. The city's government protects its inhabitants against noise pollution and applies measures against soil degradation at all of its lots. Data concerning the state of the atmosphere are collected through smart meters distributed mainly in the critical locations of the city.

 

A resilience officer with a team of experts in the field of resilience and crisis management, climate change, and other threats actively develops measures to mitigate the impact of climate change as well as operate a warning system against extreme weather events.

 

The territory of Bratislava has several extensive unique natural areas. The city acknowledges the value of these areas and intentionally acts to protect and improve them. In addition to the already existing areas, the city has attached another one "Mesto na pravom brehu Dunaja - Bratislavský Dunajský Park" (The city on the right bank of the Danube - Bratislava Danube Park) with the status of significant natural, cultural and recreational area of the city. This area functions as an important cooling element that mitigates the impact of climate change as well as offers its citizens a place where they can spend quality and healthy free time.
 

 

Bratislava as a caring city. (SDG 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11)

 

 

The way that Bratislava defines the development of a healthy city that promotes the well-being of its citizens includes the protection and development of natural areas as well as developments in the areas of education, culture and sport which significantly impact the quality of life, health, and life expectancy of the population. The city focuses on improving accessibility and expanding the range of formats and opportunities in all of the areas.

The city itself acts as a role model in a conscious behaviour towards the environment. Public buildings in the city's ownership are energy efficient; the procurement of all the goods and services follows the principles of green public procurement. Re-use centres are built in every district to motivate people towards more conscious consumption behaviour and function as centres for the circular economy.

In addition, all city events are organised as 'zero-waste' and actively promote waste prevention.


 

Bratislava as an effectively managed city. (SDG 5, 9, 16, 17)

 

 

Bratislava in 2031 is a city that is managed in a modern, effective and transparent way. The city leadership and management consists of quality project managers combined with experts in each field, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration between all sectors (instead of working in silos) and effective use of local and EU resources.

 

The composition of the leadership as well as all the teams working in the public city sector show diversity and inclusion with no gender pay gap.

The management of the city is perceived as open, sympathetic and sovereign. Bratislava actively follows the participatory approach in collaboration with its citizens, academia, local businesses and partners in the non-profit sector to design a city with opportunities for quality living, working and entrepreneurship.

 

The day-to-day functioning of the city is built on a solid data-driven digital infrastructure. Communication with citizens as well as between the institutions is fast, paperless, and automated, where possible. Digital infrastructure is equal in its priority to the physical one. The city has its own appointed Chief Digital Officer who ensures that all digital outputs are designed around citizens' needs, following the principles of human-centred design.

 

Digital inclusivity is a priority, ensuring that all digital products and services that the city provides can be accessed by all citizens, regardless of their disability. All city services and communication are finally fully accessible for non-Slovak speakers.

The city management and decision-making are based on real-time data as well as on patterns collected over time. The city has built a solid skill and tech capacity to be able to collect and analyze key data from its citizens and sensors around the city.


 

Bratislava as an equal and democratic city. (SDG 4, 5, 8, 10, 16)

 

 

What makes Bratislava a good place for living is that unlike in its past, it is focused on the aspect of quality in all of its services. This requires a comprehensive knowledge of the specific citizen groups that the city engages and works with. Participatory planning and an intentional usability approach with an emphasis on respect, diversity and fairness are the core values that the city communicates and manifests in practice through its activities.

The city has appointed teams of advisers for equality, diversity and inclusion who focus on mapping the needs of citizen groups and translating these into the design of services, communication and overall strategic investment planning.

Bratislava is aware of its more vulnerable neighbourhoods and consciously invests in them in order to offer the highest quality environment and services for inhabitants with lower income or other disabilities. Bratislava has also increased its competency and collaboration with individual districts and the county in order to achieve the same standard of quality of services in all districts of the city.

In 2031, Bratislava is a city without prejudice, open to everyone, Slovak or foreign, who chooses to call it their home.

 

Bratislava identifies itself as the capital city of Slovakia, a Central European crossroad, a city that acts as the border of the country as well as an open gate to the Central European region. It offers an alternative to rising nationalism tendencies in this region - this is the path that Bratislava has chosen a long time ago when together with Prague, Budapest and Warsaw founded the Pact of Free Cities. Since then, this network has gradually expanded with tens of new cities and forms an effective backbone of lived democracy in Europe.

 

Submitted by Karin Luhaäär on 10/03/2022
Author image

Karin Luhaäär

See all articles