Zoran Jankovic, re-elected as Mayor of Ljubljana on 11 April 2012

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Mayor of the Month for December 2011*
Ljubljana Mayor
Zoran Jankovic

Profile by Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

2 July 2012*: Zoran Jankovic has been mayor of Slovenian capital Ljubljana since October 2006 when he secured 63 per cent of the votes in the first round of balloting. In October 2010 he was re-elected, also in the first round, with a share of the vote close to 65 per cent. His personal popularity helped his list colleagues to a majority of council seats and subsequently helped his party Positive Slovenia to win sufficient support to become the largest party in the National Assembly in the 2011 parliamentary elections.

Although Mayor Jankovic was thought likely to become prime minister the attempt to form a centre-left majority was unsuccessful so he contested a third election as a candidate for mayor of Ljubljana in March 2012. He won, again in the first round, with 61% of the votes. He was sworn in once again as mayor on April 11th 2012. He has been shortlisted for the 2012 World Mayor Prize.

During his first term as mayor, Zoran Jankovic was instrumental in securing for the city the UNESCO World Book Capital title, which it held in 2010. Other recent recognition has included 5th most liveable place to live in Europe in a Forbes list and in European Commission data Ljubljana is rated as the safest city in South East Europe.

At a personal level, Zoran Jankovic impressed French newspaper Liberation enough to be the only city mayor on their list of 36 people in the EU to watch out for which was published to coincide with the beginning of the French EU presidency in July 2008.

During his first term Ljubljana was recognised as a Local Authority tailor-made for People with Disabilities and became a member of the WHO Age-Friendly Cities Project.

In 2009 the city opened a Centre for Urban Culture and this has been one of several cultural hardware and software investments realised or in the pipeline under Mayor Jankovic’s leadership. These include the Trubar House of Literature and the Tobacna 001 Cultural Centre.

The largest capital scheme so far, the Stozice Sports Centre, has blazed the trail for PPP schemes in Slovenia and Mayor Jankovic’s ambitious clean city vision has taken a big step forward with the introduction of the first two phases of a comprehensive Regional Centre for Waste Management.

He and his team had faced a major financial challenge from the beginning. The government of Slovenia adopted new local authority financing legislation, which had the effect of reducing funds available to the city by over 30 per cent.  Ever since he has overseen a process, which has protected the level of funds available for priority activities including health, social work, education and culture and sport. The budgets for 2011 and 2012 include increases for some key departments.

Zoran Jankovic told City Mayors that he was personally most proud of the public realm and environmental improvement schemes delivered during his first term. These include the creation of attractive meeting and socialising areas on the banks of the river Ljubljana, pedestrianisation of core city streetscapes and the creation of a new park at a formerly degraded site.

In total, during the four years the city added more than 15 hectares of green areas mostly on formerly derelict sites.  Half of the surface area controlled by the City Council is green space.
The bus fleet has been modernised in recent years and new park and ride sites have been established on the outskirts. Bus users in Ljubljana and surrounding districts can make use of a contactless smart card for payment.
His ambitions for his second term reflect his sustainable credentials too. “We would like to see Ljubljana become the cleanest city in Europe,” he told City Mayors. “And we will continue efforts to enhance sustainable mobility in the city.”

An early enhancement in term two was the 2011 introduction of a cycle hire system in Ljubljana. During this second term Mayor Jankovic will oversee more park and ride sites, more bus lanes and stricter regulation of the use of parking garages. The principal transport interchange is being upgraded to become a significant hub for city, inter-city and regional transport by both rail and bus.  

The biggest project in the second term priorities list in the cultural sector is the Rog Contemporary Arts Centre. Other capital schemes in development will provide new swimming and opera facilities.

Efforts to promote tolerance and multi-culturalism in Ljubljana during the Jankovic era have included purchasing land for a future mosque and cultural centre and by funding NGO’s to support the vulnerable, especially the Roma peoples and other migrants from former Yugoslavia.

“My colleagues and l agree that culture and sport are the most effective methods for reducing racism and encouraging tolerance,“ he says. “For example, every year the city hosts the film festival LIFFE and the traditional music and culture Ljubljana Festival and a well-established city marathon which in 2010 drew 18,000 participants from 35 countries.”

The city council investment in the multi-purpose Stozice Sports Centre, which includes an arena for large-scale entertainment, has been supplemented by support for more local sports facilities around the neighbourhoods.

Achieving the cleanest city in Europe rating will be difficult in the present financial situation. It will involve Ljubljana completing the renovation of its municipal infrastructure and run water and sewerage pipes in to every home in the city and to establish more local water treatment plants.  

The third phase of the Regional Centre for Waste Management, which is the major part introducing modern treatment facilities for all materials, is expected to go in to operation in 2015.

The first area of sewerage network improvement was Rakova Jelsa, completed in 2010. The whole city is likely to be enhanced by 2017. The City Council will also provide financial support towards the re-modelling of Ljubljana Thermoelectrical Plant in order to secure long-term electrical and thermal energy assurance.

Zoran Jankovic left Slovenia’s largest company, retailer Mercator, in November 2005 after eight successful years as its CEO. Two of the city’s deputy mayors are also people from Mercator.

The mayor says that the structure of decision making in the city has effective checks and balances and that Mercator is treated the same as all other companies and individuals in need of permits. He says that the approach to governance in Ljubljana is highly transparent with all contracts awarded after public tendering processes and open negotiations, which even members of the public can attend. There are independent oversight bodies at both city and state levels and within the administration itself the structure embraces considerable specialisation.

The city also has a system of significant devolution with many local decisions taken by the 17 district authorities within the city boundaries. There are direct elections to these local bodies by those living within the boundaries.   

That said, when Mayor Jankovic and his allies came in they conducted a major re-organisation of the city council, which in some ways has made its operations more akin to those of a major corporate. He says the city administration now has a more outcomes focus and more of a project orientation.

The mayor connects his accountability to the citizens of Ljubljana to his own pocket. That part of his remuneration, which reflects annual poll ratings of citizens who do not approve of him is donated to charity. Fortunately for his family, his approval ratings in each of the last three years have been between 80 – 90 per cent.

He makes accessibility a high priority with his open door days. Once a month he allocates his entire working day to meeting with those residents who want to have a conversation with him. In his first four and a half years in office he had meetings with over 7,000 residents. He also agrees, if requested, to visit people in their homes and sometimes has been able to resolve long-running neighbour disputes. 

Before joining Mercator Zoran Jankovic ran his own business, Electa, for several years. During the 1970’s and 1980’s he had a broad swathe of private sector experience.

Zoran Jankovic, who was born in 1953, is the President of the Alumni Club of the Faculty of Economics at Ljubljana University. He graduated from there in 1978. He is married to Mija Jankovic and is a parent and grandparent.

He cites Vienna and Barcelona as two cities, which have had the most impact in the recent past on how Ljubljana is run. He says “for management we look to Vienna which has exceptionally good leadership and with whom we co-operate closely. For lifestyle and in terms of the soul of the city we are close to Barcelona.”

But the mayor is convinced that his beloved Ljubljana is up there with the best. “For me Ljubljana is the most beautiful city in the world. I am extremely proud and we will strengthen it further in the future.”

* This article was originally written in November 2011 and updated in June 2012

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