The motto of the municipality of Bijeljina, a city of ca. 100.000 inhabitants in the north-east of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is “the City of Future”. It is with this approach that the city has been focusing since 2017 in promoting local sustainability through awareness raising activities on the 2030 Agenda and on the Sustainable Development Goals. This local engagement was also matched with international commitment such as the municipal partnership for sustainability focusing on inclusion that the city started in 2017 with its German partner municipality Langenhagen.
In October 2019 three representatives of the City of Bijeljina participated in the second day of the networking event of the Connective Cities German expert pool and had the opportunity to present its local mobility challenges and discuss those with the mobility experts attending the workshop. Following this first exchange the city had started developing the idea of a car-free zone in the city centre.
Furthermore, the city participated in two Connective Cities events (virtual dialogue event in June 2020 and project planning workshop in October 2020) as part of the learning process on climate resilience for the Southeast Europe and Caucasus region, where they could exchange with regional experts on the project idea.
Bijeljina took also part in a regional GIZ programme supporting municipalities in the Balkan countries to develop a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the process took a bit longer than expected but the City Council of Bijeljina was able to approve the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of the city in September 2020.
In December 2020 Bijeljina’s specific project ideas were supported by Connective Cities in the framework of a targeted virtual expert exchange over two sessions. In the first session the thematic focus was on the development of a car-free zone while the second session was dedicated to the development of a bike path network in the city. Two German experts from the cities of Leipzig and Stuttgart, who had met the Bijeljina colleagues in October 2019 in the first Connective Cities exchange, presented their local experiences on creating a car-free zone and developing bike paths. The four representatives of the municipality of Bijeljina, respectively from the Directorate for City construction and Development and from the Section for Local Economic Development and European Integration (coordinating the 2030 Agenda activities in the city), could showcase their recently implemented project developing a bike lane along the sides of a canal in the city.
The German experts could immediately provide recommendations based on the extensive range of photos illustrating the project that supported a better understanding of the local area and project. The local car-free zone project has not been implemented yet but the colleagues from Bijeljina presented recent upgrades implemented in the main square and in the city park making these public spaces more inclusive and barrier-free. A follow-up exchange is tentatively planned in spring 2021.