Inter-Municipal Development Process ‘Lienzer Talboden’ Future Space

Oskar Januschke and Jasmina Steiner, City of Lienz

Alexandra Schantl, KDZ Centre for Public Administration Research Austria

Relevance of the Practice

The ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’[1] is a good example for urban-rural cooperation between 15 communities in a challenging geographical and topographical area situated in the Austrian alpine space on the border to Italy. It is aimed at working together to shape the future development and positioning of this area, as a competitive business and residential location in Tyrol. The ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’ includes one urban local government (ULG) and 14 rural local governments (RLGs).

Description of the Practice

Competitive Business and Residential Location in Tyrol as an Impetus for Development across the Region

In 2013, the 15 communities of Ainet, Amlach, Assling, Dölsach, Gaimberg, Iselsberg-Stronach, Lavant, Leisach, Lienz, Nikolsdorf, Nußdorf-Debant, Oberlienz, Schlaiten, Thurn and Tristach devised a joint strategic development process with the aim of achieving close urban-rural collaboration on infrastructure issues, settlement policy, business development and administrative cooperation.The external approach is focused on the area’s positioning as a focal point and trigger in the functional interconnected region including Upper Carinthia and the Pustertal valley in South Tyrol. The advantages and benefits of this strategic urban-rural design bring an increase in efficiency, effectiveness and agglomeration effects. The 15 communities in the ‘Lienzer Talboden’ encompass an area of 471 km², 28,000 inhabitants, a working population of around 18,000 and a high concentration of infrastructure, leisure and educational facilities, forming a social and commercial center in this inter-regional, inter-connected area. Its proximity to the border of South Tyrol/Italy highlight the special significance and responsibility of the ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’ as a focal point of infrastructure, momentum and innovation for the development of the surrounding region.

Process A spatial and thematically integrated approach to the development of 15 communities

Following the launch event in 2013, a comprehensive review of the strengths and development potential at an intra-regional level was carried out as part of a multi-stage development process, moderated and supervised by the Institute for Location, Regional and Municipal Development (ISK). Another step raised the question of ‘where do we want to and how can we collaborate closely in the future as the ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’, establishing and adapting the fields of activity for future collaboration between the 15 communities based on this and defining concrete measures.

Since May 2015, the result of this has been a proposal from the committees of the ‘Planungsverband 36’ planning association for an ‘integrated location and business development concept’ for the ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’ which represents a conceptual basis for implementing measures during the ongoing LEADER period. The mayors of the ‘Planungsverband 36’ association are working together on nine fields of activity – business development and area management, tourist destination and infrastructure development, collective transport policy, specialization in the education sector, administrative cooperation, joint management of sport and leisure facilities and coordinated cross-community energy policy measures – with each accomplishment reinforcing the inter-municipal cooperation between the 15 communities.

The spatially integrated approach for the ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’ will be defined in relation to neighboring regions as open and not territorially restricted. There is the potential to implement another step towards spatial cooperation in the spirit of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC)[2] through the urban-rural cooperation with Spittal an der Drau, Hermagor (Upper Carinthia) and Bruneck (South Tyrol/Italy) and to develop a strategic network for cross-border collaboration.

Regional Governance, Independent Development – From Conventional Management to Regional Conferences

Based on the experiences of the mayors and administrative bodies that political-administrative management, trust and understanding and transparency and tolerance represent key success factors in inter-municipal collaboration which extend beyond territorial community borders, the heads of the planning association for the development of the urban-rural collaboration as elected body devised and successfully applied a multi-stage regional governance approach with closed-session meetings, workshops, educational  excursions, formal association meetings, organizational consultations and decisions by the relevant communities (executive board and municipal council) through new information tools such as the ‘regional conferences’ as a discussion and consultation forum for the representatives of the 15 member communities. The development process will be formally supported by the ‘Planungsverband 36, Lienz und Umgebung’ association – a municipal association established in accordance with the Tyrolean Spatial Planning Law. The whole process is financed by the ‘Planungsverband 36’ and the ‘Lienz und Umgebung’ association through membership fees of the municipalities, with EU funding through Interreg and LEADER and with financial support of the Land Tyrol. Furthermore, the City of Lienz is providing human resources (personnel) to managing the process.

According to the European Union definition, the term ‘governance’ can be understood as follows: ‘(…) rules, processes and behavior that affect the way in which powers are exercised at European level, particularly as regards openness, participation, accountability and coherence (…)’.[3] At the level of the planning association, this means in particular that regional experiences and conditions must be taken into account in the development of political suggestions. In order to apply this approach to the ‘Planungsverband 36, Lienz und Umgebung’, a regional governance structure was developed for the ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’ as part of the inter-municipal development process, focusing both on a bottom-up and top-down principle and which can subsequently be expanded to a multi-level governance system, enabling the ‘Planungsverband 36, Lienz und Umgebung’ association to position itself in strategic and organizational terms as a transnational organizational unit and therefore making the location of these 15 communities more attractive and competitive. The following overview presents the regional governance approach of the ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’.

The regional governance approach of the ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’ involves a regional conference at the top-down principle level to which all local councilors will be invited to find out more about the project and regional developments, so that they can then reach unanimous decisions in the respective council meetings, wherever possible. The mayor conference level includes both association committee and association meetings. During these meetings, recommendations from the working groups will be discussed in regards to the following courses of action in the projects which were collectively devised during the initial phase of the inter- municipal development process and decided upon by the ‘Planungsverband 36, Lienz und Umgebung’. To conclude, the development process combines and applies formal (Gemeindeverband) and informal (round tables, conferences etc.) cooperation forms and tools. However, it has been for the first time that an inter-municipal cooperation has become a registered trademark (‘Zukunftsraum Lienzer Talboden’) which facilitates both marketing and communication.

Figure 1: Regional Governance ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’[4]

Assessment of the Practice

In the tradition of inter-municipal cooperation in Austria the example of ‘Lienzer Talboden future space’ on the one hand contributes to reinforcing the inter-municipal cooperation between 15 municipalities in a challenging topographical Austrian area. On the other hand, it meets the relatively new approach in Austria to further developing and strengthening functional areas[5]. This is also in line with the increasing importance of functional areas and Macro regions (e.g. Alpine Space) in the EU-context. With its governance approach and the wide range of cooperation fields this example furthermore relates to all other report sections of the Austrian Country Report.

References to Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications

Schantl A, Hochholdinger N and Rücker L, ‘Stadtregionen in Österreich. Regionale Solidarität als Voraussetzung‘ (2019) 2 Forum Public Management 18        <>

—— ‘Stadtregionen anerkennen‘ (2018) 3 Forum Public Management 10 <> Website of the ‘Zukunftsraum Lienzer Talboden‘     <>

[1] See KDZ, ‘Zukunftrsraum Lienzer Talboden‘ (, 2019) <> accessed 7 November 2019.

[2] European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), tool for cross-border cooperation and collaboration.

[3] Commission of the European Communities, ‘European Governance A White Paper’ COM(2001) 428, 1.

[4] Planungsverband 36, ‘Lienz und Umgebung‘ (2018).

[5] See Österreichische Raumordnungskonferenz ÖROK, ‘Kooperationsplattform Stadtregionen‘ (ÖROK, 2020) <>; —— ‘Regionale Handlungsebene stärken‘ (ÖROK, 2020) <> accessed 20 November 2019.