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Claudia Theresa Stahl

European Green Capital Award in Ljubljana: „It’s not just politics that win, it’s the whole mentality!“
Claudia Theresa Stahl (Anthropology/LMU Munich)

In 2014 Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city, was awarded the “European Green Capital Award”
by the European Commission for the year 2016. This paper – based on field work accomplished in 2015 – seeks to enlighten the interplay between (geo)political narratives and sustainable city planning with regard to the event of “European Green Capital Award” in Ljubljana. I am asking: Which values underlie an application for and an award as Europe’s ”green“ capital and how are these values treated at the level of the local government? I also critically question a specific concept of sustainability that seems to function as the underlying motivation of urban planning techniques in Ljubljana. Following the narratives of the experts in charge of the application for this title, both ethical and political ascriptions appear. Buzzwords like “healthy“, ”liveable”, ”smart” or ”green” appear within a discourse on the ”good“ and sustainable city of the future. Using the example of the public electronic bike sharing system BicikeLJ I show the interdependencies between sustainability, capitalism, and technology and their implications for BicikeLJ users.

Albeit the award is given for ”creating“ a city in accordance with the environment, economy, and society, European Green Capital Award becomes then locally entangled within a narrative of Slovenia’s (geo)political positioning. In it, the country is imagined as competitive towards (north)western (primarily “central European”) nations, and as avant-garde towards (south)eastern neighbouring states. In accordance with a concept of political ecology as “a perspective that seeks to understand who is involved in, and who benefits or loses from, how our environment is produced and reproduced“ I thus try to illuminate the highly complex relations between politics, life in the city and a specific imagination of the environment.