New Traditions


Aspen Transatlantic Mayors Summit - April 6 - 8, 2000


Mayors from France, Germany and the U.S. meet in Lyon for the first Transatlantic Summit of Mayors. Berlin will be the site of the next summit in May 2001

In cooperation with the U.S. Embassies in Berlin and Paris, the Aspen Institute France, the Aspen Institute Berlin and the U.S. Conference of Mayors held a conference on "Smart Growth - Problems of Urban Development in the 21st Century." Mayors from the U.S., Germany and France met for three days in Lyon France to discuss how globalization affects urban development. The summit also included experts on urban planning and development from international organizations, research institutions, and think tanks.

Mayor of Lyon and former French Prime Minister Raymond Barre opens a session on "Smart Growth - Urban Issues for the 21st century"

After an opening reception in the impressive atmosphere of Lyon's city hall, Raymond Barre, the Mayor of Lyon and former Prime Minister of France, opened the conference by presenting an overview of issues for the discussion. He noted that globalization affects mayors in fundamental ways because it generates challenges for economic development and can strain the social cohesion of cities and communities. However, he added that new opportunities would inevitably arise from the increased competition resulting from globalization.

The mayors agreed that their own role is changing as a result of globalization. They are no longer the traditional city planners of the past 100 years, but rather ombudsmen and innovative leaders of important communities and regions. Mayors can no longer afford to deal only with local stakeholders. They conduct their own foreign policy in an environment that sets local issues on the agenda of local politics. Ambassador John Kornblum strongly encouraged mayors to ignore the admonishments of foreign ministries not to engage in foreign affairs. For the good of their citizens, mayors will increasingly enter the international arena and become global players. The network resulting from the Aspen Transatlantic Summit series provides a forum for a sustainable international dialogue among mayors to discuss common challenges, exchange best practices, and promote international understanding.

Bonn Mayor Bärbel Dieckmann and Denver Mayor Wellington Webb

In subsequent sessions and at working lunches, the mayors shared the challenges they face and new strategies to address them. The very real question of how to attract businesses that are no longer bound to a geographic area was an issue of common concern. Discussions of how cities can be made more attractive and livable included challenges with respect to education, clean and safe environments, and cultural opportunities. Mayors reported on best practices they have employed and which might serve as models for others.

The issue which generated the most intense discussion was the question of how to successfully assimilate immigrants and minorities into existing communities. What is the recipe for a multicultural society? All present agreed that this was one of the most important issues facing them today and in the future, and that this topic should be the focus for the next summit meeting in Berlin in 2001. Aspen Institute Berlin has begun coordination for the second volume in the three-part series, which takes place under the umbrella of the New Traditions Network.