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Covenant of Mayors - Europe
News article21 September 2023

Making change a reality in the Slovenian city of Celje

In our fifth podcast episode of our series on Adaptation we discover the Slovenian city of Celje is counting on its natural assets and the support of European cohesion funds to become more resilient in the face of increasing heatwaves and floods.

Celje Slovenia

Celje is a mid-size city located in the Slovenian Alps, rich in historic and medieval heritage. As many cities in Slovenia, its proximity to the mountains means it benefits from lush green and natural surroundings, from rivers to forests. However, the old city center lacks green spaces, making the increasing heatwaves difficult to bear. Between rising temperatures and intensifying floods, Slovenian cities like Celja are focusing more and more on adapting to the changing climate.    

In our last podcast episode on Adaptaiton, we talked to Saša Heath-Drugovič from the city of Celje to see what this mid-sized medieval city is doing to preserve its natural surroundings and integrate them more actively in their city’s plan to respond to climate hazards. 

Saša is the President of the Committee for European Cohesion Policy and International Co-Operation at the Association of Municipalities of Slovenia (ZMOS) and Vice-President of the Expert Committee for Integrated Territorial Investment at the intermediate body Association of Urban Municipalities of Slovenia (PO ZMOS). In here roles, she has been at the forefront of Sustainable development in her country Slovenia. Also, as an expert in local governmental cooperation she has been instrumental in getting local sustainable initiatives kick-started, amongst them also adaptation actions.

Celje’s transformation

Celje has already been witness to a great transformation in the past decades, in large part thanks to European cohesion funds. From the restoration of its medieval castle and city centre, to the excavation of Roman ruins and development of green spaces, to the creation of biking and walking infrastructure in the city and its parks: Celje has used EU funds to both restore its past while building a more sustainable future. With regards to its sustainability plan, in the past years, the city has mainly focused on improving sustainable mobility and energy efficiency in buildings. With climate hazards intensifying daily, the city is now using the current financial period to open a new chapter on nature-based solutions to adapt to climate change. 

EU funds to finance sustainable action and change in Slovenian cities

Saša explains to us how Slovenia has found effective ways to channel EU funding to local sustainable action. In the previous financial period, Saša along with other passionate professionals working for sustainable urban development in Slovenia partnered with the Ministry to set up a platform of “Integrated Territorial Investment” (ITI) allowing EU funds to directly fund urban municipalities for specific projects. In the last period, Saša and her colleagues from the ITI platform were in charge of allocating 139 million euros to municipalities across the country, and this way funded over 100 projects in Slovenian cities of all sizes. With this bottom-up approach, cities propose directly which project they wish to implement and Mayors apply for the funds. 

This model is a great example of how the EU can directly support sustainable action at local level, with effective and essential facilitation at national level.

Tune into our podcast for more!

Listen to the full podcast episode to discover how Celje is using nature-based solutions to deal with floods and heatwaves, and get valuable insights on how cities can better absorb EU funds for their sustainable energy and action plans. 


Publication date
21 September 2023