Other international spearheads and priorities
In addition to the 4 international top priorities, the international policy also focuses on a few additional action points.
Attracting and retaining international talent
Ghent and the region face the challenge of considerable investments in attracting and retaining international talent.
Ghent’s ambition to become a European technology capital, Capital of Culture and Youth Capital will require the presence, attraction and retention of international talent as an absolute precondition. A growing number of international talents are finding their way to Ghent. They move to this city to study, obtain a doctoral degree, start up a business or find employment in the region and come into contact with other expats and locals, engage in culture and sports, enjoy themselves during the Ghent Festivities … In short: they are new Ghentians who have settled here permanently or temporarily.
Investment in the North Sea Port District
The 2018 merger of the port of Ghent and its Zeelandic partner, Zeeland Seaports, in combination with smooth administrative contacts within the context of the consultation between the municipalities in the canal area resulted in the realisation that the new port’s economic growth depends on a dynamic region, and vice versa. Launched in August 2019, the cross-border project with the working title ‘North Sea Port District’ promotes cooperation in the wider North Sea Port area and explores how this cooperation can take shape.”
An open door to the European Union
The European Union is an important factor in the achievement of the 4 top priorities and the other urban objectives. Not just because the EU has the necessary resources, but mostly because we see an opportunity for linking our priorities to those of the European Commission.
For cities such as Ghent, Europe is perhaps the principal partner in terms of international policy. This unique cooperation project has brought us peace, prosperity and security. We adopt a great deal of EU legislation at a local level, so the strategic importance of in-depth knowledge of the European policy topics and of proactive participation in the European agenda setting process should not be underestimated. With 450 million inhabitants (after Brexit), the European Union is also an important player on the world stage, a preferential trading partner, a guardian of human rights and a diplomatic global actor.
The Strategic Subsidy department of our organisation examines, within the scope of the strategic and financial multi-annual planning, how the European subsidy flows (e.g. ERDF, ESF, Green Deal) can be used best and supports other city services and stakeholders within the Groep Gent to develop partnerships and draw up, submit and efficiently implement projects within the most appropriate programme.
The sustainable development goals (SDGs)
As mentioned above, we take into account the European policy context for the Ghent top priorities and objectives. However, the world is bigger than Belgium and Europe. The interdependence is equally situated on a global scale. Ghent actively works on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN, not only within the city, but wherever possible and relevant, our city will expressly state its support in international forums. Every year, we publish a sustainability report. The first version was issued in 2020.
International policy in partnership
For the realisation of the international top priorities and the other priorities, we are closely working together with local stakeholders. We keep our finger on the pulse and engage in an open dialogue via existing or yet to be launched consultation platforms with relevant stakeholders such as the Ghent Economic Board, the partners in the Labour Pact, Community Ghent and the consultation platform Kunstenoverleg, and we will explore how to cooperate and enhance each other at an international level. A good example of such an intensive cooperation is the establishment of the Higher Education Cluster Internationalisation between the City of Ghent and the higher education institutions active in Ghent.
International networks (e.g. Eurocities) offer the City the opportunity to establish contacts in several urban policy areas that are interesting to Ghent. The City of Ghent is a member of approximately 42 different international and European networks, and this number has been rising steadily since 1993. Membership is based on a well-informed choice and is frequently evaluated.
In order to use diplomatic receptions of ambassadors even more as a policy instrument and to make the most of the possible opportunities these receptions can create, we have opted for a more proactive approach in which we invite ambassadors whose contacts may be of interest to the City of Ghent (Groep Gent) and/or to its strategic partners on our own initiative. We want to balance the receptions we 'have to’ organise (reactive) and the receptions we ‘want’ to organise (proactive).
Over the coming years, Ghent will continue to participate in foreign outbound trade missions and other image-defining events (e.g. exhibitions, niche events and partnership events). Those events can be organised and coordinated by the Flemish or Belgian authorities or other partners (e.g. Flemish employers' organisation VOKA and North Sea Port). In addition, we may also organise our own, individual missions.
The City of Ghent has 7 official sister cities (Kanazawa in Japan, Tallinn in Estonia, Wiesbaden and Melle in Germany, Nottingham in the UK, Mohammedia in Morocco and Saint-Raphaël in France) and 5 official partner cities (Gdansk in Poland, Burgas in Bulgaria, Weihai and Taizhou in China and Liège in Belgium). We reorient, improve and deepen the cooperation and, will invest mainly in international networks and projects with one or several cities.
International communication and marketing
Ghent has a wide range of communication tools and wants to use them not only to put the city in the international spotlight, but also (via communication channels, events and campaigns) to involve citizens and other stakeholders more in international topics that are important to our city. Ghent is promoted is in line with the city’s brand policy. Within this context, a reassessed city marketing fund with an international focus is a very important tool. In practice, this includes: a new brand policy that generates international added value, internationalising the city marketing fund, launch of the strategy relating to international awards, international conferences, internationalising citizen participation and active communication about Ghent's international policy.
An international municipal organisation
A high-performing international policy is based on a management and an organisation that focus on working internationally and attracting international profiles: internationalising city staff, supporting services that show of have international ambitions and making official trips abroad more sustainable.