Cologne is Germany's fourth-biggest city in terms of population. Considering the popularity of cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich, what makes Cologne unique?
Cologne Cathedral is unique and it makes the city famous across the globe. Millions of visitors from every corner of the world come and visit our city every year in order to see this world heritage site. Many come also to celebrate the sensational Carnival. But Cologne is more than just that; the city is also an international business location, a leading trade-fair and conference venue, and is highly rated as being a great city to live in. People from over 180 different nations live here in Cologne, and the city’s globally open and tolerant atmosphere means that each of them feels right at home here.
Like many German cities, Cologne is receiving thousands of refugees from war-torn countries. There was an array of serious incidents that took place on New Year’s Eve involving women being robbed and sexually assaulted by large numbers of men purportedly from migrant communities. How are you working to integrate refugees into the city while also ensuring safety?
The events of New Year’s Eve have not led to any changes to Cologne’s integration policy and measures. The many Cologne citizens who have been voluntarily supporting the more than 40 initiatives in the city have continued to work to the same commitment as before, helping refugees integrate into Cologne’s city districts. Many have, however, developed a more realistic view of the situation. They know that among the many refugees who are looking for protection against war and persecution, there are also those among them who behave in a criminal manner. I have the impression that many people working voluntarily with refugees now keep a closer eye on things in this respect. Following the events of New Year’s Eve, the police and the city have examined how they co-operate and have intensified this further.
What are Cologne's biggest challenges in terms of achieving more FDI and job growth? In what areas can it do better, and how are you pursuing this?
In the last few years Cologne recorded an above-average increase in employment rates, while also increasing the awareness it enjoys among international investors. But there remain opportunities for improvement – Cologne must sharpen its profile and become more visible internationally. I think the city has all the qualities required in terms of location; investors just need to be made aware of these. Consequently we have started a branding process in conjunction with companies and associations to optimise our external communication. Together with exhibition centre Koelnmesse, for example, we want to attract five-star hotels to Cologne at the Expo Real as there is a need for such hotels in the city.
What is your vision for the city – where would you like to see Cologne in five years' time? And what are some of the big investment projects planned in the city in the near future, if any?
What I imagine for the city in five years’ time is that we will have successfully dealt with the growth, meaning that we will not only have created affordable housing for the population, but also the necessary jobs and infrastructure such as kindergartens and schools. We will have been successful in integrating refugees. We will have renewed our infrastructure, in particular our streets and bridges. Our biggest advantage here in Cologne is that we still have massive potential when it comes to developing our inner city area, such as, for example, the area known as 'MesseCity', where Zurich Versicherung Insurance company will locate new offices and employ almost 3000 people. The 'Deutzer Hafen' harbour also offers massive potential, and it will be redeveloped into a new city district with housing and businesses.