The DHL project ranks as one of Europe’s largest FDI deals over the past 12 months and Mr Tiefensee was instrumental in landing it.

“In the 15 years since the revolution, which started in Leipzig and finally led to the fall of the East German communist regime, we have achieved an enormous amount,” Mr Tiefensee says. “In a comparatively short time, €25bn has been invested in the infrastructure of the region. All European centres of population are now accessible without difficulty – by rail, road or the 24-hour airport Leipzig/Halle.

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“These conditions have convinced big names in the motor industry, such as BMW and Porsche, that Leipzig is a first-rate relocation city for the car industry.”

Road to recovery

This is no small transformation for a city that suffered the loss of more than 90% of its industrial jobs after reunification in the early 1990s, having previously been one of the former East Germany’s industrial centres. And this transformation can be traced back to Mr Tiefensee’s diligent and very successful efforts to attract FDI to Leipzig and to raise its international profile.

The mayor has played a key role in positioning Leipzig internationally, for example through its Olympics application and as a venue for next year’s football World Cup. Leipzig was narrowly defeated as a potential German candidate for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This was obviously a big disappointment, but its candidacy had the positive effect of initiating numerous infrastructure projects and road-building programmes that might not have happened or been given such high priority otherwise.

“The federal, state and city governments, within the framework of the Olympic Priority Programme, had made available a total of €308m,” the mayor explains. “The city, already rich in tradition, with its business connections, international fair and its university, has shown impressive development since the political changes of 1989. These investments have given it a new impetus, which will significantly enhance the quality of the city in all respects.”

 

Looking forward

And rather than be ground down by the disappointment of its failed Olympic bid, Mr Tiefensee and his constituents have ploughed ahead with new endeavours. “One of the qualities of Leipzig and its committed, proud citizens is not to grieve too long over the past, but rather to bring to fruition new and challenging projects. We are therefore preparing ourselves intensively for the Fifa World Cup 2006 and we aspire to achieve national renown, with an international football tournament in our newly built stadium in July,” he says.

In addition to making the city more visible on the world stage, Mr Tiefensee is also making sure the voice of Leipzig – and European cities generally – is heard within the EU. Speaking at the European City Summit in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, last October, Mr Tiefensee spoke of the important role cities can and must play in strengthening Europe’s economic competitiveness and creating new jobs. “Cities make Europe strong,” he declared.