Cross-border suburbanization: the case of the Karst region

The process of suburbanization in Trieste taking place over the last few decades, has strengthened after Slovenia has entered the European Union, and especially after it has also joined the Schengen border regime. The trend of Ljubljana residents buying second homes in the Karst region was thus followed by the increased demand for land and homes in the area by the inhabitants of Trieste and its surrounding area. Both trends are the result of the still relatively low prices and many natural and cultural qualities in the area. Inability to manage spatial development has upset the local inhabitants because they feel their territory is being degraded in various ways.

The area of Karst in situated at the point of transition from continental to Mediterranean landscape with specific climatic, geological and geomorfological characteristics. It was once functionally and demographically closely related to Trieste, an important port in the era of Austro Hungarian monarchy. It is also a border area in a cultural sense, as Slavic and Latin language groups meet here, as well as in a political sense, as it was divided after World War II between Italy and Yugoslavia. The elements of natural, social and cultural contact together with vineyard landscape and renown cuisine have gave Karst specific quality, that is recognized in a wider area. One of the results is also the demand for buying real estate from non-resident population.

Two local initiatives from the Karst region have introduced the increased demand for real estate in the area and its consequences to the government and the public. They claimed this is the reason for the process of degradation of Karst settlements and cultural landscape as well as for the higher prices of real estates in comparison with other similar areas. The degradation is starting to show by bad design, inappropriate locating and quantity of new buildings.  Their claim culminated in the demand to enforce the protective clause for real estate in Karst region.

New houses in the Karst region are often degrading the original qualities of the area. Source of photo: Borut Kranjc.

The government eventually appointed the interdepartmental group to examine the situation in an objective way. Based on their report they decided not to make use of the possibility arising from the accession treaty to the EU to protect the real estate market along the border withItaly. The government will rather take action to manage and control spatial development by means of available legislative instruments. This decision raises hope that political level has recognised the role of spatial planning and committed itself to its implementation and supervision in accordance with legislative options and good practice.

One of these protective measures is the proposal for establishment of Karst Regional Park. The idea originates from the year 2000, when municipalities from this region, Ministry for the Environment and Spatial Planning, Ministry for Culture and the Government Office for Structural Policy and Regional Development signed an agreement of cooperation. Many people living in the region welcomed the idea and underlined the importance of balancing the strategy of those who stress the development of the area and those who would like to preserve the specific character of cultural landscape and identity of Karst region. Dr. Ljubo Lah offers some solution in this regard, such as relatively restrictive attitude towards changing the land use, demolishing old buildings, granting consents in real estate market together with appropriate tax policy regarding primary and secondary housing. On the other hand there should be a system of incentives and facilities for people living in the park. Based on the experiences, the protection should be discussed and elaborated in the process with local stakeholders, who will recognise the advantages of the protection and decide by themselves.

Situation in the Karst region is a case of cross-border suburbanization, which occurs also at the borders between other European countries. It is accompanied by many problems, from cultural to practical and physical, in a way that affects the construction and management of spatial development. For now, each country has a sovereign control over regional planning and is thus responsible for the development of settlement and construction in the area. On the other hand, the circumstances of free movement between countries offer great possibilities for more balanced social and interethnic relations and for using and also strengthening local resources. In this sense it will be necessary to recognize, appreciate and preserve natural and cultural diversity and the wealth of the Karst as a whole more efficiently.

The article was first published in the 3rd Biannual Report of the Slovenian URBACT National Dissemination Point

Article from (in Slovenian)

Article in the Mladina magazine (in Slovenian)


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