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A Tale of Many Cities PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 07 March 2011

What do the cities of Prague, Pisa, Florence and Padua have in common? Why might you want to be in Edinburgh and Cambridge, but not at the same time? Why is Budapest in the news? For the answers, read what our observer, Robin Waters has to say on this and other geo matters as Hungary assumes the EU presidency.
Europhiles will know that it is Hungary’s turn to hold the Presidency of the EU. This role has less significance since the creation of a permanent President of the Council of Ministers, but still enables each country in turn to set the agenda for six months and to ensure that its own priorities are recognised. Spain, Belgium and Hungary have also formed a unique “trio” to agree a common agenda through the whole of the 18 months of their successive presidencies.

In fact, not surprisingly in view of its location, Hungary is prioritising cooperation along the Danube and also the accession negotiations for its neighbour, Croatia. And if you are in Brussels then do visit the Council’s Justus Lipsius building and walk all over the Hungarian exhibit – a huge 200 square metre carpet depicting Hungarian culture from Arpad’s crossing of the Carpathians more than a thousand years ago.

Conferences, Galileo and the loss of agriculture
So Budapest is setting the scene in 2011. It will also host the June conference of the Permanent Committee on Cadastre in the EU, which will be chaired by Hungary this year. Appropriately, an English version of the country’s Geoinformation portal ( has just been launched with access to mapping and land information products – not least TakarNet, which was the main focus of your correspondent’s work in the Ministry of Agriculture in 1996. This now provides access to land registration and cadastre information across the whole country.

But the Ministry of Agriculture is no more! After a period as MARD (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development), it has now dropped the Agriculture and is simply for Rural Development. This is of course in the best British tradition; our MAF long ago morphed into Defra. The Hungarian Department of Land Administration has also lost the word “Geoinformation” from its title – though clearly not the substance judging by the contents of their portal.

Galileo is of course the link between Prague and those Italian centres of the renaissance. They all have good reason to be thankful to him. Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, educated in Pisa and Florence and flourished as a scientist in the university at Padua. These cities are no doubt proud of this heritage – and are perhaps even a little richer from the tourists on the Galileo trail.

Now Prague will also have a greater fondness for Galileo as the headquarters of the European GNSS Supervisory Authority, which has a variety of roles with respect to the Galileo navigation satellite system – although ultimate responsibility rests with the European Space Agency and the technical control is exercised from back home in Italy at Fucino. Apparently, this will be the Czech Republic’s first European institution – paid for from our European taxes of course. So we just hope that our satnav systems do not start spitting out all those Czech accented words! Caution: although reportedly confirmed by GSA officials, there is no formal announcement of this move on the GSA website at the time of writing.

Conflict of conferences?
So what about the British cities? Yes, they do all have universities but otherwise have quite contrasting histories and topographies. However, we are more likely to be interested in their conference facilities.

Back in June 2010 there was an announcement in Krakow that the next INSPIRE conference would be held in Edinburgh. Then silence. It was not until December that we were informed that the conference will indeed be in the Edinburgh International Conference Centre at the end of June this year. If you are quick you can still submit a paper – closing date is 24 February.

Unfortunately, the Cambridge Conference – ‘a forum for debate about geographic information for tomorrow, for the world’ – organised by the Ordnance Survey – is also scheduled for the same week. Although this is being held in Southampton this year, and is for heads of national mapping agencies by invitation only, the clash is unfortunate and could affect sponsorship for both events as well as meaning that some national mapping agency bigwigs will have to make a difficult choice or perhaps book their north-south flights as soon as possible!





  Robin Waters is an independent consultant.
  He is also chair of the AGI’s INSPIRE Action Working Group
  and secretary of the BSi IST36 Standards Committee
  for Geographic Information.

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