Maria Zezulkova


Czech Republic Ministry of Regional Development

Was born in Brno in the former Czechoslovakia. After studying at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, she completed her PhD studies at the Faculty of Architecture at the Brno University of Technology. She then broadened her knowledge in the field of sustainable development, urban policy and regional development in the framework of postgraduate studies in France at the University of Rouen and at the Institut Francaise d'Urbanisme de Paris. After returning from abroad, she started her professional career at the Brno City Municipality, where for many years she held the position of head of the City Strategy Office. Thanks to the approaching accession of the Czech Republic to the EU, under her leadership the city created its first strategic city plan - Strategy for Brno and initiated the preparation of the Integrated Urban Development Plans for the use of European funds in the EU programming period 2004-06, resp. 2007-13. Around 2010, she was involved in the European Commission's City of the Future initiative, where the first contours supporting integrated urban development policy were formed, namely the Integrated Territorial Investments /ITI/ tool, which the city of Brno/cities in the Czech Rep. has/have been successfully implementing from 2014 up to now.

In cooperation with the business sector, she involved foreign investors in the creation of the concept of economic development of the city as well as the work on city branding and created the basis for the creation and communication of strategic projects. Following the example of other European cities, she engaged the city of Brno in the Regional Innovation Strategy of the South Moravian Region, thanks to which the city of Brno managed to successfully complete its economic transformation, which determined its future course towards the knowledge economy and becoming a technological and innovation hub of the Czech Republic. Together with her team, she laid the foundations for cooperation between the public, private and academic sectors, including the involvement of the city's residents themselves, and managed to create a functional innovative ecosystem for many years to come, where a common long-term vision for the development of the Brno metropolitan area is being shaped. Thanks to the membership of Brno in the Eurocities network, she participated in a wide range of meetings and working groups and was a prominent face of the working group for Metropolitan Areas for many years. She laid the foundations for close cooperation between the city, mayors of municipalities of the Brno’s metropolitan area and the South Moravian region. She thus capitalized many years of her experience from participation in European projects and programs, i. e. Urbact Culture and Urbact Joining forces.

Between 2017 and 2019, she was the director of the National Center for Energy Savings in Prague. Its mission was to promote the reduction of energy demands and prepare municipalities for adaptation to climate change in the field of energy. She currently works at the Ministry for Regional Development of the Czech Republic, where she held the position of director of the Regional Policy Department from 2019, and is currently the head of Urban Policy and Strategies Unit, which is mainly responsible for the urban agenda, Smart cities, or the implementation of various projects of the National Recovery Plan. She is a member of a number of professional working groups or expert teams, including those in academic sphere. She participates in a number of international projects, conferences and seminars. She is a member of the Board of Directors at the Masaryk University in Brno, a member of the Scientific Board of the Faculty of Regional Development and International Relations of the Mendel University in Brno.

The recent Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU represented a big challenge for her with a lot of experience. In particular, the management and coordination of the UATPG, UDG and DGUM meetings themselves, where the priority task of the urban agenda was the application of two thematic partnerships, namely Greener Cities and Sustainable Tourism. As a representative of the country holding the presidency, she became a member of the Steering Committee of the European Urban Initiative /EUI/. She also advocated for the Czech Republic to join the Declaration on joining forces to support sustainable digital transformation in cities and towns in the EU /LIVING-IN.EU/.

She is an avid downhill skier, her other hobbies including travelling, architecture, arts, classical music and hiking in the mountains.