Decentralised cooperation is “more important than ever” to react to geopolitical challenges and threats to democracy

6 abril 2023

PLATFORMA local elected officials met on 23 March for the annual Political Council of the coalition, hosted this year by the Brussels-Capital Region. Pascal Smet, Secretary of State of Urban Planning and International Relations of the region welcomed participants to the meeting “in a vibrant city which faces many of the challenges posed by today’s increasingly complex geopolitical backdrop”.

Pascal Smet was joined on stage by CEMR Secretary General, Fabrizio Rossi, who underlined that decentralisation was a strategy to develop further in these challenging times to boost international development cooperation and combat polarisation across the world.

Kicking off the plenary debate, the moderator Marlène Siméon, Director of PLATFORMA, highlighted the commitment of the coalition over the past 15 years in positioning local and regional governments in EU external action and in strengthening their role as essential partners.

Underscoring decentralised cooperation being “more important than ever” in advancing local democratic direct engagement in countries where democratic spaces is shrinking, Marlene Holzner, Head of Unit at the European Commission (DG INTPA G.2 – Local Authorities, Civil Society Organisations and Foundations) highlighted the importance of PLATFORMA’s role as one among five signatories of a Framework Partnership Agreements (FPAs) with the EU.

Later, Andreas Magnusson, Councillor at the Swedish Permanent Representation to the EU in charge of Eastern Partnership, acknowledged that central governments can be “further from reality” and that “the connection between the local and geopolitical is real”. He insisted that for the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council, Ukraine remains the highest priority, strengthening that the Presidency was supporting the fight against disinformation and support for civil society and local democracy in Georgia and Moldova.

Gudrun Niedorf, Deputy Head of Unit, CIVEX Commission at the European Committee of the Regions, emphasised the importance of building solidarity and providing support through peer-to-peer cooperation, for example between Polish and Ukrainian municipalities, as well as through summer schools across different EU members states to welcome displaced children and support families.

Looking back on the progression of decentralised cooperation and its growing importance in international development contexts as well as in EU external action, Jean Bossuyt, Senior executive and Head of Inclusive Governance and Accountability at the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), highlighted that decentralised cooperation has fought for years to be recognised in the development space as an essential tool to support good governance and development.

He also made clear that decentralised cooperation was a valuable approach to development cooperation especially when dealing with complex issue such as climate change, migration and reinforcing democracy.

In their final remarks speakers concluded that it will be essential to boost alliances and partnerships among actors at all levels and especially with members states to in order to achieve a new narrative for decentralise cooperation. At EU level, the mid-term review of the NDICI will provide the sector with a benchmark and evaluation of budget implementation so far.

This plenary debate was followed by three roundtables on internationalisation of cities, crisis management and CEMR Young elected officials committee.

The next day, PLATFORMA local elected officials discovered the Abattoir area in Anderlecht where innovative urban planning is developing while keeping the historic spirit of this lively area.

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