Local governments are missing in the EU-Ukraine & EU-Moldova high-level meetings
The October EU-Ukraine summit and EU-Moldova Association Council reaffirmed the need for continued implementation of the reform agenda and of the Associations Agreements, which aim to improve political association and increase political dialogue with the EU. But they failed to address decentralisation and local public administration reforms, PLATFORMA regrets.
One of the main findings of both high-level meetings which respectively took place on 12 and 28 October is the need for continued implementation of the reform agenda and of the Associations Agreements (AAs), which came into force in 2016 in Georgia and Moldova, and in 2017 in Ukraine, as well as of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). The European Union is also now entering into a new programming period (2021-2027), with renewed priorities in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region and a new instrument for the Eastern Neighbourhood.
“Local democracy and local autonomy must receive the necessary attention by the EU and partner countries in the coming years,” stated Marlène Siméon, Director of PLATFORMA. “With the start of the implementation period, it is crucial to ensure that local and regional governments and their national associations at country level, and their EU partners (as proposed in the NDICI) engage in a structured policy dialogue with EU institutions, and in particular EU delegations.
She added: “The two high-level meetings should be an occasion to support local democracy and support AAs signatories to move along EaP objectives at the level of governance closest to the citizens. It is regrettable that they did not clearly refer to decentralisation and local public administration reforms”.
PLATFORMA, led by CEMR, has been playing its role in decentralisation and local public administration in Ukraine and Moldova, also with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities by facilitating capacity-building and knowledge sharing between Ukrainian and Moldovan local and regional governments, their National Associations and peers from the EU. In March of this year, the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS), in cooperation with the AUC, CALM and NALAG produced a publication “Decentralisation Reform in EaP – Preparing for the Future”. The paper does not only list the main achievements, but also provides an overview of the remaining challenges and the next steps in this important process.
The pan-European coalition, through its partners, plans to continue working very actively to advocate for strengthening the role of local governments and their associations in the Eastern Partnership countries. It is also foreseen that PLATFORMA will continue to support increasing the autonomy and competences of local governments in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine via facilitating capacity-building and reinforcing cross-border cooperation with EU peers.
PLATFORMA fully shares and advocates for the multilevel governance approach which is embedded in the EU treaties and is based on the principles of Subsidiarity and recalls its position and points out the joint statements of the three Presidents of the national associations of local governments of NALAG (Georgia), CALM (Moldova) and AUC (Ukraine).
The 23rd summit between the European Union and Ukraine was held in Kyiv on 12 October 2021. The parties reaffirmed continued commitment to strengthening the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union, signed a Common Aviation Area Agreement, which opens Ukraine to more low-cost air routes, and formalised participation of Ukraine in the Horizon Europe and Creative Europe programs. The EU also reiterated the unwavering support and commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
Two weeks later, on 28 October 2021, the EU-Moldova Association Council took place. The European Union published a report on the implementation of the EU-Republic of Moldova Association Agreement. It argues that the second half of 2020 saw Moldova regress in its commitment to rule of law standards and reforms. At the same time, the early parliamentary elections of July 2021 set a clear trajectory towards tangible reforms meant to pursue an agenda on anti-corruption, an improved justice system and fighting poverty, in line with Moldova’s commitments under the Association Agreement.
(Picture: European Union)