The voice of local and regional governments must be strengthened in Eastern Partnership countries

8 julio 2016

How can the European Neighbourhood Policy be an instrument for empowering Local and Regional Governments? How can EU local and regional authorities strengthen the capacities of their counterparts in the Eastern neighbourhood via decentralised cooperation partnerships? These questions were the object of a debate that PLATFORMA co-organised on 5 July in the frame of Cités Unies France’s 7th Forum on International Action of Local Authorities in Paris. 

The debate, which was moderated by Patrizio Fiorilli, Director of PLATFORMA, allowed for a sincere exchange of views between the European Commission and several local stakeholders, among which civil society and local government associations. Antonella Valmorbida, Secretary General of ALDA, the European Association for Local Democracy, stressed that decentralized cooperation was an instrument of integration for countries in the Eastern Neighbourhood, ensuring reciprocity and win-win exchanges for EU and non-EU local communities.
Alexandru Osadci, Programme Coordinator at the Congress of Local Authorities from Moldova (CALM), criticized that most EU funds go directly into national budgets and called for a “different approach regarding consultations with local authorities on national priorities”. Darko Fras, Vice-President of NALAS, the Network of associations of local authorities of South East Europe, pointed out that, while 65% of the European acquis is implemented at the local level, “local government often get overlooked when formulating the strategic priorities”. All agreed that Local and Regional Governments deserve a better access to adequate finance resources.
On the other hand, Vassilis Maragos, Head of Unit for the Eastern Partnership at the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) of the European Commission, said that the “picture is not so negative”, highlighting that the EU executive has a lot of interaction with Local and Regional Governments and that this is a priority for Commissioner Johannes Hahn. He pointed out the Flagship Initiative on Sustainable Municipal Development, which offers direct financial support and capacity-building to local governments in order to strengthen their role as actors for the local economic development of their territories. At the same time, he acknowledged that “we can do better in partnership and in ownership”.
As the voice of European Local and Regional Governments for development, PLATFORMA has taken an active interest in this issue, contributing to the open consultation that was launched last year by the Commission on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) review and reacting to the final Communication in a joint declaration with ALDA. Moreover, one of our key goals for the upcoming years is to foster decentralised cooperation between EU local and regional authorities and their counterparts in the Eastern neighbourhood.
Pictures and video here.
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