EU and Eastern partner cities are strengthening links around the SDGs

7 November 2019

Did you know that over the last 10 years, more than 100 cooperation agreements were signed between local and regional governments from the European Union and municipalities from the Eastern partnership countries? This is one of the facts learned at the EU-EaP local leaders Forum organised by the Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania (ALAL) and PLATFORMA on 24-25 October in Vilnius.

The central question raised at this Forum organised for the 10th anniversary of the Eastern partnership was: how to find ways to better align cooperation programmes and priorities of local and regional governments from the EU and Eastern partnership countries? The more than 200 participants agreed that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are part of the solution. “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is not only a policy, it is a way of thinking,” said the President of the Association of local authorities in Lithuania, Mindaugas Sinkevicius, insisting on citizens’ involvement.

Opened by the Lithuanian minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius and the deputy mayor of Vilnius Edita Tamosiunaite, this 2-day Forum was also the opportunity for our two partners, ALAL and the Association of Ukraine Cities (AUC) to sign a cooperation agreement. “There is no doubt that this signatory will create opportunities for further cooperation between cities and for concrete actions for citizens of our both countries,” said Oleksandr Slobozhan, executive director of the Ukrainian association.

Looking to the future

CEMR Secretary General Frédéric Vallier than recalled that the Eastern Partnership is a policy designed for all 28 EU Member States and their neighbours, the six countries from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. It is a specific dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

The deputy mayor of Joniškys municipality (Lithuania), Vaida Aleknaviciene, presented PLATFORMA six recommendations to the EU on the post 2020 EaP: “Partnerships are key and local governments are vital in localizing SDGs,” she said, insisting on the need to mainstream gender equality, youth, climate action and digitalisation in the framework of cooperation development programmes.

The European Commission DG NEAR and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) were also represented, as well as the “Mayors 4 Economic Growth” project.

Hand-on examples from all over Europe

This forum was also a unique opportunity to get concrete hand-on examples from Flanders region, Paris, Slovenia, Norway, Latvia, Lithuania, but also Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

VVSG adviser Karlien Gorissen presented the work of our Belgian partner on the localisation of the SDGs. She insisted on the number of awareness raising initiatives launched in Flemish municipalities to better inform citizens. Creativity, innovation and interaction with citizens made the Flemish cities leaders in the SDGs implementation.

Several PLATFORMA spokespersons and representatives took the floor during the Forum, including the Mayor of Ajdovšcina municipality (Slovenia), Tadej Beocanin, the councillor of Tbilisi (Georgia), Tamar Taliashvili, or the head of the Diplomacy and Europe department of the City of Paris, Jean-Yves Camus.

The second day, ambassador Gitana Grigaityté, representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, recalled the countries strong support to the EaP and presented successful decentralised cooperation projects of the municipalities of Akmene, Trakai, Klaipeda and the PLATFORMAwards laureate Panevežys for its project with Georgia and Moldova.

Jessie Post, project manager at VNG International, moderated a discussion on how multilevel and peer-to-peer partnerships are crucial for decentralisation reforms in Eastern partnership countries, or SDG 16 in practice. At the same time, PLATFORMA’s project officer Olivier Baumard was focusing on providing tangible results to people after 2020. At this occasion Tadeuš Andžejevski, Councillor of Vilnius and Rapporteur on the future of the EaP Opinion of the European Committee of the Regions, recalled the central role of Association of Local Authorities to support the EaP policies and their implementation in all territories.

In her conclusions, Marlène Siméon, Director of PLATFORMA, insisted that the SDGs are ensuring a common language to municipalities: “the Global Goals are providing guidelines for development cooperation, they help towns and regions to experiment together, share experiences and expertise,” she said. She concluded on the need to get citizens on board, inviting participants to register activities to the European Days of Local Solidarity (EDLS) and to apply to the PLATFORMAwards 2nd edition.

Political Council

The day before the Forum, PLATFORMA organised its annual political Council in Vilnius, attended by:

  • Jocelyne Bougeard, Deputy Mayor of Rennes (France), AFCCRE
  • Vaida Aleknaviciene, Deputy Mayor of Joniškis (Lithuania), ALAL
  • Iryna Yarmolenko, Councillor of Zhytomir (Ukraine), AUC
  • Olha Chicina, Councillor of Kharkiv (Ukraine), AUC
  • Jérôme Tebaldi, Deputy-Mayor of Tours (France), CUF
  • Andris Jaunsleinis, Councillor of Ventspils (Latvia), LALRG
  • Tadej Beocanin, Mayor of Ajdovš?ina municipality (Slovenia), NALAS
  • Christiane Overmans, Councillor of Bonn (Germany), RGRE
  • Elisabeth Unell, Councillor of Västerås (Sweden), SALAR
  • Ivo Šanc, Councillor of Kutná Hora (Czech Republic), SMOCR
  • Hans Janssen, Mayor of Oisterwijk (Netherlands), VNG International
  • Tine Soens, Councillor of Kortrijk (Belgium), VVSG

Check the pictures:

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