CORLEAP | Our speakers underline the importance of bottom-up processes to include citizens in local political life
PLATFORMA Spokesperson on Eastern Partnership Ms. Vaida Aleknavičienė (Lithuania) and CEMR vice-president Nino Rukhadze (Georgia) defended the key role of local and regional governments in engaging and including citizens in local political and democratic life, during the annual Conference of Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) organised by the European Committee of the Region on 7-8 September 2023 in Batumi, Georgia.
Ahead of the publication of the European Commission’s annual Enlargement Package Report in October which includes for the first time Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, the CORLEAP annual meeting recalls the crucial role of local and regional governments in strengthening resilience in the region and boosting reforms implementation.
Among the different sessions organised during the conference, Ms. Vaida Aleknavičienė, Vice-Mayor of Joniškis and member of ALAL, and Ms. Nino Rukhadze, member of Tbilisi City Assembly and NALAG, intervened on the role of local and regional government in engaging and including citizens in local political and democratic life, underlining the importance of bottom-up processes.
Notably, Ms. Vaida Aleknavičienė presented PLATFORMA’s flagship initiative, the European Days of Local Solidarity (EDLS), a pan-European campaign aiming to raise citizens’ awareness about decentralised cooperation and involve them in decision-making. She noted that “in dealing with the challenges of globalisation and managing crises, it is essential for local authorities to develop their capacity to understand the complexity of their problems and to involve and empower citizens to take part in decision-making processes”.
Additionally, Ms. Nino Rukhadze provided key examples and best practices from Georgia, while emphasising how “local and regional governments are central in preserving social cohesion and reducing the gap between citizens and governments and between citizens and Europe”. Particularly in the Georgian context of high political polarisation, participatory democracy and local decision-making can significantly reduce risks of political influence.
Answering new geopolitics realities
As Eastern European countries are facing an increasingly challenging and rapidly moving context, cities and regions have a key role to play in answering these new geopolitics realities, the needs of their citizens and improving resilience, if they are empowered to do so. This was also emphasised by HR/Vice-President Josep Borell during his first visit to Georgia at the same moment as the conference. He agreed that local ownership will be key to meeting the challenges of the Eastern Partnership policy.
At a moment when enlargement is rising up in the agenda, the PLATFORMA coalition “Eastern Partnership cluster” remains deeply committed to supporting the institutional development of EaP local and regional authorities and their national associations and reinforcing their position as policy-makers and decision-makers by boosting cooperation opportunities through decentralised cooperation, peer-to-peer exchanges and other capacity-building modalities.