Why the future is local for the Eastern Partnership
« After having interacted over the past decade, the European Union is now better placed to engage with Eastern Partnership states and to prepare the post-2020 partnership framework », write the Presidents of the national associations of local governments Kakha Kaladze of NALAG, Mayor of Tbilisi, Georgia, Tatiana Badan of CALM, Mayor of Selemet, Moldova and Vitaly Klitschko of AUC, Mayor of Kiev, Ukraine in an opinion published on EurActiv on 24 February.
« With the next EU-EaP Summit just around the corner, national associations of local governments from Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine outline a joint vision of how to make a success of the Eastern Partnership.
There is no doubt: the future Eastern Partnership (EaP) should take into account the key role of local and regional governments as policy-makers and decision-makers. This is our conviction as elected representatives from Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and as partners of PLATFORMA, a coalition of local and regional governments and their associations active in development cooperation.
Since 2009, EaP policies have contributed effectively to governance systems in Eastern neighbourhood countries. They are widely recognised as key instruments to bringing these systems closer to EU standards, especially in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
We want to ensure the full and successful implementation of the Association Agreements and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) between our countries and the EU. For this purpose, local and regional governments should take the lead and act independently in their area of competences. The role of local and regional governments in the reform of public administration and decentralisation strategies should then be recognised. Adhering to the principle of subsidiarity, the EU should promote the role of local governments as policy-makers and decision-makers, and achieve a greater understanding of the challenges and needs at the local level. Closer collaboration between EU institutions, local and regional governments and their associations would be an essential part of this.
For instance, the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic has an immediate impact at the local level, affecting people in their daily lives, putting stress on healthcare infrastructures, schools and universities, transport and mobility, housing, companies and businesses. Without a doubt, as the level of government closest to the citizens, local leaders are at the forefront of managing this crisis on the ground.
Decentralised cooperation is an asset for EU policy in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. We, as elected representatives, insist on the important role of decentralised cooperation to support
the reforms in our countries. This is particularly important to promote balanced territorial development, with access to finance in capitals, secondary cities and rural areas, thus shaping an inclusive and fair economy, including through the use of the European Commission’s methodology for smart specialisation. Delivering the Green Deal beyond European borders implies collaboration on the management of waste, water and land, but also on the energy efficiency of buildings and green transport solutions.
The future Eastern Partnership should draw more attention to the importance of capacity-building at the local level. The new EU policy needs to be more concentrated on capacity-building for better local governance and on reinforcing associations of local governments. Association of towns and regions are one of the main cornerstones of local democracy in Georgia, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. They are bridges that connect local, national and European governments and promote European values of local self-government. Accordingly, they should be able to play their role by disseminating relevant knowledge and sharing of experience between the municipalities, not only on the domestic scene but in the entire area of the Eastern Partnership.
Therefore, with the support of PLATFORMA, we affirm our readiness to continue cooperation with our peers from EU countries and to reinforce our cross-border partnerships. Through these partnerships, we are also ready to bolster our joint EU-EaP efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals from the bottom up. Active cooperation between local and regional governments from across both the EU and the EaP regions is key to help mobilize citizens; raise awareness on the importance of local solidarity; and work together towards a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous future for us all that leaves no one and no place behind.
These should be further supported in the upcoming EaP framework as an essential element for further development of good governance and productive relations between our countries. »