NALAS and PLATFORMA strengthen links

13 April 2017

PLATFORMA hosted on 7 April in Brussels a workshop with the Network of Associations of Local Authorities in South-East Europe (NALAS). Important topics related to decentralisation and EU policies regarding good governance in South East Europe were on the agenda.

“It is our joint task to advocate for the role of local governments in advancing and prospering societies in South East Europe”, said Mayor Naim Ismajli, President of the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS), in his opening words. “Thus, this meeting is a good starting point to create joint activities of NALAS and PLATFORMA/CEMR to advance decentralisation in South East Europe”.

At the workshop, NALAS provided its inputs for the European Commission Public Consultation on the External Financing Instruments of the European Union, to which PLATFORMA is preparing a contribution. NALAS members reflected on the obstacles that local governments face in the access to EU funds.

Local governments are not included in the programming, or over-voiced by the central governments, many of them are not able to co-finance and pre-finance EU projects, have low administrative capacity vis-a-vis the high EU projects administrative requirements, fail to retain trained and qualified staff dealing with EU issues, were some of the issues mentioned in the discussion.

Still, there are countries, like Bulgaria, where absorption of EU funds in not an issue, thanks to the strong support by the national association in programming, lobbying, negotiation, contacts with central authorities and intensive capacity development measures. “Bulgarian municipalities absorb 70% of the EU funds available for Bulgaria and are much more proactive than any other institution”, said Veselka Ivanova from NAMRB. “FLAG, the Bulgarian fund for pre-financing and co-financing of EU projects, is a good mechanism that can be replicated in other countries”.

“The growing role of local governments in migration management must be recognised by the European Commission and support mechanisms put in place”, said Mustafa Özkul from the Marmara Municipalities Union, Turkey.

Kelmend Zajazi, the Executive Director of NALAS pointed out that European Commission’s budget support is only empowering centralisation. In the same time, decentralisation is crucial for building democracy and stability in South East Europe.

NALAS presented the position paper “Local Governments in South East Europe contributing to European Integration” and provided its inputs to the CEMR’s White Paper on Future of Europe – Europe 2025: A vision from local and regional perspective.

PLATFORMA’s activities in EU’s Eastern neighbourhood and possibilities for cooperation with NALAS were discussed at the end of the workshop. “On the short run, we can implement complementary researches in the two regions, within the NALAS Decentralisation Observatory, while on the long run we could develop similar PLATFORMA for South East Europe”, said Mr Zajazi.

This workshop was supported by the BACID Fund, managed by KDZ, the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns (Österreichischer Städtebund) and the Austrian development agency “Austrian Development Cooperation”.

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