Armenia hosted for the first time a meeting of the Conference for Regional and Local authorities for Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) on Friday. Local and regional representatives from European Union and Eastern Partnership countries forming the Bureau of CORLEAP were invited to Yerevan by co-chair Emin Yeritsyan, President of the Union of Communities of Armenia. The members approved an action plan looking ahead to 2016–2017 and reaffirmed their commitment to pursuing common goals. President of the Committee of the Regions Markku Markkula also held a bilateral meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan.
The Eastern Partnership Summit of Heads of State and Government in Riga in May recognised the work of CORLEAP in promoting cooperation at the regional and municipal levels of government and called for the European Commission to ensure appropriate, targeted support to local and regional authorities in the Eastern Partnership. The CORLEAP Action Plan for 2016-2017, approved by the Bureau members in Yerevan, defines priorities for further actions regarding decentralisation, capacity building and funding opportunities for local and regional authorities in the Eastern Partnership countries.
"All those factors contribute to improved business environment and cross-border and territorial cooperation in the region. The Riga Summit was the starting point for further developing comprehensive cooperation with EU in all areas of mutual interest. Member States endorsed our requests for new financial means to be used for territorial development and capacity building at the local level. We also support a customised, tailor-made approach that should be adopted by the EU in relation to expectations, possibilities and tasks for any specific partner country, including Armenia", said CORLEAP co-chair, President of the Committee of the Regions Markku Markkula.
Emin Yeritsyan , the co-chair representing Eastern Partnership countries, said: "Our continued focus will be on decentralisation and public administration reform, while providing a forum for exchange of best practices in different fields. The territorial administration reform in Armenia can serve as a good example to other partner countries. We also aim to facilitate our local and regional authorities' access to EU funding and provide advice on effective and sound public financial management". To this effect, CORLEAP has produced a brochure on financial assistance available to local and regional authorities in Eastern Partnership countries.
Representing the Government of the Republic of Armenia, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian stated that the Government of Armenia attaches great importance to further developing cooperation and dialogue between the local and regional authorities of the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries, through sharing best practices and reform strategies and with particular emphasis on cross-border cooperation. During the day, CoR President Markkula also held bilateral discussions with the Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan and with the Minister of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situations, Armen Yeritsyan. The Prime Minister referred to the role of CORLEAP and local governments as key partners in promoting new entrepreneurship in both urban and rural areas.
In the afternoon, a conference on Local Democracy in the Eastern Partnership countries took place. CORLEAP members exchanged views with various speakers, including Vache Terturyan, First Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situations of the Republic of Armenia, and Tengiz Shergelashvili, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, who summarised the experiences of the joint Territorial Cooperation Programme between Armenia and Georgia, running since 2003.
(CORLEAP) was established by the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in 2011 to bring a regional and local dimension into the EU's Eastern Partnership. CORLEAP brings together 36 regional and local politicians - including 18 from the CoR representing the EU and 18 from the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine).
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