Local and regional politicians across Europe adopted an opinion on the successful implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) at the December plenary of the Committee of the Regions (CoR). The opinion, drafted by Olgierd Geblewicz (PL/EPP), Marshal of the West Pomerania region, calls for more flexibility, regional funding and an appropriate involvement of regional and local authorities.
The Communication of the European Commission points out the vital role that the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) has to play in supporting the process of democratic changes and economic reforms in the partner countries. At the December plenary of the CoR local and regional politicians from across Europe made recommendations for successful implementation of the ENP.
"The success of the ENP depends to a large extent on the ability and the commitment of governments to reform and deepen relations with the EU. For this, the involvement of the regional and local level both in the EU and in the ENP countries is urgently needed in order to improve the design, implementation and acceptance of the ENP on the ground. This is where the envisaged deeper relationships between the EU and the neighbourhood countries have to take root", said Olgierd Geblewicz (PL/EPP), member of the CoR and Marshal of the West Pomerania region.
The CoR members recommended more flexible action, together with a customised, "tailor-made" approach to supporting democratic changes and economic reforms in the individual beneficiary countries, and easier access to funding for local and regional authorities (LRAs), as well as simplification of mechanisms and procedures.
"Regional development in partner countries should be a key goal for EU funding, with clearly defined criteria for its use based on defined and agreed regional development strategies. We are offering our expertise in designing such criteria and application procedures to ensure that the money given to European Neighbourhood countries is accessible and useful for local and regional authorities. They also have to be given responsibility for the organisation and the outcomes of their projects and need to be appropriately represented in the monitoring bodies", explained Olgierd Geblewicz.
The CoR also highlighted the importance of democracy building and decentralisation of power for countries of the Eastern Partnership region and the Mediterranean basin. "The ENP is an excellent initiative to support those processes, and the conferences of ARLEM and CORLEAP, both set up by the CoR to bring local and regional representatives from the EU and the neighbouring countries together, offer a good platform for exchanging experiences and promoting the partnership as well as the process of democracy building", said Olgierd Geblewicz.
More concretely, the CoR members recommended training programmes for local and regional administrations and the creation of an online platform to monitor and evaluate the regional dimension of the ENP, not only as an information platform but also a basis for developing new priorities. They also called on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to appoint "contact persons" in each EU representation office in ENP countries to provide information on planned and existing initiatives at subnational level and to pass on messages from the CoR to partners in the ENP countries.
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