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Closer to the EU: Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine
​Michel Lebrun

The European Council signed Association Agreements with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova and the remaining economic part of the EU-Ukraine Agreement on its today's summit. This is an important step towards deeper political association and economic integration of the Eastern partners with the EU with great impact on the local and regional level.

Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine are part of the Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP), set up by the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in 2011 as a platform for dialogue between local and regional authorities from the partner countries of the Eastern partnership (EaP) and the EU.

"The signing of the Association Agreements shall be backed with even deeper partnership on the regional and local level in order to achieve concrete results on the ground and strengthen local democracy", stated Michel Lebrun (BE/EPP), president of the CoR and co-chair of CORLEAP. He will visit Kiev next week following an invitation from Volodymyr Hroysman, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of regional development of Ukraine, in order to discuss aspects of decentralisation and territorial cooperation in Ukraine.

Mamuka Abouladze, co-chair of CORLEAP, Member of the Rustavi City Assembly (Georgia) and President of the Georgian Association of Local Authorities sees the signature of the Association agreement as a great achievement and chance, "It shall pave the way for increased respect and observance of common European values in these European states. The early entry into force of these agreements shall also significantly contribute to the promotion and strengthening local and regional authorities that is intrinsic to the functioning of democratic and free states."

Since its launch CORLEAP aims to strengthen local and regional self-government and democracy in the partner countries and stresses the importance of pursuing the steps leading to the signature of Association Agreements with the EU. The signature of the agreements with Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine and, in its context, the following implementation of the Agreements will strengthen the local and regional authorities in achieving the main CORLEAP priorities of decentralisation and local self-government, promotion of territorial and cross-border cooperation and administrative capacity building.

Therefore the CORLEAP renews his claim to consider the possibility of extending the Local Administration Facility (LAF) programme to those Eastern partner countries having signed an Association Agreement with the EU. The LAF programme is jointly organised by the European Commission and the CoR. It finances projects with representatives of local and regional authorities from candidate and potential candidate countries to increase their understanding on what the EU stands for at the regional and local level. The aim of extending the programme was already presented to Commissioner Füle in an official letter earlier this year.

The next annual CORLEAP meeting will be held in Tbilisi (Georgia) on 29 September where regional and local politicians will tackle the role of local and regional authorities in the effective implementation of these Association Agreements.

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