This Friday, the Polish city of Elbląg is hosting a seminar on the Regional Dimension of EU Cooperation with Eastern Neighbour Countries, organized by the Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX) of CoR. The initiative for organizing this seminar was taken by Jacek Protas (PL/EPP), Vice-Marshal of Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship and long-time member of the Committee of the Regions. The seminar will bring together representatives of local authorities from several European Union countries, as well as other policymakers and experts.
The choice of Elbląg as a place for the seminar was not accidental. The city, one the largest in the region, is located only 90 kilometres from the EU-Russia border. The proximity of Kaliningrad and the complex geopolitical situation in Europe mean that relations with Russia are of particular interest for the region. Therefore, an important element of the discussion will be the impact of local and regional cooperation for the relations with the Russian Federation. Panelists will also discuss the Small Border Traffic agreement between Kaliningrad and several Polish counties. This mechanism, introducing a visa-free regime, is unique in the entire European Union, and has proven to be an efficient instrument for helping economic recovery in the border counties.
A separate discussion during the seminar will be devoted to the work already taking place in the framework of the Eastern Partnership programme and its future prospects. The CIVEX commission chair François Decoster (FR/ALDE) will highlight in his opening speech the current challenges caused by the deterioration of relations with Russia. The discussion will be moderated by CoR member Olgierd Geblewicz (PL/EPP), Marshal of the Westpomeranian Voivodeship. The Conference for regional and local authorities for Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) will be represented by its co-chair Emir Yeritsyan, President of the Union of Communities of Armenia. CORLEAP, established by CoR in 2011, aims to bring the contribution of cities and regions to the development of the Eastern Partnership policy.
The conclusions of the discussion will be useful in view of the fourth Eastern Partnership Summit, to be held in May this year in Riga. The EaP summit will be the next occasion to formally review the implementation of the Vilnius Declaration, which underlined the role of local democracy and local and regional authorities, and of the association agreements concluded so far.