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Decentralisation and cross-border cooperation key for a successful Eastern Partnership

Today mayors and regional elected representatives from EU and Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries met in Tbilisi (Georgia) for the Annual Meeting of the Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Parternship (CORLEAP). Hosted by the Georgian Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure the Conference discussed opportunities for regional and local authorities triggered by the Eastern Partnership.

CORLEAP was established by the Committee of the Regions in 2011 to provide an institutional platform for regular dialogue and cooperation between local and regional authorities form the EU and the Eastern partner countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Referring to the latest Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine CoR President and CORLEAP co-chair Michel Lebrun said: "The signing of the Association Agreement last June has already strengthened bilateral economic and political relations with the EU. The implementation of the agreement with its comprehensive political, economic and social reforms requires hard work and political will and citizens will fully benefit from it. Regional and local authorities are key partners to implement the Agreement and CORLEAP will do everything to support this process.”

The members of CORLEAP focused their discussion on the role of decentralisation and territorial cooperation, seen as key for a successful implementation of the Agreements and for economic, political and social development. Local and regional authorities, the level closest to the citizens, are drivers of the reforms and can contribute substantially to the successful implementation of the Eastern partnership if they are provided with the legal powers and financial resources needed. Michel Lebrun outlined that, “We need decentralisation reforms and more cross-border cooperation. This can lead to greater legitimacy of policies on the local level and provide concrete solutions to problems for people living on both sides of a frontier.”

In the lead up to the EaP summit in Riga in May 2015, CORLEAP adopted its recommendations to the Heads of state and government. The set of recommendations call for

  • political, financial and technical support for all EaP countries with a differentiated approach to those who signed an Association Agreement
  • autonomy and self-government and the implementation of decentralisation reforms,
  • an increased role for local and regional authorities in the Eastern Partnership policies and strategies
  • EU support to facilitate the exchange of best practice regarding capacity building and institutional efficiency, cross border cooperation and the decentralisation process
  • programmes for local and regional authorities to provide support for their needs in the context of goals and objectives of the Eastern Partnership

During the meeting Emin Yeritsyan, president of the Union of Communities of Armenia and counsellor in the community of Parakar was nominated new CORLEAP co–chair representing the EaP countries.

The meeting was followed by a conference dealing with funding opportunities as a key element for an effective EaP giving an overview of successful projects.

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