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CORLEAP members set the way forward to reinforce local democracy in Eastern Partnership countries
M. Bresso - D. Chirtoacă

Mayors and regional politicians from the EU and partner countries from Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) agreed on an Action Plan for 2012-2013 to further reinforce their cooperation towards the aim of achieving closer political association. Concrete steps were agreed in the context of the meeting of the Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) organised by the Committee of the Regions in Brussels.

Local and regional representatives from the EU and Eastern Partnership countries met yesterday during a stakeholder conference on "Local and Regional Dimension of the Eastern Partnership" as well as the Bureau meeting of CORLEAP, an assembly for dialogue between local and regional authorities from the EU and its Eastern partner countries. The CORLEAP was set up by the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in September 2011 in Poznań (Poland) ahead of the second summit of Heads of State and Prime Ministers of the Eastern Partnership. Its aim is to bring a regional and local dimension into the EU's Eastern Partnership. The CORLEAP Bureau is composed of six members of partner countries and six members of the CoR, representing the European Union.

The event gave the CoR and local and regional politicians from the partner countries the opportunity to exchange their views on subjects of common interest for the region, including the development of the Eastern Partnership and CORLEAP in 2012-2013, the situation of cities and regions in partner countries, funding opportunities, and the reinforcement of the local dimension of the Eastern partnership. The recent European Commission's communication "Eastern Partnership: A Roadmap to the autumn 2013 Summit" where CORLEAP is explicitly mentioned as a tool to develop local and regional democracy in these countries was also discussed.

In her opening statement, Mercedes Bresso, CoR President and CORLEAP co-chair, insisted on the fact that the Eastern Partnership should reach out to, and involve, all interested stakeholders and cannot be conceived only as an intergovernmental initiative: "When we can combine the efforts of governments, parliaments, civil society and regional and local authorities, we are better placed to advance the approximation of the Eastern Partnership countries with the EU. I am very glad that this approach is reflected in the Commission's recent Eastern Partnership Roadmap". She further emphasised that "There is no true democracy without local democracy that allows people to feel that they can decide on the issues of their daily life."

The meeting also saw the nomination of Dorin Chirtoacă, Mayor of Chişinău (Moldova), as CORLEAP co-chair. In his speech, Mr Chirtoacă stressed that "We need to achieve as much decentralisation as possible in our countries. Our goal is to achieve more autonomy, more fiscal decentralisation and more administrative decentralisation. Such a process is key should we want to move towards closer political association with the EU".

Among the concrete steps to be taken by the CORLEAP to strengthen cooperation with local and regional authorities of the partner countries, the CoR intends to organise with EURONEST (the EU-Neighbourhood East Parliamentary Assembly), whose co-president Kristian Vigenin (MEP) also addressed the conference, in October 2012. This seminar within the framework of OPEN DAYS 2012 will gather MEPs, civil society and CORLEAP members, and facilitate discussions on the territorial dimension of the Eastern Partnership policy.

The CoR will also look into the possibility of hosting workshops modelled on the successful cooperation with the European Commission within the "Local Administration Facility" - a joint programme between the European Commission and the CoR aimed at capacity building of local and regional authorities through the study of the functioning of the EU institutions and the role of local and regional authorities in the adoption of the EU legislation.

In September, in Chişinău (Moldova), for the second annual CORLEAP, its 36 members will discuss progresses achieved on all these fields.

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