To respond to the Commission's annual Enlargement Package:
•underline the fundamental role of local and regional representatives in the enlargement process and encourages enlargement countries in their decentralisation and regionalisation efforts;
•support the opinion of the European Commission on the need for a period of consolidation and underline that this must not result in a standstill;
•address the fact that public administration at all levels remains weak in most enlargement countries, with limited administrative capacity, a high degree of politicisation and corruption and a lack of transparency. Politicisation at both central and local level remains a serious concern in most of the accession countries, and the blurring of the distinction between state and governing parties needs to be addressed since it raises concerns which erode trust in public institutions.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
emphasises that the enlargement process must continue as an EU priority and agrees with the Commission that the rule of law, justice, fundamental rights and respect for and the protection of minorities must remain at the core of the process;
points out that it is crucial to involve regional and local authorities (LRAs) in the process;
emphasises that only LRAs can, by virtue of their direct relationship with the public, effectively communicate the advantages of joining the EU;
hopes that governments in the Western Balkans will resume their movement towards the EU and will interpret the positive signals suggested by some major developments according to a realistic timescale; also hopes that people will voice their rejection of nationalism, radicalisation and inward-looking identity politics, and their support for the European ideal with renewed determination;
hopes that Turkey will drop its emergency measures approach and turn back to the path of approximation with the EU;
points out that the aid provided by the EU to the Western Balkans and Turkey to help them manage these flows must also reach the LRAs who are involved every day in reception and support work;
calls on the Commission to put in place ad hoc operational methods so that the TAIEX and Twinning mechanisms can be used for cooperation between the LRAs of the Member States and of the candidate and potential candidate countries;
urges the Commission to try bringing the Sigma programme to bear on candidate country LRAs;
lastly, repeats its urgent call to the Commission to devote more attention and space to an analysis of the situation regarding LRAs in its next progress reports on the enlargement process, assessing progress - or the lack of progress - with regard to administrative reform in the same way as is done concerning the central authorities.