Small cross-border projects and administrative training could have
significant impact at low cost, local and regional politicians argue.
The European Union should deepen relations with neighbours on its
eastern borders through more localised and targeted engagement, local
and regional leaders from the EU and its partner countries have said.
In two separate reports adopted on 12 September, they advised the EU to
increase its support for small cross-border projects designed to
increase community contacts and to establish a public-administration
academy for local and regional civil servants from the six
countries: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The idea of the
Conference for the Regional and Local Authorities for the
(CORLEAP) to create an academy is one of a set of recommendations that
seek to ensure that national, regional and local governments in the
Eastern Partnership and the EU provide adequate training for civil
servants. The separate call for more funding for people-to-people
projects is one element in proposals that would see the EU move away
from supporting a few, relatively sizeable and centrally run projects
towards helping the development of a larger number of relatively small
and locally driven projects in areas such as culture, education and
These and other recommendations discussed by CORLEAP at a meeting in Turku, Finland,
will be sent to the European Commission and the European External Action Service, to feed into a structured consultation process on the future of the Eastern Partnership. .
, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), said: "In
its first decade, the Eastern Partnership has moved beyond
trust-building to providing deliverables in many areas of life – such
as easing trade, improving international transport, lifting visas, and
offering an international education. The achievements are significant
and measureable. The EU should now step up its collaboration with local
and regional authorities. Cities and regions are critically important
agents for change and they will play a major role in advancing an
agenda we all share – to meet the United Nations' Sustainable
Development Goals, particularly to create inclusive, safe, resilient
and sustainable communities."
, Chairman of Kharkiv Regional Council and President of the Ukrainian
Association of Local and Regional Authorities, said about his
boosting administrative capacity
in the region: "Taken as a whole, the countries of the Eastern
Partnership are slowly transferring more responsibilities to local and
regional authorities. But preparing civil servants in our
municipalities to take on these responsibilities – and, more generally,
for a shift to e-governance – is not easy. At this point, the EU can
best help the development of cities' and regions' administrative
capacity by supporting training and development programmes, including
through study visits. Individual countries – such as Poland – are
helping, but we should move from bilateral to multilateral support. I
am a strong believer in the value of creating an Eastern Partnership
Academy of Public Administration. Face-to-face collaboration and
teaching would be best, so we would like this academy to have a
particular base, though a 'virtual' academy would also help."
The recommendation to increase the EU's funding for small
(CZ/ECR), Deputy Mayor of Rádlo, near the Czech Republic's borders with
Germany and Poland. He said: "The Eastern Partnership is about results
– it is working on
'20 deliverables by 2020'
– and about building up relations.
In my experience
, good cross-border relations and strong economic ties can be built up
very effectively through local projects, often at very little cost. The
budget for the EU's current cross-border programme in these six
countries is very modest – just €17.5 million – and most of that goes
to relatively large projects. The EU should increase its budget,
simplify processes, and introduce people-to-people projects with a
lower minimum project size and with lower co-financing rates, thereby
supporting a larger number of small projects. This would encourage the
participation of smaller applicants, such as small municipalities and
civil-society organisations. This could also help the emergence of more
permanent, bottom-up forms of cooperation, such as the Euroregions."
The EU created the Eastern Partnership in 2009, and in 2011 the European Committee of the Regions established CORLEAP to ensure that
all levels of government could have an opportunity to share their
The European Commission and the European External Action Service is currently inviting contributions on the future of the Eastern
Partnership, with a deadline for online contributions set for 31
October. The CoR itself is drafting an opinion that will also
consolidate previous work done by it and by CORLEAP. The Partnership's
future was also the centrepiece of debate at the meeting in Turku, with officials from the EU and the Sweden's ambassador to the Eastern Partnership, Anna Westerholm, joining CORLEAP members and the CoR's
rapporteur-general on the topic,
(LT/ECR), a member of Vilnius municipal council, to discuss the
possible contribution of local and regional authorities.
Among other opinions produced by CORLEAP are recommendations focused on municipal-level
relations with civil society, by the late mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz, and on the energy transition and on local economic development, both by Emin Yeritsyan, president of the Union of Communities
of Armenia and co-chairman of CORLEAP.
CORLEAP has already argued that the Eastern Partnership should
strengthen regional and local initiatives that positively affect the
implementation of democratisation and reform processes; adapt budgeting
to the needs of local and regional stakeholders, by, for instance,
supporting small-scale projects; reflect performance on issues of
decentralisation, local democracy and good governance at the
sub-national level when allocating funds; and help counter
disinformation at the local and regional level.
The meeting in Turku came two days after the President-elect of the
Ursula Von Der Leyen
for incoming commissioners, including László Trócsányi
, who, subject to approval by the European Parliament, could become commissioner for the EU's neighbourhood and enlargement in late
In an innovation piloted in 2018 and 2019, the CoR created a
linking five cities and regions in Ukraine with local and regional
authorities in the EU, focused on issues identified by the Ukrainian
partners. As a result, European Commissioner
has now asked the CoR to join a peer-to-peer project with Ukrainian
cities to reduce corruption at the local level.