to respond to the Bulgarian Presidency's request for an opinion on macro-regional, cross-border and other transnational cooperation initiatives in the Western Balkans
to provide the CoR response to the European Commission's communication on EU enlargement published on 6 February 2018
As it was produced upon referral from the Bulgarian Presidency, the opinion was presented at their event on “The Western Balkans’ European Perspective Through Growth, Good Governance and Enhanced Cooperation “ on 25 April 2018.
In addition, it was disseminated during the Enlargement Day, 3-4 May 2018.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- welcomes the priority given to the Western Balkans by the Bulgarian Presidency and the strategy laid out in the Commission's Communication;
- sees a "bottom-up approach" as absolutely essential for the timely success of further EU integration to include the Western Balkans countries;
- acknowledges that it is very positive that the Commission now explicitly calls for an appropriate balance to be struck between central, regional and local government, since the strategic and operational plans for EU enlargement generally overlook the regional and local government dimension;
- stresses that LRA representatives should be actively involved in accession; EU standards and best practices should be implemented at LRA level as early as possible in the enlargement process;
- acknowledges the sub-national level has to acquire the knowhow to carry out its future tasks under the acquis;
- sees decentralisation as vital for social cohesion, stability and peace and reconciliation in the Western Balkans and thus for the future of Europe;
- notes that in undertaking the crucial steps needed to strengthen decentralisation in the true sense of the word, care must be taken not to fuel ethnic divisions and tensions;
- believes considerable efforts still need to be made and vital financial resources transferred in order to increase the administrative capacity of local and regional authorities in the Western Balkans;
- stresses that representatives of LRAs or local associations should be involved in the pre-accession funds (IPA) negotiations, programming, monitoring and evaluation;
- is of the opinion that the EU's macro-regional strategies should cover the whole of the Western Balkans.