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City partnerships could help EU's Africa agenda  

Partnerships with Libyan cities demonstrate potential for EU regions and cities to make EU relations with Africa deeper and more flexible.

The model of collaboration between European and Libyan cities developed over the past four years could serve as an inspiration for peer-to-peer partnerships with regions and cities elsewhere in Africa, the European Committee of the Regions said on 12 February. The recommendation is contained in a set of proposals by the EU's assembly for local and regional politicians that also called for more involvement in development cooperation by cities and regions from member states that, "for historical or other reasons, do not currently maintain intensive development cooperation links with African countries".

The opinion, which was adopted at the inaugural session of the Committee's new five-year mandate, aims to promote a more proactive role for European cities and regions in creating EU partnerships with local and regional authorities, civil-society organisations, and the private sector in Africa. The proposals, which build on previous recommendations by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), come at a particularly strategic moment for the EU. The new European Commission, which came into office, in December intends to be a "geopolitical Commission" and EU leaders will meet on 20 February at a summit that could determine the EU's budget for the next seven years.

The report was drafted by Robert Zeman (CZ/EPP), a member of Prachatice council. He said: "Cities and regions in the European Union have gained a great deal of experience of cross-border cooperation, primarily within Europe but also with local and regional authorities on other continents. Their models and lessons should be used more widely. For example, the CoR has brought together eight Libyan cities from across the conflict lines, and found municipal and regional authorities in Europe to cooperate in areas such as water and waste management. We would like to see more pilot projects of this sort. And we would like the EU's next long-term budget, which may be decided next week, to earmark money for international cooperation between cities and regions."

He continued: "More cooperation with African cities and regions would be a win-win for both sides, and would help to make EU relations with Africa deeper and more flexible. Building up collaboration from the local level would foster trust and personal contacts that could establish the basis for long-term success, including solving issues related to migration. This deeper, bottom-up approach might be particularly helpful for cities and regions in parts of Europe – including my country, Czechia – that have few national-level programmes with Africa."

The European Parliament supports the CoR's proposal – contained in a 2018 opinion by Hans Janssen (NL/EPP) – for a budget line specifically for collaboration between EU and non-EU cities and regions. In 2017, in an opinion by Paul Bossman (SI/PES), the CoR called for partnerships with African cities and regions when it commented on the EU's European Agenda on Migration.

The CoR, which organises a Cities and Regions for Development Cooperation forum with the European Commission, launched its cooperation with Libyan cities – also known as the 'Nicosia initiative' – in 2016. The CoR, which is a political body and has no project-management functions, has identified European cities and regions willing to meet the requests from Libyan cities for support in areas such as water and waste management, financial management, community peace-building, fisheries, public-administration training, and primary health care.



Andrew Gardner

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