Facilitate the task of the local and regional authorities in the enlargement countries to prepare for their future responsibilities in the European Union, to obtain recognition of their role and to establish and develop contacts and cooperation with their EU counterparts.
Promote the advantages of political dialogue, economic and cultural cooperation between local and regional authorities of candidate and potential candidate countries and those of the EU.
Reiterates its recommendation to the European Commission that it go into greater detail in its future enlargement strategy reports about the situation of regional and local self-government, and points to the need for further regionalising and decentralising reform in the enlargement countries, encouraging them to fully adapt and implement a comprehensive legal framework creating strong sub-national levels of government.
Points out that delegated powers should reflect the level of responsibilities to be assumed when introducing the community acquis at local and regional level.
The key points of the opinion were presented during the meetings of the WGs and JCCs and the findings were debated together with local authorities from enlargement countries.
Furthermore, in the marge of the CIVEX meeting from 16 November 2015 it was organised the first meeting of the Enlargement Day event, with the participation of CIVEX members, the members of the WGs and JCCs and JCCs co-chairs and guest speakers from the enlargement countries.
The main impact points from the perspective of European Commission:
The Commission supports the development of functioning local and regional administrations in the candidate countries and potential candidates.
While there is no chapter on decentralisation given the absence of specific acquis in this area, local/regional self-government is addressed in the Commission's annual Progress Reports as part of the political criteria in view of the need for stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy.
The Commission is increasing the focus on public administration reform, which is also relevant at the local and regional levels. It is also addressed in individual chapters insofar as it is relevant for implementation of the acquis in certain areas.
While the Commission's main interlocutors in the candidate countries and potential candidates in the context of the pre-accession process are the national authorities, the Commission engages stakeholders at all levels and encourages also the national authorities to ensure proper involvement of all stakeholders, including local and regional authorities in the pre-accession process.
The Commission's approach of addressing fundamentals first prioritises reforms related to rule of law and fundamental rights and strengthening democratic institutions. As mentioned in the 2014 strategy, strengthening the functioning of democratic institutions also requires sound electoral processes and proper functioning of parliaments, including constructive and sustainable dialogue across the political spectrum. The Commission noted in its 2014 strategy paper that more needs to be done to foster an enabling environment for civil society organisations. A strong civil society enhances political accountability and promotes deeper understanding of accession-related reforms.
The Commission is open to an upgrading of the Working Group with Turkey to a Joint Consultative Committee, provided that the Turkish side is in agreement.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- underlines the fundamental role of local and regional representatives in the enlargement process and encourages enlargement countries (Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo* and Turkey) in their decentralisation and regionalisation efforts; believes that respect for the principle of subsidiarity is crucial;
- notes and supports the opinion of the European Commission on the need for a period of consolidation; however, stresses that this must not result in a standstill. The period of five years must be understood as a phase of intense preparation and adoption of the policies required to meet the criteria for EU membership;
- reiterates its recommendation to the Commission that it needs to go into greater detail in its future enlargement strategy reports about the situation of regional and local self-government, and points to the need for further regionalising and decentralising reform in the enlargement countries, encouraging them to fully adapt and implement a comprehensive legal framework creating strong sub-national levels of government; points out that delegated powers should reflect the level of responsibilities to be assumed when introducing the community acquis at local and regional level;
- calls for the proper involvement of the local and regional authorities of the candidate and potential candidate countries in the pre-accession process;
- acknowledges 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.