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Success of Eastern Partnership requires leaders of regions and cities to deliver  

​​​Moldovan President Maia Sandu presents grassroots reform, and President of European Committee of the Regions welcomes new "partnership for resilience, recovery and reform".

President Maia Sandu of Moldova has emphasised the empowerment of local authorities will be central to the success of reforms in her country, pledging to increase funding available to them. Speaking on the eve of a summit of the Eastern Partnership, she also urged local public administrations "to build partnerships, support each other and share good practices". ​​​

President Sandu was speaking at the annual meeting of the Conference of Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP), which she said offered a "good platform for such cooperation" between local authorities. The meeting was addressed by the presidents of two European local-government assemblies: the EU's European Committee of the Regions and the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. Both stressed that the Eastern Partnership's agenda should strengthen good governance, local democracy and cooperation between national and local governments.

President Maia Sandu presented her reforms in part as a response to depopulation, saying: "We want people to stay; we want those who left to come back. In order to achieve that, we need to invest in our rural areas and create new opportunities for growth in every town. We must build Europe at home."

She continued: "We are working on a programme called 'the European Village', in which we want to put together various funding sources for local development and simplify the funding mechanism in order to improve the access of rural local governments to financing for development and ensure a fairer process of getting the money. We are also considering extending this fund to support local businesses. Our plan is to make at least €100 million available to Moldovan communities every year for financing local development projects across the country."

The Eastern Partnership summit on 15 December is an opportunity for the EU's 27 national leaders and the leaders of Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to update the Eastern Partnership's post-2020 agenda, in part in response to the pandemic.

Apostolos Tzitzikostas (EL/EPP), President of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of the region of Central Macedonia, said: "Geopolitical challenges and the impact of the pandemic underscore the importance of strengthening resilience at all levels of governance, fostering sustainable development and delivering results for citizens. We therefore support the Eastern Partnership's sharpened focus on resilience, reform, and post-pandemic recovery and the EU's new €2.3 billion Economic Investment Plan, in which local and regional authorities must play a pivotal role."

President Tzitzikostas, who is co-chair of CORLEAP, continued: "The success of this partnership for resilience, recovery and reform will depend on good governance, and on close cooperation with cities and regions. The creation of an Eastern Partnership Academy for the Public Administration – an idea advocated by CORLEAP – aims at enhancing cooperation in areas ranging from anti-corruption measures to energy, urban mobility and economic development."

Constantin Cojocaru , mayor of Edinet in Moldova and co-chair of CORLEAP, said: "I am glad that the three countries that have signed an Association Agreement with the EU – Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – are cooperating more and more closely in various areas and in different formats. We see much greater prospects here, including at the local level. We should consider a more structured format of consultations between our three delegations and a more systematic approach to our countries by the European Committee of the Regions. The sustainable development of our region has always been one of the key topics for us. Indeed, sustainability is one of the main motivations of our policies."

Leendert Verbeek, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, said: "Decentralisation reforms, already underway in many CORLEAP countries, must be pursued and brought to completion in line with the European Charter of Local Self-Government. Today, we need more decentralisation, not less, for better resilience and recovery: it is the system that can provide the most adequate responses to the ongoing health crisis and ensure the necessary resilience and recovery, starting from the community level. Multilevel governance increases the quality of decisions and shows greater flexibility in adapting to emergency situations. This also means that local and regional authorities must be equipped with proper competences and financial resources, have access to funding and be part of regular consultations in both crisis management and recovery plans."

Five of the six members of the Eastern Partnership – Belarus excepted – have ratified the Charter in full or in part. The Charter includes principles on fiscal decentralisation and on local governments' financial autonomy – the subjects of an report adopted by CORLEAP at the meeting. Drafted by Anar Ibrahimov from the Parliament of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in Azerbaijan, the report calls for each country to adopt a fiscal decentralisation strategy, cede some control of tax to municipalities, and ease municipalities' access to development funds and capital markets.

The Eastern Partnerships 'recovery, resilience and reform' agenda sets out objectives in five areas: accountable institutions, the rule of law and security; resilient, sustainable and integrated economies; environmental and climate resilience; the digital transformation; and fair and inclusive societies.

Other speakers at the event included: Maka Botchorishvili, co-president of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly and member of the Georgian parliament; Siegfried Mureșan , member of the European Parliament (RO/EPP); Serhiy Nadal, mayor of Ternopil in Ukraine; Ricardo Rio (PT/PES), mayor of Braga; and Nino Rukhadze, member of Tbilisi City Assembly.

CORLEAP's next annual meeting will be held in November 2022, when the six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union will be held by the Czech Republic, one of the driving forces behind the Eastern Partnership and host of the first Eastern Partnership summit in 2009. The European Committee of the Regions created CORLEAP in 2011.

Andrew Gardner
Tel +32 2 282 2429

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