EU inter-parliamentary Conference
NALAS was invited to participate in the inter-parliamentary Conference on “Local and Regional Authorities in the Enlargement Region and the EU Regional Policy” which took place on 30-31 January 2017 in Brussels at the premises of the European Parliament, with Members of the European Parliament and Members of Parliaments of EU Enlargement Countries.
Mladen Ivanovic from the Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Croatia represented NALAS on this occasion. The Network’s voice was being raised in the context of the European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn’s keynote speech and the following intervention on “Enhancing the role of the local and regional authorities (LRAs) in the EU enlargement process” by a member of the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
The intervention of the NALAS representative focused on the fact that in many countries of SEE NALAS member LGAs are not directly involved in planning/programming process of IPA II for the respective countries. This observation corresponds also to the enlargement process itself. Knowing that the EU only deals directly with the central government layer as their privileged interlocutor, NALAS proposed that the EU Commission recommends to the line ministries of the candidate countries to find ways of better involving LGAs in the IPA programming and the preparation/implementation of the enlargement process.
Regarding the fact that EU acquis and the introduction/adaptation of and to EU standards at local government level require adequate training, timing and resources, NALAS invited the EU Commission to recommend central governments of the candidate countries to provide the required input and to deal with local governments at partnership level via their LGAs.
The NALAS statements were accepted without additional discussion about it, bringing its message across to the participants.
Meeting with Dr. Franz Schausberger
Dr. Schausberger, a former Governor of Salzburg and member of the CIVEX Committee at the Committee of the Regions, was appointed in September 2016 as special advisor to Commissioner Hahn on issues related to the Western Balkans. His tasks are related to decentralisation and the strengthening of the sub-government level.
In the meeting taking place on 30 January 2017 in Vienna, NALAS was represented by its Executive Director, Kelmend Zajazi and Joachim Roth in his function as integrated expert. On this special occasion, Thomas Prorok, the Deputy Director of the Centre for Public Administration Research (KDZ) and Alexander Lesigang, responsible for European and International Relations within the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns, both NALAS partners, joined in.
The points of concern expressed by NALAS focused on the low priority of the Western Balkans on the EU Commission’s agenda, the absence of a technical unit within DG NEAR to be addressed to by LGAs, the scarce attention being given to LGAs in national IPA programming as well as consultation in the frame of the enlargement process, to name the most prominent ones. Dr. Schausberger assured his support to bring the expressed NALAS concerns to the attention of Commissioner Hahn and his cabinet. Among the thoughts shared by NALAS was the proposal to have the Commissioner address the EU Delegations in our region recommending LGAs to be part of the information/consulting process at national level. NALAS was invited to provide its perception of the most pressing issues of its member LGAs in regard to reform processes, relations to the central government level and EU delegations in the in their respective countries and to put forward recommendations how to address them.