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This is us: commitment, awareness and teamwork. ALDA Staff Meeting 2023


Starting from the local to promote and encourage democratic development, while placing citizens and members at the center. This was the guiding light for the ALDA Staff Meeting 2023!

Hence, from 24 to 26 January 2023, ALDA colleagues met in Vicenza, for three-days full immersion discussing together the milestone of the Association, getting to know each other better, and strengthening the sense of community.

From North Macedonia to Tunisia, from Belgium to Moldova via France and Italy: our heterogeneous and intercultural team of 50 people seized the occasion to see each other again, and as stressed by Abdelaziz BouslehHead of the Tunis Office “despite the distance, it is the best opportunity to feel the scope of the activities and the crucial effort behind”. Exactly this: behind the scenes, ALDA is more than an Association: it is people, it is ideas and commitment. It is a one single team that shares together values and energy to make a change, to act locally while thinking globally.

Thus, as also recalled by Antonella Valmorbida, our Secretary General, it is about “working in concert with members, with partners to promote a sustainable agenda, which aims to give impetus to initiatives with a broad European, Eastern Neighborhood, Balkan and Mediterranean scope”.

Staff Meeting 2023: working in concert with members, with partners to promote a sustainable agenda

Aiming at engaging in such a wide area represents, to some extent, the expertise of ALDA on decentralised cooperation, while stimulating citizens’ engagement for a sustainable and locally developed democracy. Similarly, being active in different areas allow the Association to continuously implement its mission, starting from the various necessities that each community is facing. Furthermore, thanks to its partnership extended in more than 40 countries, ALDA has been able to empower realities to express themselves and concretize essential projects, encouraging a collaboration with local authorities, as also explained by Maddalena Alberti, from the Association of LDA Zavidovici.

Stimulated by several exchanges with partners and stakeholders, working in unison to put into practice both the guidelines of the European Union and the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, different Thematic Hubs have been designed to maximize the impact on specific areas: be they – environment, youth, inclusion and gender issues together with migration. The latter was also the core aspect of the speech delivered by Andrea Rilievo, representative of the ALDA Governing Board. Thus, the Association not only has already implemented a series of initiatives targeting the phenomenon, but it is also working on a specific agenda, fully dedicated to migration.

To conclude on a positive note, a very first outcome of this new approach based in hubs, is already available: the Gender, Equality and Anti-Discrimination Policy has been released and presented during the staff meeting. ALDA will be in first line to make sure that the policy will be followed, and it will work together with members and stakeholders to further progress on this topic.

We thank every colleague who joined the meeting, together we can reach the impossible! Happy “Staff Meeting 2023” everyone!


The perception of Europe: voices and expectations of migrants

On the 19th and 20th January in Bologna, Italy, the Final Symposium of the “PERCEPTIONS – Understanding the Impact of Narratives and Perceptions of Europe on Migration and Providing Practices, Tools and Guides for Practitioners” project took place. The partners met to discuss the results achieved during this last three and a half years of fieldwork research and development.

The aim of the project was to examine how Europe and the European Union are seen by people who have migrated there or intend to do so. The research conducted investigated what perceptions and images of Europe exist among migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, how they are formed, whether they correspond to reality and what role they play in influencing migration decisions. The project also examined how the flow of information could be distorted and created toolkits of creative and innovative measures to counteract on distorted information, considering social, societal and structural aspects.

The objective of the project was to investigate the different perceptions of Europe, as well as the problems that are caused when expectation and reality do not match.

The final event of the project was open to the general public and brought together policymakers, academics, law enforcement agents, migrants, asylum seekers, NGOs, international organizations, and civil society organizations to discuss the project findings and the future research and practice opportunities.

During the first day of conference the participants had the chance to share their perspectives and experience the materials and resources developed throughout the course of the project. After an enlightening Roundtable on Perceptions’ knowledge and results, the general public had the opportunity to attend a R.E.D Carpet Exhibition, which included a live drawing and poetry reading session, and which concluded the day.

The second and last day of conference, on the other hand, focused on Perceptions’ future, highlighting how the project results open the way for new practices and research opportunities to explore in the future.

The event concluded with greetings from the team members of the University of Bologna, host of the event, and the screening of the film ‘Dystopia. The participants had also the chance to take part in the ‘Bologna Migrantour’ which took place in the afternoon, after the end of the conference.


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Erasmus+ Project “STeDe” flagged as good practice at European level

The Master course in Climate Change and Diversity: Sustainable Territorial Development (CCD- STeDe), an Erasmus+ Project, has been complimented for its successful implementation, creating a stable partnership network with real involvement of associated and industrial partners, which was also of a benefit for the students. 

ALDA has been a partner within the Master course CCD- STeDe since 2014, closely collaborating with University of Padova. 

CCD-STeDe is a world leading programme in the field of sustainable territorial development in the context of climate justice. This Master course is aimed at training researchers and professionals to support organisations acting in the territory and to draft sustainable development and climate adaptation policies for economic, social, environmental, international and intercultural management.

STeDe project scored 93/100 in the EACEA evaluation and is riconfirmed as good practice at EU level.

Thanks to its excellent work in the field of sustainable development, the University of Padova managed to influence and be a leader and to address most of the challenges of the European Higher Education Area, as stated by the EACEA.

The Joint master programme has been attractive, not only to the students, but also beneficial for all partners, as it increased their visibility and internationalisation.

What has been appreciated are also the innovative approaches, flexibility and adaptability shown during the pandemic period, in order to efficiently re-adapt the study programme to the sensitive period we lived in, thus showing the consortium a strong commitment toward the students.

This positive evaluation by the EACEA reflects the work and commitment of all partners to this project. 

On these positive notes, the new Erasmus Mundus Joint Master CCD-STeDe has opened the 1st call for applications: this is the only call with the possibility of being selected for an Erasmus Mundus scholarship!


The Master has four academic paths to choose from: 

  • Climate change, sustainability and development at Università degli Studi di Padova and Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar – Ecuador
  • Regional and Local Studies at University of Padova and Universidade da Madeira
  • Territorial Management at University of Padova and Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo
  • Environmental Management at University of Padova and University of Johannesburg


The deadline for the first round of applications is 10th March 2023.

Read about the programme and apply here


1993 – 2023: 30 years of local democracy in the Balkans

2023 certainly begins in a climate of uncertainty due to the economic and geopolitical situation in Europe and in the World. On another note, 2023 also marks an important anniversary for ALDA, the LDAs and the whole network.

It was exactly 30 years ago when it all started, with the establishment of the first LDAs in the Balkans.

Even though ALDA was born at the end of the 90s, our work and commitment started back in 1993, when the first LDAs were created at the initiative of the Council of Europe, with the mission to support civil society and peaceful co-existence in the states of former Yugoslavia in the aftermath of the conflict.

The very first LDA was founded in 1993 in Subotica, in Serbia, with the title of Local Democracy Embassy* (LDE) Subotica, shortly followed by the LDE Osijek, in Croatia, in the same year.

30 years later, the situation has profoundly changed. Year by year, the Local Democracy Agencies proved to be a successful tool and are now a network of 16 LDAs spread in the European Neighbourhood, with 3 Operational Partners (OPs) in Croatia.

It was exactly 30 years ago when it all started, with the establishment of the first LDAs in the Balkans

Thus, together with their mission, also the geographical scope of the LDAs has progressed. Today, LDAs can be found in other countries than the Balkans, but that is where we have preserved, in our everyday activities, the memory and the essence of the long journey we went through.

2023 will thus be marked by a series of events aimed at celebrating the everyday activity of the LDAs and their delegates, the achievements of ALDA and the LDAs through the years.

Public events will be organised throughout the Balkans, where it all started – thus setting a path recalling the milestones of the development of our activity in the Balkans and beyond;

A publication will be released which, in the form of a collection of anecdotes, pictures and testimonies, will recall the history of our first 30 years.

A video-documentary will be produced to revive the most important moments through images of places and people that have marked our history.

The anniversary will then culminate during the ALDA General Assembly, which will likely take place in June 2023 (more information coming in the following months!) with colleagues, members and delegates together to celebrate and reflect on the future development of the LDAs network.

Then, we will approach the end of the year with a crucial event in Strasbourg, in October 2023, where ALDA and LDAs will be hopefully present at the Congress’ premises.

These are just the milestone of an eventful 2023, with many more initiatives to de disclosed in the following weeks and months, aimed to celebrate our first 30 years of local democracy in the Balkans, from where it all started to the present day… and who knows how many more evolutions lie ahead!

Let the Anniversary begin!


*Only in 1998 the LDAs has started being called as we know them today, switching from Local Democracy Embassies to Local Democracy Agencies.

Link to the LDAs report of activities of all the years


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Barcelona awarded as the very first European Capital of Democracy

Innovative projects and initiatives made Barcelona becoming the very first European Capital of Democracy (ECoD), standing on the highest step of the podium before Brussels and Braga.

“Decidim”, the digital citizen participation platform, developed already in 2016; and “Superblock” which aims at transforming daily city life, decreasing the usage of cars caught the attention of the jury, allowing the city to be nominated, in 18 January 2023,  the first winner of this initiative.

"Participation is part of their DNA" - Ms. Valmorbida at the award ceremony in Barcelona

“We loved the projects and were excited to discuss about them all: They aim to include the general population, minority groups, and disadvantaged citizens. It sometimes seems that participation is even part of their DNA. Co-creation, co-production, and inclusion of other sectors are embedded and welcomed by all stakeholders we spoke to” stated Ms. Valmorbida – ALDA Secretary General and ECoD Chair of the Jury.

Barcelona will now deliver a full year programme, from September 2023 to September 2014, to further strengthen democracy in Europe; while other cities can apply to become the next Capital of Democracy

Read Ms. Valmorbida full speech here


Members as key partners in implementing digital transition at local level

ALDA  Secretary General, Antonella Valmorbida, was in Brussels with colleagues to meet the Municipality of Etterbeek, in order to relaunch the strategic partnership that was established in 2017 and aiming at strengthening the links between the association and the municipality, notably in the field of citizens participation.

This meeting occurred in a very timely moment as ALDA just received the news that we won an Erasmus+ project in partnership with Etterbeek, called MEDIUM (Municipalities Experimenting Digital Innovation, Upskilling and the Metaverse). 

The goal is to support the public sector digital transition educating on the uses of virtual reality and the metaverse to improve accessibility to public services.

ALDA is supporting the digital transition at local level, through EU guidelines. 

At the meeting David Dubois, the head of cabinet of the mayor, Marie-Charlotte Heldenbergh, in charge of citizens participation, and Jean-François Maljean, head of projects were present. 

Together with Ms. Valmorbida, they  discussed possible cooperation around ALDA 2023 priorities, including the collaboration with LDAs in Ukraine, which are locally registered associations, gathering local authorities and CSOs, to promote sustainable development projects and good governance.

At the local level, they have been instrumental in addressing the challenges of the war and in the cooperation between civil society and municipalities, providing strengthened resilience.

At the same time, recalling the successful APProach project, Ms. Heldenbergh pointed out at the commitment of Etterbeek in terms of citizens participation. Implemented hand in hand with ALDA and the consortium partners, APProach increased  participation of foreigners in local life, ensuring that all citizens have a say in the local decision making process. Hence, considering that 49% of Etterbeek residents were non-Belgian this initiatives was a key actions   for the inclusion of EU Mobile Citizens, 

The team was also very happy to discover the new building of the municipality, for which Etterbeek received architectural success awards; it’s a natural building, and part of it is dedicated to social housing. 


Finally, to conclude on a positive note the meeting agenda, other points discussed were ALDA General Assembly, which will take place in June 2023 in Brussels, and possible future activities to raise awareness about EP elections. 


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Become a volunteer with ALDA with the project “EU LIVES - Leverage for Initiating Volunteering in Europe and Surroundings”

“EU LIVES” project is out! If you are a young enthusiast about Europe, want to do an experience abroad and interested in the work of ALDA, do not miss out: this is your chance to apply for the call and become a civil service volunteer for one year. 

The project objective is to involve young people in mobility paths that favor their personal growth:  on the one hand in view of their professional future, on the other in relation to their role of citizens of local communities and of a wider European community. This is the reason why it develops in Italy, but also in other ALDA offices in European countries, namely in France (Strasbourg), Belgium (Brussels) and North Macedonia (Skopje).

Apply by 10th February and make the most out of your civil service volunteer experience!

There are plenty of benefits for becoming a volunteer in ALDA: you will become an active citizen through actions for the community and for the territory, acquire new skills, put yourself to the test and enter the world of work. 

Activities of the volunteer: 

  • Funding research;
  • Research and monitoring of European and international calls for proposals
  • Project design, development and writing
  • Project management support
  • Drawing up reports, articles, social media posts 
  • Strengthening of local networks and networking
  • Dialogue and relationship with European institutions

You can apply for one of these ALDA offices: 

  • Brussels: 4 people
  • Strasbourg: 3 people
  • Skopje: 2 people 

What do you need to apply? You have to be between 18 and 28 years old, reside in Italy and possess a SPID account activated. Make sure to meet the deadline that is on 10th February 2023.


Useful links

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After Euro and Schengen: promotion of good local governance, even more important


2023 marked a turning year for Croatia: border controls, currency exchange will be a memory from the past. The country celebrated the new year with two major and radical steps within the European integration, by joining both the Eurozone and the Schengen area.

Croatia joined the Union back in 2013 undergoing since then a period of reforms in order to meet the so-call “acquis”, a series of requirements necessary to fully access the two above-mentioned sectors. From 1 January 2023, the Euro has become the national currency, thus replacing the kuna. At the same time, on the very same day people may travel within the Schengen area without border controls, experiencing the benefits of free movement: “Croatians are joining a community of 347 million Europeans who are using the euro in their everyday lives. This is a major achievement for Croatia, a symbol of its deep-rooted attachment to the EU, and a symbolic moment for the euro area as a whole” cheered President von der Leyen.

Croatia celebrated the new year with two major and radical steps within the European integration, by joining both the Eurozone and the Schengen area

Speaking of achievements, ALDA is implementing the “European Label of Governance Excellence (ELoGE)” in Croatia, spurring reforms in terms of good-governance thus awarding those municipalities that successfully carried out the programme, while stimulating an in-depth knowledge of the democratic process among Local Authorities.

Overall, ALDA joined the celebration for these important milestones. By having three Operational Partners (OPs) based in Croatia, focusing on increasing cross-border cooperation and consumers’ awareness, together with our Croatian members ALDA is working to foster citizens’ participation in the social and national life, being active actors in the overall participatory democracy framework.


Welcome to Croatia for being closer and stronger part of the EU!


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Kick off of the Swedish Presidency: what to bear in mind?

The new year started with the Swedish Presidency of the European Council: the third and last of the “Trio”. After France and Czech Republic, Sweden is now in charge of guiding the Council until June this year, thus implementing the already agreed “Trio programme”, and focusing on four main priorities.

Considering the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the consequences in terms of people’s safety, migration, and energy supplies, “Security – Unity” represents the first pillar on which the overall Presidency’s commitment is based. Hence, while stressing the impact of the united response to the invasion of Ukraine, still “we must build consensus towards a robust European security and defence policy, in close cooperation with partners

Swedish Presidency of the European Council: focus on security, competitiveness, energy and democracy

Similarly, “Competitiveness” in the single market and on a global scale constitutes the second focus of the Presidency. As also announced by the Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson: “the EU’s internal market is the foundation of our prosperity and our welfare. But this is dependent on the EU’s four freedoms – the free movement of goods, capital, services and people. And also on a fair and level playing field for European companies.”

From a broader perspective, competitiveness may lead to the necessity of diversifying the market, thus reducing the dependence on certain suppliers, such as those within the energy sectors. Related to that, the Swedish Presidency reiterates the efforts for the “Green transition and energy transition” aiming to a fossil-free future, innovative industries, and right regulatory framework.

Finally, as the case of the two previous Presidencies, great attention will be given to the safeguard of the “Democratic values and the rule of law – our foundation” so that to further ensure individual freedoms and non-discrimination.

With much enthusiasm, ALDA welcomes this new Presidency, reaffirming its willingness to collaborate with citizens and institutions, to strengthen the European values and the role of the Union as a global player, and implementing the Swedish Presidency programme.


ALDA welcomes the French EU Council Presidency

Czech Presidency of the European Council: Welcome!


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