On 2 May 2011 the host city of LDA Georgia, Kutaisi, celebrated its annual Day of the City. On this occasion ALDA was represented by the President, Per Vinther, accompanied by Ioseb Khakhaleishvili, Director of LDA Georgia. In his address to a well-attended ceremonial session the President commended the city administration for the excellent cooperation with ALDA since 2004 in the context of establishing LDA Georgia – in spite of frequent changes of mayor.

He recalled the objective of the LDA of helping local government and civil society work jointly to provide a better and more just community for all its citizens. Also, he informed the audience of ALDA’s plans to use LDA Georgia, which has worked successfully for five years, as a stepping stone for establishing in the shorter term LDAs also in Armenia and Azerbaijan thereby creating an LDA network across the region similar to the one in South East Europe

There is no democracy without local democracy”. It is what said Ambassador Constantin Yerocostopoulos, Head of the Council of Europe office in Azerbaijan, opening the workshop held by ALDA in Baku, Azerbaijan, on May 17, on the development of local government and good governance at the local level.
This is the reason for which NGOs in Azerbaijan calls on the Congress of Council of Europe for moral support in their struggle and efforts to push for reforms towards a system of real local self-government in Azerbaijan.
At the workshop participants discussed the experience of local government reform in Bulgaria and compared it with the situation in Azerbaijan.

The Ambassador Constantin Yerocostopoulos spoke about the Council of Europe and the Congress’ initiatives in Azerbaijan and also mentioned the Congress’ recent observation report for Azerbaijan’s local elections that took place in December 2009. The report concluded that despite some technical improvements the elections were lacking the essence of real political competition and democracy.
Mrs. Antonella Valmorbida, ALDA Director told about ALDA’s work in South Caucasus and plans to open a Local Democracy Agency in Azerbaijan in the future. Mrs. Ginka Tchavdarova, Executive Director of the National association of municipalities in Bulgaria spoke about the experience and challenges Bulgaria has faced to develop local self-government and promote citizen participation at the local level.

Mr. Abil Bayramov from the NGO Alliance for Municipality Development spoke about citizen participation in Azerbaijan and the difficulties to talk about any form of real citizen participation, when the elected local government practically doesn’t have any power or money to work with. However, it was stressed that there is a huge potential in the population for more citizen participation and that any activity that allows for even superficial citizen participation is still useful and is giving an important example.
There were very active discussions throughout the workshop, especially on the question of how to overcome the situation that exists today with very limited powers to the municipalities and which role the Congress of the Council of Europe could play in supporting the NGOs’ efforts to push for reform of this system. The participants expressed hope that the monitoring report for Azerbaijan that the Congress expects to conduct in 2012 will bring focus on the fact that Azerbaijan hardly has reformed or strengthened its local self -government system since ratifying the Charter of Local self government in 2002.
One participant even stated that in fact the municipalities in the Soviet system had more powers than municipalities have in the current system in Azerbaijan. This might be an exaggeration but the fact is that local self-government practically doesn’t exist in Azerbaijan.

After a municipal reform in 2009 there are now 1718 municipalities in Azerbaijan. However, these municipalities have very limited authority and almost no money to work with.
The “Executive Committees” that are appointed directly by the president of Azerbaijan have the real power at the local level and the municipalities depend completely on these Executive Committees. The Executive Committees have much broader responsibilities than the municipalities and some of their responsibilities overlap those of the municipalities, which creates confusion – and leaves the municipalities with an unclear mandate.
The city councils are directly elected, but without any real authority these elections have limited meaning. The budget of the municipalities is around 4 Euro per citizen per year putting strong constraints on the possibilities for the municipalities to do anything.

The municipalities’ actual responsibility is limited to maintaining municipal roads, providing social support to low income groups who are not included in the state’s social programs, maintaining cemeteries and organising mourning ceremonies. Most municipalities still don’t have administrative buildings.
There aren’t any indications that the government in Azerbaijan is intending to reform this system substantially in the coming period. The Associations of Local Authorities in Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Justice, responsible for the municipalities, were invited to the seminar but didn’t participate.
The seminar was a reminder for ALDA of the extreme limits to local self-government in Azerbaijan and how far Azerbaijan is from meeting its commitments to the Charter of Local self-government. At the same time the seminar once again showed that there are very competent organisations and persons in Azerbaijan who are committed to the development of local self-government and needs the support of ALDA, the Congress and other international partners to achieve their goals.

The workshop is part of an ALDA project on support to Local Democracy in South Caucasus funded by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. It served as a follow up to the conference on cooperation for Local Government development in South Caucasus that took place in Kutaisi in November 2010. In April a similar workshop took place in Georgia and in July a workshop will take place in Armenia. The workshop was also partly funded by the and the Principality of Liechtenstein and its project to support the setting up of an LDA in Azerbaijan.

In the framework of the Programme for decentralised cooperation between the Region Lower Normandy and Republic of North Macedonia, stakeholders from Lower Normandy met with the head of department for decentralised cooperation and human rights in Regional Council of Lower Normandy, Mm Sabine Guichet-Lebailly, in Caen, on May 13, 2011.

Following the agenda on the intermediary steering committee of Macedonian stakeholders, the French stakeholders had also the opportunity to share their experiences regarding completed activities till now and to present their previewed activities. The participants discussed the administration and finance issues presented by ALDA staff.
The tourism mission planned for July 2011, when several tour operators from Lower Normandy will visit Macedonia and try to promote it as new tourist destination was presented by Ms. Nadège Lecluse.
The new strategy for communication developed by the Skopje office was also reviewed, followed by the reactions and propositions of the partners. Their ideas will be implemented in the new web site of the cooperation which is in the development process.

Analysing the new possibilities, prepositions and supporting measures, this committee resulted in interesting and innovative opinions that will improve the Programme for decentralised cooperation between Lower Normandy and Macedonia. These results will be excellent support for the common steering committee, in Macedonia, in September this year.

It was launched in Sacile (IT), with the first of three planned international meetings, the project WELCOME, “Water: Linking Cities Element, Merging Opportunity for Europe“.

Partners of the project, funded by the European Commission, are ten cities from old, new and future Europe, linked from being cities of water, near rivers, lakes or the sea.

In addition to Sacile, lead partner of the project, participants to this project are the city of Brugnera, Caneva, Fontanafredda and Porcia (IT), Berettyóújfalu (Hungary), Marga (Romania), Novi Grad-Cittanova (Croatia), Spittal an der Drau (Austria) and La Réole (France).

The project was implemented with the technical assistance of ALDA.

The project aims to promote initiatives of reflection, debate and action on the element “water” in all its forms: cultural value, economic agents, territorial and environmental element. His “good” management can improve the welfare of citizens and communities involved, with multiplier effects in Europe through the exchange of best practices among cities of different countries that in common have the feature of being located in areas close to a river, a lake or the sea.
Water, therefore, considered as an element of exchange and comparison among different cultures, models of local governance, and as a unifying vision of a common “European” sustainable future both economically and environmentally.

The “network” of the member cities will be unified on many occasions of exchange and discussion on topics proposed by the project (meetings, workshops) and the work will create a final “Memorandum of Understanding”, which will be signed by the partners together with an agreement of cooperation that will keep them together in the long term.

Water is the link among the ten cities and the experiences of water management as a tool of economic growth linked to tourism were discussed at the opening conference in Sacile (May 6).

The Mayor of Sacile, Roberto Ceraolo, in his introductory speech stressed the importance of cooperation between cities in the path of building a Europe of citizens.

The cities representatives explained how the water, as well as infrastructure related to it, are protected and used to create sustainable development and prosperity for the community.

Traditionally, the Open Days of the European Parliament are held on the second Sunday of May. This year, more than 17.000 people visited the building Louise Weiss also known as the new building of the European Parliament.

ALDA had a stand on the first floor among the twenty associations and other organisations dedicated to promote European values and EP’s work. The Strasbourg team, Alfonso, Dimitra, Meike and Biljana, helped with former trainee Guilia Martini, worked relentlessly to promote our organisation at its best.

With the aim of improving relationships and cohabitation among communities by sharing reflections on past, present and future in a perspective of conflict elaboration and transformation, a documentary with interviews of around 100 people of all ages from the region (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo*) has been produced. Documentary has been realised by LDA Nis, TavoloTrentino con Kraljevo, Kraljevo, Progetto Prijedor, Tavolo Trentino con Kosovo and supported by the Association Tavolo Trentino, Italy.

At the beginning of April, participants from Nis, Kraljevo, Prijedor, Pec, Pristina and Gorazdevac shared their individual perspectives of major historic and politic events in past two decades in the region during the joint one day workshop with an expert from Italy about “old factory and its meaning for old and new generations”, where they analysed the meaning of industry before and today.
They have also planned the future project related to the cultural heritage of the region.
In the up-coming months a premiere of the documentary will be organised in each of the cities involved.

On the 27th of April, in Alger, took place the final event of the programme “Capitalising Migrant Capacities in Algeria” supported by EC and UNDP. The final diploma were handed out, as well as the the microcredit regranting was confirmed, to all the candidates (17) who followed a training process in the course of the programme. The microcredit scheme will support the young entrepreneurs with grant between 1500 and 2500 Euro.

At the event were present the Director of ALDA, Mrs. Antonella Valmorbida, and M. Alessandro Perelli, member of the Governing Board, from Friuli Venezia Giulia (IT).
The programme sets the basis for an intensification of the relations between ALDA and the Maghreb area in the context of the MED strategy proposed by the Governing Board of the Association.

Converting the brain drain, from Algeria to Italy and Europe, into human and economic capital, creating real prospects for improving social and economic conditions.
This was the objective of the project that involved a large number of Algerian and Italian local authorities and NGOs. The project has been coordinated and organised by ALDA.

The scheme was developed through training and information actions addressed both to migrants, potential or back to their country, and to local authorities in Algeria.
Project partners were, together with ALDA, the Sicilian Region, the Regional Department for Family, Social Policies and Labour, FACME, the Algerian Forum for Citizenship and Modernity, the Municipality of Lecce, ISPRES, the Institute of Social and Economic Research (Puglia, Italy), and the Municipality of Kouba (Algeria).

In order to capitalise on the migration phenomenon, the project has acted in three directions.
The first one was aimed at the orientation of potential migrants, who were provided with the correct information about what really awaits them once they cross the border and with training fundamentals in relation to future employment.
The second one aimed to assist the immigrants who have lost their job owing to the worldwide economic crisis to return to work in Algeria, capitalising on their experience and laying the foundations for the economic development of the Maghreb area.

The last action aimed to give to local authorities information and technical advice for managing the migration phenomenon.
In addition to moments of debate and exchange of experiences (a workshop in Lecce, and the final conference in Palermo) the project promoted a “two career days”, each of them conceived as a career fair (first day) and pre-departure orientation seminars in two Algerian cities, and a training session in Algeria about project management and business start-ups. The training sessions was followed up by a re-granting scheme, which awarded the best business projects from the training sessions and other proposals.

The LDA Albania has a new Delegate, after the departure of Mr Franco Menga. The responsibility is assigned to Mr Francesco Fiera, who has been leading the office of Cooperation and Active Citizenship of the the City of Brindisi in this last year.
Mr Fiera will work with the support of a team, who worked in the activities of the city of Brindisi, together with the LDA Albania, in these last months.

The city of Brindisi is lead partner of the LDA Albania, with the very active involvement of the member of the government of the municipality, Mr Massimo Ciullo. Partners are also the Region Puglia, the city of Yverdons (Switzerland) and IPRES.
The decision will be further discussed and ratified by a future partner meeting, which will be held in the next months.
The LDA Albania focuses on citizens’ and youth’ empowerment and on local economic development activities. It is based in Skodra, Northern of Albania

The contacts are for the time being : brindisi@aldaintranet.org; +39 392 050 38 75

In the framework of the Programme for decentralised cooperation between the Region Lower Normandy and Republic of North Macedonia, Macedonian stakeholders met with the Project Officer for the decentralised cooperation from Lower Normandy, Ms. Nadige Lecluse, in Prilep, on April 21, 2011.
Ms. Lecluse welcomed Macedonian stakeholders and invited them to share their experiences regarding completed activities and the project in general. The participants discussed the administration and finance issues, as well as previewed projects for this year.

The attendees also talked about the tourism mission planned for July 2011, when several tour operators from Lower Normandy will visit North Macedonia and try to promote it as new tourist destination.
The new strategy for communication developed by the Skopje office was also reviewed, followed by the reactions and propositions of the partners. Their ideas will be implemented in the new web site of the cooperation which is in the development process.
Analysing the new possibilities, prepositions and supporting measures, this committee resulted in interesting and innovative opinions that will improve the Programme for decentralised cooperation between Lower Normandy and North Macedonia. These results will be excellent support and preview for the French stakeholders, who will meet this May.
For further information please consult the web page of the Cooperation http://crbn-mk.courriers.info

To ensure the progress of development of local self-government in Georgia and Bulgaria decisions and new laws must be turned into reality, because reforms don’t only remain de jure changes but also produce de facto changes.

This should be the goal of the reform process initiated in the two countries and strongly supported by the European institutions, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in the head, as shown during the seminar held by ALDA, the Association of Local Democracy Agencies, on April 19 in Tbilisi, Georgia.
The seminar on “strengthening good governance and citizen participation at the local level” was supported by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and organised in cooperation with the National Association of Local Authorities in Georgia (NALAG) and the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA).
The meeting took place at the Local Governance centre of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, with the participation of students of Local Governance and the head of the centre Mrs. Liza Soptomadze. During the seminar Dr. Ginka Tchavdarova, Executive Director of the National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria spoke about local self-government in Bulgaria, examples of citizen participation at the local level in Bulgaria and other European countries as well as the Charter of Local Self-government and how it has been implemented in Bulgaria and discussed the implementation of the Charter in Georgia with the participants.
Ms. Tatiana Bokuchava from NALAG and secretary to the Georgian Delegation to the Congress of Council of Europe also participated in the seminar and spoke about NALAG’s work in the Council of Europe and NALAG’s cooperation with ALDA.

During the seminar there were active discussions with the participants regarding the progress of development of local self-government in Georgia and Bulgaria and the challenges to turn decisions and new laws into reality so reforms don’t only remain de jure changes but also produce de facto changes. Dr. Ginka Tchavdarova explained that Bulgaria has been successful in developing strategies for decentralisation, but that often the implementation of these strategies unfortunately has been less successful. The Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation and information about the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities were also discussed and distributed to the participants.

The challenges of how mobilise citizens to take responsibility and be active at the local level on issues that are concerning their own lives and the situation in their communities were also discussed. The idea of youth parliaments that have been used in Bulgaria was mentioned as an idea to activate youth at the local level in Georgia and a there was a discussion of how the participants themselves could become more active citizens.

To share best practices of good governance in European local administration for strengthening the development of the local government in South Caucasus.
This is the main objective of the international seminar that is taking place today (19th of April) in Tbilisi, Georgia, promoted by ALDA and Georgian Institute of Public Administration, in the framework of a Council of Europe’s programme.

The seminar is a fundamental event to identify the needs and the perspectives of the Association of Local Authorities to promote local governance and local democracy in these region and its countries which belong to the Council of Europe.
ALDA believe that the cooperation and experience it can offer through the network of Municipalities, NGOs and other partners it has throughout Europe can provide a great benefit for the development of Local governance in South Caucasus.
The seminar follow the international conference promoted by ALDA with the Council of Europe, GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit), NALAS (Network of Local Authorities Associations of South Eastern Europe) and LDA Georgia, that took place last December in Kutaisi.
This seminar will be repeated also in Armenia and in Azerbaijan in the next months.

On the 19th and 20th of April in Riga (“Maritim Park Hotel Riga”), Latvia, will take place the first international event within the project Stand.UP, Stregthening Twinning Agreements and Networking for Development. United in Partnetship.
The workshop on “Fighting the poverty: from innovative idea to cooperation”, is organised by ALDA in cooperation with the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments (LALRG). It aims to promote innovative socio-economic activities involving a private-public partnership.
39 international and 20 local participants will attend the workshop.

Stand.UP, is an ALDA’s project, in the Europe for Citizens Programme, Supporting Measure 2.2., and it will foster citizens’ participation and interaction with local and EU institutions through debates on vivid EU related topics in the field of twinning.
It will raise awareness on EU common values such as democracy and participation, promoting thus Active European citizenship and European identity. By gathering together EU and pre accession countries, the project will promote a shared identity in the wider Europe.

Making ordinary citizens aware of their responsibility and of the power that they can detain, Stan.UP will try to give them a greater sense of ownership of the EU.
Stand.UP aims at strengthening Civil Society Organisations’ involvement in the overall framework of EU twinning in order of creating a better organised cooperation system between Local Authorities and CSO and a more present Public-Private Partnership in the fight against economic and social crisis, in the promotion of mobility for democracy and the ownership of European identity.
Its focuses are Economic innovative initiatives, Local Development and Volunteering using 3 international workshops and 17 local preparatory meetings in which Local Authorities, economic stakeholders and CSO but also citizens’ groups in a more dynamic evaluation of what cooperation can bring in the building of a developed Europe.

Europe deaf, indifferent and lacking in solidarity on the migratory events that are interwoven in the Mediterranean or means of establishing a new concept of local governance in the countries of the Med? And how can local governments to become positive leaders in Sicily of this new governance, which from the bottom, try to give concrete answers to the causes of migration and the problems they bring to their communities?

One possible answer to this question will try to give tomorrow in Palermo Sicily Region, in particular the Department of Foreign Affairs in Brussels, led by Dr. Francesco Attaguile, and ALDA, Association of Local Democracy Agencies, with Director Antonella Valmorbida, who organised a meeting with the Sicilian municipalities.
Tomorrow (Tuesday 19th of April 2011, 9.30) at the conference hall of the Region, (via General Magliocco, 46) will discuss the theme “Active citizenship and participation for local governance in the Mediterranean”.
The Association of Local Democracy Agencies (ALDA) is a non Governmental Organisation working throughout Europe and the Mediterranean for the promotion of governance and citizen participation as a means for strengthening local democracy and the protection of human rights. In recent years, Alda has become one of the most dynamic players in Europe and cooperates with the European Commission under the structured dialogue on Active Citizenship.

Together with the Sicilian Region has achieved, among other initiatives, a project for the entrepreneurial and managerial training of citizens of the Maghreb to “capitalise” their ability to develop new activities in their country of origin or to facilitate a full integration in the host countries.
In line with the “Palermo Declaration”, signed by 50 institutions representative of 20 countries in May 2010 during the conference “United by the Mediterranean” organised by the Sicilian Region, ALDA is strongly convinced of the importance of strengthening the euro-Mediterranean partnership for the promotion of human rights and participation of all citizens in the life of local communities in which they live.

Many Sicilian municipalities have joined the meeting, which aims to promote the development of synergies between the activities of ALDA, Sicily Region and Sicilian municipalities interested in promoting local governance and participation of citizens in Europe and in the Mediterranean, sharing experiences and best practices among the actors involved. The ultimate objective of the meeting is to develop local projects, within the project guidelines and funding of the European Community, as an opportunity for stable cooperation for development and peace in the Mediterranean.

The team of the Youth Information and Counseling Center INFO SEGA, together with the Executive Director of SEGA, Member of the Council of the Local Self-Government Strumica and representative of the Local Self-Government of Shtip participated in study visit for the Network of youth information, Local partnership and its modalities of implementation in Lower Normandy, France.

The aim of this visit was to study the system and functioning of the Youth Information Centers in this part of France, representatives of the municipalities Shtip and Strumica in order to get familiar with the model of Youth Information Center, exchange of experiences and possibilities for further cooperation between North Macedonia and Lower Normandy.
This study visit is part of the Project for decentralised cooperation between Macedonia and Lower Normandy – France, supported by the Regional Council of Lower Normandy, the French Ministry for foreign affairs, the European House of Caen and the Coalition of youth organizations SEGA. These organisations cooperate on Component 2 of the project.
The Macedonian delegation had opportunity to visit Youth informative centers, Info points, municipalities and state offices, youth houses and youth cultural centers in Caen, Flers, Saint Lo and Oustreham.
Within this study visit both parties exchanged successful stories for the youth information centers, youth information, local partnership and the modalities of its implementation. Lot of fresh ideas will be implemented in the everyday work of INFO SEGA, and the opening of new youth information centers in Shtip and Strumica will be initiated.
For further information please consult the webpage of the Cooperation http://crbn-mk.courriers.info/ or contact Katica Janeva katica.janeva@aldaintranet.org .

The Association of Local Democracy Agencies strongly supports the demand for democracy and respect for human rights in the Southern Mediterranean countries and condemns in particular the violence in Libya. We are strongly concerned with the fate of migrants who are fleeing the countries in danger either by sea or through long and very risky journeys over land.

We consider that this is our role, as Europeans, supporting the future strengthening of European identity to promote peace and democracy within our borders but today even more so in our Neighbourhood. The unrests and uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya show that the request for citizenship and involvement and respect in the democratic process, at the borders of Europe, is an essential need.
ALDA and the LDAs have an extensive knowledge in post conflict areas, like in Western Balkans and in Southern Caucasus to restore peace and democracy, as well as paving the way for future development. We are convinced that it is possible only through real support to local authorities and civil society working together.
ALDA recommends to the European institutions to respond with one single voice in defence of democracy and human rights in this area of the world in these days and give full support to migrants in needs. It calls for support and commitments from local authorities and their associations as well as European Civil Society to be engaged in giving support and help in this moment and in the future.
We strongly recommend the inclusion of local governance and citizens’ participation as a cross cutting element of the European Neighbourhood Policies and programmes.
Being already involved in a programme for migrants in Algeria and initiatives in Morocco, ALDA confirms its interest in supporting local good governance and citizens’ participation in the Southern Mediterranean countries, drawing on our experience and commitment from Europe, in particular Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership.

The Association of Local Democracy Agencies was present for the second time this year to the 2011 South-East Europe School for Local Democracy in Sarajevo, from April 7 to 11.
The School is a training programme of the Council of Europe for locally elected representatives, local authorities administrators and members of the LDAs and their partners, in matters related to local good governance, decentralisation and leadership at local level. It is linked to the Network of the School of Political Studies and the Directorate General of Democracy and Political Affairs. The host for this second seminar was the Sarajevo School of Political Studies.

Eight members of ALDA s network were present to the seminar: Mirjana Ostojic, Public Relations Officer to the Municipality of Prijedor, Paula Rauzan, LDA Delegate in Sisak, Dzenana Dedic, LDA Delegate from Mostar, Danilo Cabric, Member of cabinet in Mayor of Subotica, Dibra Blendi, Technical director of LDA Shkodra, Oriano Otocan, Istrian Regional Government Member and Member of the ALDA Governing Board, as well as Biljana Zasova, Senior Implementation Coordinator.
Mrs Zasova was also member of the delegation of the City of Strasbourg headed by Mrs Nawel Rafik-Elmrini, Vice-Mayor of the Municipality of Strasbourg in charge with International and European Relations and Decentralised Cooperation. They had meetings with Prof. Dr. Alija Behmed, Mayor of Sarajevo and Dr. Mirsad Kebo, Vice-President of Bosnia and Herzegovina (on the photo).

The co-operation of civil society with local authorities is an important prerequisite of democratic governance that could contribute to further stability and sustainable development in the Western Balkan region, as demonstrated within the project “participation and intercultural governance at local level in the balkans: challenges and European perspectives”.
The leading applicant of the project was the city administration of Subotica; ALDA, the LDAs of Subotica, Mostar and Osijek and the Lighthouse Media centre of Wolverhampton (UK) were the partners of the project, equally involved.
In the opening session of the final conference of the project that was held in Mostar, (30th March – 2nd April 2011) the participants were addressed by Mr. Ljubo Beslic, Mayor of the city of Mostar.

In his welcoming speech, he stressed the importance of the events promoting intercultural governance in the city that has gone through armed clashes and destruction during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and whose remnants are still visible. However, efforts are constantly being made to alleviate and overcome the consequences of the recent past and the city is seeking the solutions in support to development oriented policies that would suit the needs of all the citizens. Mr. Slavko Parac, President of the City Assembly of Subotica, greeted the participants on behalf of the Lead partner, the city with the centuries long history of multicultural coexistence among local national communities in the border area connecting Serbia, Hungary and Croatia. The consequences of the recent conflicts in the region however imposed the need for the local government to open up new space for improving intercultural dialogue, multilingual education and promoting diverse cultural identities that are all incorporated in local development strategy. Mr. Jovo Jelic, greeted the participants on behalf of the Osijek/Baranja county-Croatia. He informed about the efforts aimed at overall economic reconstruction and interethnic confidence building in the war affected zones in the region, reiterating the need for intensified cross-border and regional co-operation links between different local communities. Ms. Suzan Arslan wished a successful work to the conference on behalf of DG Enlargement-Regional Programmes, and informed the participants about the P2P Programme and Civil Society Facility (CSF) developed in order to support the regional co-operation initiatives with the view of overall democratic transformation of the Western Balkan societies aspiring to EU integration. She also noted that the co-operation of civil society with local authorities, as demonstrated within this project, is an important prerequisite of democratic governance that could contribute to further stability and sustainable development in the region.
During the second part of the opening session, an overview of the project activities and some of the key results achieved was made by Ms. Stanka Parac Damjanovic, Project manager.

Main project outcomes and publications are available on: www.regionalicc.net

Thematic panels
The conference gathered more than 80 participants, representing CSO-s and local governments from Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, UK, Italy, Norway, Hungary and Moldova. Mr. Owen Masters, CoE expert was facilitating the Panel 1 on the participation of minorities, during which the case studies presented were from Hungary, Serbia, Moldova. Examples of activities of the Croat minority association in Szeged, efforts of the Roma education centre aimed at inclusion in Subotica, and confidence building measures initiated on both sides of the river Dnjestre in Moldova. Mr. Gunnar Mandt, Director of the European Wergeland Centre, Norway was the facilitator of the panel: From multicultural coexistence to intercultural governance, that provided an overview of innovative mechanisms and institutional structures in support to democratic governance at local level in culturaly diverse local communities. Examples from Norway, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia were presented, and comparisons made in regard with local governance models in traditional multicultural communities facing with the post-conflict reconciliation process in the Western Balkan region with cultural diversity as a result of migratory waves to EU member states taking place over the last sixty years. Specific attention in presentations was given to education (both informal and formal) and culture, as the areas falling within the scope of competencies at local tier of governance. The panel 3 facilitated by Ms. Jlenia Destito, Ipres Institute for socio economic researches, Italy, was devoted to municipal service provision with the case studies ranging from participatory planning process, education and public information provision in minority languages, preservation of cultural identities, financing policies and housing for migrants. Presentations included case studies from Devon (UK), Subotica, Kovacica (Serbia), Szeged (Hungary) and the host city Mostar.

During the session 4, which was facilitated by Mr. Vehid Sehic, Citizens’ Forum Tuzla (BiH) issues related with the role of civil society in intercultural dialogue and reconciliation process were discussed. The panelists, CSO representatives and experts from the three countries included in the action gave an overview of recent developments as regards the political, social and economic factors relevant for the progress made in regional co-operation initiatives. Specific attention was given to the potential role of civil society as the catalyst of the democratic change and an actor capable to bring EU integration values closer to the citizens and this way help reduce inter-ethnic distance in post-conflict societies. Therefore, education for democratic citizenship with particular emphasis on youth and opening of a new space for dialogue engaging widest possible actors in regional co-operation programmes could bring more tangible results in the long run.
During the concluding session, facilitated by Stanka Parac Damjanovic, ALDA Regional Programmes Coordinator, an overview of on-going programmes was made on TACSO regional co-operation and technical assistance to CSO-s in Western Balkan and Turkey, the potential role of Hungarian EU presidency in promoting EU enlargement, as well as other regional initiatives of interest for the CSO-s and local governments, such as the Danube strategy, functional euroregions connecting the countries of the Western Balkans and EU member states ( such as DKMT Euro-region).
BE-ME Perspective was designed as a thematic session facilitated by Mr. Frank Challenger and as an opportunity to view the documentaries on the three cities (Subotica, Osijek, Mostar) made during the project as an illustration of efforts made by the local governments to promote cultural heritage of national communities and support their participation in policy decision making process. Personal testimonies and narratives from different sections of local societies constitute the main background of the documentaries thus illustrating the present challenges and everyday problems of ethnic, religious minorities in the Westerna Balkan region and as a comparison, in the city of Wolverhampton as well.

Round Table in the city hall Mostar, 2nd April 2011
The delegation composed of the representatives of the city of Subotica and Osijek Baranja county paid a visit to the city hall Mostar, where they were addressed by Mr. Murat Coric, President of the City Council. He presented the local elected bodies operating since 2004., and also some of the main local policies in areas of social and economic development, considering the heavy legacy of conflicts and visible remnants of the destruction in the city. The local government is facing with large scale infrastructural works particularly in water supply and sewage system, while also there is an evident need for improvements in housing and agricultural development.
Much has been done in connecting the city with a wide range of international partners, including the cities in Europe and in the Western Balkans, while the good governance, citizen participation, promotion of cultural heritage of the national communities are among the priorities in these co-operation programmes. Good economic links have also been established with a number of cities, including Kragujevac in Serbia. There is certainly an interest to increase the scope of potential partner cities and establish co-operation with Subotica and Osijek. Therefore, as Mr. Coric reiterated, networking among the cities is the future of this region and will certainly contribute to stability, economic prosperity and improved outlooks for EU integration.

Study visit to Mostar, Saturday, 2nd April 2011
After the conference, a group of participants had an opportunity to visit the historic sites and cultural monuments in the downtown area of the city of Mostar.

With a delay in the delivery of visas the Belarusian authorities tried to stop the meeting of the Steering Committee of the Civil Society Forum for Eastern Partnership that was scheduled in Minsk on the 4th and 5th of April 2011.

Unfortunately (see Statement below) the whole Steering Committee could not meet as expected, because only nine members of the committee were able to arrive in Minsk, while four members did not receive a visa and couldn’t arrive.

Despite this difficult situation, the members met to further progress on the different objectives like the activities of the Working Groups and the National Platforms. They also had the opportunity to discuss the important challenge of the future Eastern Partnerhsip Summit in Warsaw in September and also the Third Civil Society Forum in Poznan in November.

The group of participants had the opportunity to meet the National Platform and discuss the possible means of support to Civil Society representatives in Belarus.
Mrs. Antonella Valmorbida, ALDA’s Director, elected co-chair of the Steering Committee together with M. UladVialicka, chairman of EuroBelarus, lead part of the debates.
The next meeting of the Steering Committee will take place on the 3rd and 4th of May in Brussels.