A clear definition and extension of the competences of local authorities, appropriate local and regional financial means and autonomy, improvement of governance through increased transparence and participation and strengthening of capacities for public services.
These are the four central needs of local authorities in the Western Balkans indicated by Keith Withmore, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, in his conclusion speech of the conference on the European perspective of the Western Balkans and the contribution of local and regional authorities that took place in Paris, in the French Senate, on 18th and 19th of February.
Mr Keith Whitmore underlined also the involvement of the Congress in the Balkans (citing explicitly the LDAs and their existence since 1993 and ALDA’s work).
The conference united representatives of local authorities and other stakeholders of European decentralised cooperation. It was an excellent occasion for French local authorities and authorities from the Western Balkans to meet and exchange their views on the strategies and priorities of European integration.
A central point of reflection was the role of local authorities’ international cooperation in the integration process. Further subjects discussed included the role of good local governance and public local policy for European integration.
The pause of enlargement is a chance to rethink the relationship between the EU and the Western Balkans, underlined the debate, and the governments in the Balkans have to act now, and at the same time, the EU has to speed up the accession procedures and propose viable political solution to problems such as the Kosovo issue. Many participants also demanded a greater implication of local authorities in the accession process.
Per Vinther, President of ALDA, was present at the conference and informed about its activities in decentralised cooperation in one of the workshops. The project of decentralised cooperation between Lower Normandy and the Republic of Macedonia was at the centre of attention.
The conference was organised by the French Association of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (AFCCRE) in cooperation with the municipality of Dijon and the Community of Greater Dijon.