EU goes local in Western Balkans: meeting with DG NEAR

Gen 22, 2021

Good governance

On 21 January ALDA and the Balkan Network for Local Democracy (BNLD) held a meeting with representatives from the European Commission. The staff of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) working on Western Balkans had the chance to get to know better the Projects ALDA and the Local Democracy Agencies (LDAs) are implementing in the Region as well as the feedbacks from the activities we have been carrying on at the local level.

Mrs. Stanka Parac, the President of the Balkan Network for Local Democracy, introduced the BNLD and our approach to support regional cooperation while emphasising the efforts BNLD and the LDAs are doing to promote EU integration processes. The creation of the BNLD itself was the result of EC support for networking and partnership building. When comes to EU accession, our main focus is the Public Administration Reform, economic and democratic governance, social questions and the rule of law. We are known in the Region for our work on peace and reconciliation in the last 20 years, especially with young people.

Mr. Colin Wolfe, Head of Unit for Regional cooperation and Programmes confirmed the importance for the local level to be part of the EU integration process. The local authorities are significant stakeholders responsible for the implementation of many EU policies in the respective countries. Democratic processes start from the local level and should be nurtured there. The European Commission is supporting the cooperation of civil society and local authorities with the regional programme RELOAD whose second phase has just started.

Moreover, during the meeting, the LDAs delegates had the chance to take the floor and share their views on the main issue of each Country, from the situation of democratic processes, to the status of democracy in the post-election period in Montenegro, the results from thelong-awaited local elections in Mostar, to bilateral issues and key reforms in North Macedonia…

Democratic processes start from the local level and should be nurtured there

The DG NEAR staff working on the different Western Balkan countries confirmed that the European Union is doing significant efforts in making EU accession processes more visible on local level, in every community. Indeed, in the next programming period the EU will put more emphasis on projects with local authorities.

The European Commissions, DG NEAR and the Delegations in all countries are making significant efforts to include civil society in policy making and programming. In that respect, ALDA and the BNLD took active part in the consultations for planning of the Instruments of Pre-accession Assistance (IPA III) and the drafting of Guidelines for civil society in Enlargement Region 2021-2027.

This meeting, attended by more than 30 representatives from European Commission and ALDA, the BNLD and the LDAs delegates has proven how inclusive policy making should be and how important dialogue is. ALDA and the BNLD continue following attentively the European Commission policies in the Western Balkans and support the EU accession processes in the Region.