Reassessing the EU Enlargement Agenda in Eastern Partnership Countries: ALDA’s Efforts in a Shifting Landscape

May 23, 2024

EU values and Enlargement

On May 15, 2024, ALDA hosted its annual Festival & General Assembly in Barcelona, featuring a panel discussion titled “Local Democracy in a Shifting Landscape: Reassessing the EU Enlargement Agenda in Eastern Partnership Countries & Its Implications.” The event highlighted ALDA’s ongoing initiatives and the critical challenges facing Eastern Partnership countries amid geopolitical tensions and aspirations for European integration. The panel aimed to foster collaboration and showcase the experiences of partners in these regions.

ALDA has played a proactive role in Eastern Partnership countries, significantly ramping up efforts following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Recognised as a strategic partner of the European Commission in 2024, ALDA signed a Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) to bolster civil society organisations (CSOs) in the region over the next four years. By collaborating with local partners, ALDA has introduced participatory measures at the local level, fostering resilience and solidarity among civil society and local authorities.

The panel featured insights from various stakeholders, addressing unique challenges and progress in Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Belarus. It also included a guest speaker from the Association of Cities in Croatia and a representative from the DG NEAR of the European Commission.

Moldova: Enhancing Trust Through Participatory Budgeting

In Moldova, efforts to meet European democratic standards have been underscored by the introduction of participatory budgeting. This tool involves citizens in local policymaking, building trust in local authorities by supporting grassroots community-based organisations and demonstrating the impact of citizen participation.

Georgia: Civic Engagement for European Integration

Georgia’s commitment to European integration was marked by its 2023 candidacy for EU membership. Strong civic engagement at the local level is seen as crucial for effectively implementing EU regulations and ensuring that citizens’ voices are heard. Local initiatives have been launched to educate and involve communities, emphasizing the importance of citizen participation in the democratic process.

Ukraine: Strengthening Community Resilience Amid Conflict

In Ukraine, the ongoing conflict has led to robust cooperation between local authorities and the state. Projects such as centers for children and women affected by war, offering psychological support and various activities, have been made possible through ALDA’s support. This collaboration has strengthened community resilience and highlighted the importance of civic engagement in times of crisis.

Armenia: Maintaining Democratic Momentum

Armenia’s journey towards democracy has faced setbacks due to geopolitical shifts, particularly the 2013 decision to move away from EU integration. Despite these challenges, efforts have focused on promoting citizen participation and enhancing local accountability and transparency. Initiatives to involve citizens in local governance have been crucial in maintaining democratic momentum.

Belarus: Sustaining Civil Society Under Repression

In Belarus, the struggle for democracy has been exacerbated by government repression, necessitating underground solidarity movements. Support channels, such as solidarity foundations and specific dialogue channels with the European Commission, have been crucial in sustaining local civil society efforts.

Croatia: Lessons from EU Accession

Croatia’s successful experience of EU accession has highlighted the importance of political consensus and efforts at all government levels. The benefits of EU membership, including project financing opportunities and stricter regulations, have been highlighted alongside the challenges faced by local authorities in navigating these changes.

The panel underscored the diverse challenges and achievements within Eastern Partnership countries, emphasising the critical role of local democracy and citizen participation in navigating these turbulent times.

ALDA’s efforts and strategic partnerships continue to play a pivotal role in supporting these nations’ aspirations for democratic governance and European integration. As the landscape shifts, the commitment to fostering resilient, participatory local democracies remains a cornerstone of ALDA’s mission.