NALAS Position Paper: Executive Summary

NALAS Position Paper: Western Balkans in the loop, Local Governments and their Associations as key stakeholders in the EU Integration process

Executive Summary

At present tensions in the Western Balkans are rising. Social protests in the whole region are piling up reflecting the political and socio-economic standstill and increasing instability. The EU Council Summit conclusions of 9 March 2017 refer to the situation in the Western Balkans as “fragile” stressing the importance of reforms, good neighbourly relations and reaffirm its “unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans”. In this context, NALAS offers its institutional support and cooperation to work together with EU institutions in a Partnership for stability and growth.

The NALAS Position Paper consists of concrete proposals aiming at strengthening dialogue facilities between the EU and the local level, as follows.

1) Proposals for dialogue facilitation: It is necessary to implement a more inclusive consultation processes at all stages of planning, programming and decision-making. NALAS strongly advocates to include the local government dimension in strategic and operational planning for EU enlargement.

2) EU Commission – Technical or administrative unit for LGAs and LGs to address to! Today there is no technical or administrative unit in DG NEAR dealing separately with LGs in candidate countries. We strongly recommend to revert this situation and to consider LGAs as a main stakeholder and interlocutor in the EU accession process.

3) European Parliament Working Group. The former SEE working Group of the EP was an effective forum to address issues of common interest and played a major role in paving Croatia’s accession to the EU. We recommend reestablishment of the former SEE Working Group or the set-up of a Western Balkans Working Group.

4) Western Balkans Cooperation Days. NALAS invites the EP to consider the organization of the Western Balkans Cooperation Days on an annual basis in cooperation with the Committee of the Regions.

5) TAIEX – Technical Instrument for IPA countries. NALAS invites the EU Commission to reconsider LAF or an alternative, which corresponds to LAF’s overall objectives and specific purpose to help local governments develop, strengthen their role and contribute to political, economic and institutional stabilisation in our region as the key elements for EU accession.

6) Instrument for Pre-AccessionIPA II. NALAS invites the EU Commission to include LGAs to be part of the IPA negotiation, programming, monitoring and evaluation process. This consideration should comprise the regional as well as the national consultation process.

7) Civil Society Organisations – Local Authorities (CSO-LA) programme. The lack of access to the DCI CSO/LA programme in the current period (2014-2020) is a big loss for Local Authorities of the IPA II beneficiary countries. Since there is no similar/comparable programme available in IPA II, NALAS recommends the launch of a CSO-LA programme for the region.

8) Bridge Fund Facility for Local Self-Governments to pre-finance EU funded projects. A Bridge Funding mechanism could provide for: i) covering temporary shortage of funds in the process of project implementation and ii) financing of ineligible costs, which are important in order to ensure the sustainability and integrity of a project. NALAS recommends the set-up of a Bridge Funding Facility for Local Governments in the region.

9) EU aid facilities in humanitarian and natural disaster situations to support local governments. Considering the potential risk of renewed migration/refugee movements (returnees and integration) affecting the region, NALAS recommends that adequate support facilities should be provided for local governments in the frame of EU humanitarian and disaster aid facilities.