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First Congress Meeting of CEI Local Authorities successfully held in Sofia

"...reducing the gap between needs and decisions..."

The recently launched CEI Local Dimension witnessed its first official Congress Meeting in Sofia on 8 June, organised by the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria (NAMRB) and the CEI-Executive Secretariat under the Bulgarian CEI Presidency 2022.

Representatives of associations of local and regional authorities (LRAs) from the CEI Member States, Mayors and local leaders - among which the Deputy Minister of Environment and Water, Nikolay Sidzhimovas - had the chance to exchange views and make their voices heard on the topic "CEI Local and Regional Authorities in the post crisis Europe - prospects for sustainable and resilient future". They focused in particular on “Challenges in the field of ecological transition and transition to clean energy in the region” outlining key priorities, lessons learned and challenges faced especially in these difficult times.

Zoran Jovanovic, special adviser to the CEI Secretary General - who opened the meeting together with Daniel Panov, Chairman of NAMRB Managing Board and Mayor of Veliko Tarnovo Municipality;  Stanislav Todorov, CEI National Coordinator; Andreas Kiefer, Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Council of Europe - illustrated the financial instruments the CEI utilised to support the ideas of local authorities. He underlined that although the Local Dimension was a new pillar of the Organisation aimed at reducing the gap between needs and decisions, the initiative had always supported projects initiated by local authorities and communities.

Stanislav Todorov, representing the Bulgarian Presidency, emphasised that climate change, health crisis and rising fuel prices were indeed setting the scene for this first Congress meeting, but overcoming urgent solutions and seeking sustainable policies and lasting partnerships constituted the main focus of its activities for 2022, thus fully supporting the local dimension and the promotion of cross-border cooperation. He concluded by declaring the readiness of the Bulgarian Presidency and the CEI-Executive Secretariat to ensure consistency in the implementation of the ideas discussed during the meeting.

Andreas Kiefer, stressed that local authorities not only represented the interests of citizens, municipalities and regions, but that they also had concrete experience of how decisions taken at national level could work. He pointed out that this first meeting was to be considered as a very important step for the official entry of local and regional authorities into a larger architecture for cooperation and added that especially the countries from Southeastern Europe had extensive knowledge in sharing experience in local governance and that should therefore take advantage of the opportunities provided by the CEI.

This event was preceded by the NAMRB General Assembly Discussion Forum. It was dedicated to the Future of the European project and the role of the LRAs, featuring as speakers, the Prime-Minister of Bulgaria, Kiril Petkov ministers from the Bulgarian government, EU Commissioners, mayors and many others.

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