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Empowering local governance: advancing EU accession path for Western Balkans, Moldova, and Ukraine

Government officials and representatives from local authorities and civil society organisations met in Skopje on 19-20 October at an international conference on “A Wider European Community: The importance of local governance”, organised by the European Association for Local Democracy – ALDA.

Participants had the chance to discuss and share views on the enlargement process of the Western Balkans, Moldova and Ukraine, with particular focus on the significance of local governance in this endeavour. The role of regional cooperation in the European integration process was also emphasised.

The Conference was opened by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, Fatmire Isaki, who underscored the country's full commitment to European and regional integration as well as the promotion of good-neighbourly relations through political, economic and security initiatives, adopting a participatory approach to contribute to the necessary internal reforms; the CEI Deputy Secretary General, Amb. Ivana Holoubková, who highlighted the importance of regional cooperation for European integration, especially in the face of major challenges such as the war in Ukraine, the socio-economic hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, the migration crisis, etc. emphasising the value of sharing experiences and the role of local governance in addressing these challenges; and Oriano Otocan, President of ALDA, who drew the attention to the 10-year gap in the enlargement process (i.e. since Croatia’s EU accession in 2013), and to the possible risks of further stalemate for the countries and the region. He also highlighted the efforts made during this period, including the establishment of various associations aimed at assisting with the implementation of reforms, such as ALDA, in cooperation with local democratic associations.

Good governance and strong institutional capacity are a necessary condition for European integration...the CEI promotes activities to help improve governance by strengthening the quality and capacity of public institutions to undertake policy reforms, as well as promote the private sector and inclusion of diverse actors of society.

Along these lines, Katica Janeva from ALDA pointed out that all topics related to European integration were also to be dealt with at the local level, and that the municipalities themselves should be ready and be the drivers of the implementation of reforms as they are the closest to the citizens.

During the gathering, the participants discussed how to enhance the understanding of the strategic approach to reforms, design action plans, develop methodologies for planning, implementation, and monitoring. The importance of the citizens’ participation in the process was emphasised, with examples of local and regional initiatives and good practices from the wider European community.

This event was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of North Macedonia and supported by the CEI and the Council of Europe, along with its Center of Expertise for Local Government Reform.

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