Brussels hosts annual CORLEAP meeting

Brussels hosts annual CORLEAP meeting

PanARMENIAN.Net - Local leaders from the EU and its Eastern partner countries gathered Thursday, April 23, for the fifth annual meeting of the Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) in Brussels. The members adopted a set of recommendations for the Heads of State's and Government's Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga in May.

CORLEAP was established by the Committee of the Regions in 2011 to bring a regional and local dimension to the EU's cooperation with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Its work is closely followed by the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly. The CORLEAP co-chairs, CoR President Markku Markkula and Emin Yeritsyan, President of the Union of Communities of Armenia, will participate in the next Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga echoing the voice of the regional and local authorities of the EaP.

"Two years ago, the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit explicitly recognized the role of regional and local authorities. We will keep focusing on decentralisation reforms, including institutional and capacity building measures, in order to ensure an even closer cooperation with local and regional authorities in those countries who want to get closer to the EU, its values and its results", President Markkula said. "In the coming months, we will also contribute to the European Commission's proposals for reforming its neighborhood policy and the Eastern Partnership, by enhancing bilateral cooperation where appropriate, whilst keeping operational the multi-lateral track which has proved to be essential for cross-border and territorial cooperation", he continued.

Participants discussed the current state of affairs and challenges in EU's Eastern neighborhood with Heidi Hautala, Member of the European Parliament and Co-President of the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly, and Christian Danielsson, Director General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission.

Hautala emphasized the importance of the local level dialogue and cooperation as the means to build mutual trust and confidence amongst the countries in the conflictual area. "EU needs to give all its support to the initiatives of joint interest as a way to strengthen cooperation," the EURONEST co-president said.

Enhancing cooperation with Eastern Partnership countries to promote stability and development in the EU's neighborhood is among the priorities of the current Latvian Presidency of the Council, as highlighted by Juris Poikans, Latvian Ambassador for Eastern Partnership, and Andris Jaunsleinis (LV/ALDE), CORLEAP Bureau member. The fourth Eastern Partnership Summit, to be held in Riga on May 21-22, should reconfirm the strategic importance of the Eastern Partnership as a part of the European Neighborhood Policy.

The recommendations adopted by CORLEAP today recall the significant role of local democracy and citizens' participation in pursuing the goals of the Eastern Partnership. The participants also called the European Commission to draft specific programs to provide direct and accessible support to EaP local and regional authorities in the multi-stakeholder approach. Another main point on the agenda was administrative capacity building. The annual meeting was followed by a conference on Supporting Municipal Development in Partner Countries. In addition, a new CORLEAP publication on EU financial assistance available to Local and Regional Authorities in Eastern partnership countries was presented, with contributions from the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

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