empower local tirana

ReSPA Empowers the Western Balkans’ Local Governments on their EU Integration Journey

17 April 2024 News

15 – 16  April, Tirana, Albania

The two-day conference, “EMPOWER LOCAL: Building Capacities for the Western Balkans' Local Governments on the EU Integration Journey", brought together 25 local civil servants to discuss the most pressing capacity development needs stemming from the existing and future EU-related tasks.

Partnering with NALAS, GIZ, Delegation of the EU to Tirana, Committee of Regions, European Commission, SIGMA, ALED, ADA, Western Balkans Fund, Council of Europe and Embassy of Switzerland in Albania, ReSPA defined the most pressing needs of the local governmental level which will serve as efficient guidance for its further support in empowering local capacities in the upcoming period.

In introductory Remarks, Director HANDJISKA-TRENDAFILOVA underlined the importance of the Conference on “administrative capacity strengthening at the local level as the level that meets citizen's needs where they are - but also that will set the groundwork and propel a subsequent capacity building and knowledge exchange programme, with a focus on the EU integration process. Knowledgeable, networked, motivated, empowered local and central administration are the bedrock, and their strengthening has implications beyond just administrative capacities - they also contribute to boosting the trust and legitimacy of our citizens-focused and resilient institutions and are crucial for democratic governance,” pointed out Director HANDJISKA-TRENDAFILOVA.

Arbjan MAZNIKU, Minister for Local Government of Albania, stressed that a trained, skilled and professional staff in the municipalities is vital to guarantee quality service to the citizens. Therefore, Albania appreciates the role of ReSPA in strengthening the local administration.   

Hubert PERR, Head of Cooperation of Delegation of the European Union to Albania, echoed the importance of this endeavour while acknowledging that the local and regional authorities need to develop their capacities to absorb large amounts of EU funds for investments in their territories.

Partners supporting the EU accession process at the local level presented their approaches and planned activities: Emmanouil DARDOUFAS, Head of Unit B.3 (CIVEX Secretariat) at the European Committee of Regions,  Kelmend ZAJAZI, Executive Director of NALAS, Olivera DIMIĆ, Senior Project Manager at GIZ, Aleksandra LAZOVIĆ, EU Project Management Coordinator at NALED, Arvena DEDA, Senior Project Officer at Council of Europe, Gjergj MURRA, Executive Director at Western Balkans Fund, Elona FANA, Programme Manager at ADA, Regional Coordination Office for Technical Assistance and Elda BAGAVIKI, National Programme officer/Decentralisation and Local Governance, Embassy of Switzerland in Albania.

Through engaging in the World Café sessions, participants collaboratively identified key topics for future learning modules: From EU funds utilisation to digitalisation and the green agenda, these discussions pave the way for enhanced public administration principles at the local level.

ReSPA and the partners commit to designing a regional multiple-module capacity-building programme targeting public servants from the Local Government Units across the Western Balkans to be delivered during 2024-2025.

While ReSPA primarily engages with central-level governments, it consistently recognises the pivotal role of local administrations. This acknowledgement is exemplified through initiatives like the Western Balkans Public Administration Award, which provides a platform for local civil servants to showcase innovative endeavours to enhance citizens’ well-being. Additionally, ReSPA conducts capacity-building activities to empower local civil servants to manage EU funds effectively, delivered through a comprehensive series of modules on IPA. The ongoing Regional Open Data Challenge 2024 further underscores ReSPA's commitment to fostering local innovation and development.

As the revised Enlargement Methodology paves the way for accelerated integration and alignment with EU policies, markets, and programs, the adequate preparation of local civil servants assumes heightened significance. With clear prospects of accelerated integration and “phasing-in” to individual EU policies, markets, and programmes as part of the revised Enlargement Methodology, the adequate preparation of local civil servants is gaining even more importance.


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