DURRES – A Memorandum of Understanding on creation of focal EU desks in all 61 Albanian municipalities to boost EU integration was signed between the Delegation of the European Union in Tirana, Albanian government and local government officials on Monday.
The Municipality for Europe is an EU-funded project designed to strengthen capacities of local governments in Albania to boost the country’s EU integration process.
To this end, a EU Instrument of Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) workshop with Albanian mayors on the Role of Local Governments in the EU integration process took place following the MoU signing ceremony at “Aleksander Moisiu” University in the coastal city of Durres, with participants highlighting the local government’s role as an important link in the country’s EU integration efforts.
Minister of State for Local Issues, Bledi Çuçi emphasized that local government across the country lacks the capacity to absorb funds.
“However, the today’s agreement marks the beginning of a long road, along which we will work together with our partners to ensure that municipalities play an important role in the country’s European integration process,” Çuçi said.
“We should contribute to make sure that local governments have adequate resources to fulfil their service delivery in accordance with EU standards. Easing access of municipalities in attracting EU funds and EU-funded programs will be our top priority. The EU is the biggest donor to the STAR project to support consolidation of the new municipalities. Thanks to this support we will be able to completely change the situation,” Çuçi said.
Minister of European Integration Klajda Gjosha put emphasis on the need for financial consolidation of the municipalities across the country. She highlighted that there are on average EUR 10 million per year optional to be absorbed directly from the government units in Albania if they apply and submit project-proposals in the framework of the Territorial Cooperation Programmes.
Albania – she went on saying – participates in eight EU-funded programs and this represents a good opportunity for the Albanian applicants to expand the network of partners and capitalize on their experience in implementing such projects.
“Albania still has a long road ahead before it reaches the EU and along this process, challenges and obligations cannot be met if the local governments are sidestepped,” she said.
Addressing the event, the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Albania, Ambassador Romana Vlahutin, noted that EU is helping with practical initiatives such as Municipalities For Europe, STAR project and a 25 million euros budget to support the pilot project.
“One of the famous European Union policies is regional policy, which has the ambition to assist equal opportunities for all. Socially, the EU integration is not a process for corridors of high power – unless it involves all society it cannot be realised. Technically, what can be done at local level should be done there – it is where citizens and authorities are closest to each other,” Vlahutin said.
The EU will provide further assistance regarding the capacity building of local governments through workshops on other fields that are important for the municipalities and the people of Albania. The EU is also the biggest donor to the UNDP implemented project Support to Territorial and Administrative Reform (STAR). In the second phase of this project that has just began, the EU supports the implementation of civil service legislation at local level, the increase of service delivery efficiency, and the inclusion of citizens in the local decision making. Citizens will be able to feel improvements concretely, in particular through the establishment of “one stop shops”.