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    Kosovo ratifies border agreement with Montenegro

    Western Balkans: progress towards EU:
          
    On 21st of March 2018, after many years of attempts, the Kosovar Parliament succeeded in ratifying a border agreement between Kosovo and neighboring Montenegro. 80 of the 120 MPs – and thus the required two-thirds majority – voted in favor of the agreement.

    The vote for the border agreement was one of the most important prerequisites for the Kosovan state, for the EU and NATO perspectives of the country as well as for a visa-free entry into the EU, said the IRE Board Member Lukas Mandl, Member of the European Parliament. The two former Yugoslav republics, Kosovo and Montenegro, signed a border agreement in 2015. Montenegro has already adopted the agreement some time ago.

    Lukas Mandl, IRE-Board Member and Member of the European Parliament

    Lukas Mandl welcomed the vote and at the same time referred to the advantages of visa-free regime for the Western Balkans. “I congratulate the Kosovar population on this milestone. (…) Of course, the visa-free regime is also crucial for the economic rise of Kosovo.” At the same time, Mandl, who is also a member of the Bosnia-Kosovo delegation of the EU Parliament and president of the Austrian-Kosovan Friendship Society, said: “The circumstances of the parliamentary treatment show how urgently and sustainably important the international community’s desire for development is the rule of law”.

                        

     Commissioner Johannes Hahn with Franz Schausberger

    IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger welcomed the approval of the Kosovo Parliament during the debate on his report on the EU’s Western Balkans strategy on 22nd of March 2018  in the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions in Brussels. He also expressed his disappointment that the extreme nationalist opposition was violently trying to prevent the vote through the undemocratic and un-parliamentary use of tear gas. “These people still have to learn a lot about parliamentary democracy and the rule of law in order to reach European standards”, Schausberger said.

                               

     
    Source: zeit.de, diepresse.de, sn.at, APA / Armend Nimani

    Successes for right-wing populists, Greens and right-wingers hold positions

    Local elections in the Netherlands:

    12.5 million Dutch were eligible to vote their regional parliaments on 21st of March 2018. This election in 335 municipalities was a year after the national parliamentary election also a mood test for the parties in The Hague. Voter turnout was 46.7 percent, slightly higher than in 2014 (45.1 percent).

    The right-wing populist Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV), led by Geert Wilders, succeeded in winning the parliament in several cities, including Rotterdam and Utrecht. The party is represented for the first time in 30 instead of two municipalities (The Hague and Almere).

    In Rotterdam, the right-wing populist party “Leefbaar Rotterdam” (Liveable Rotterdam) remained the strongest force. In Amsterdam, the extreme right-wing National Forum for Democracy (FvD) by Thierry Baudet achieved a success and will move into the city hall for the first time. The Far Right Forum for Democracy (FvD) and EU-critical party occupy two of the 45 seats in the city council of Amsterdam.

    Strongest party in the two largest cities Amsterdam and Utrecht became the green party GroenLinks. The Social Democratic Party of Labor (PvdA) and the social-liberal D66 lost votes in most major cities, while the right-wing VVD of Prime Minister Mark Rutte gained votes in some municipalities.

    Source: focus.de

     

    7th IRE-Expert Conference on “Smart Cities”

          
          

     Register                  Program                Save the Date

    On the 27th of March 2018, Salzburg will host the 7th Conference of the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE) on “Smart Cities”. At the Salzburg Congress, experts will discuss innovative transport systemspublic urban and rural transport concepts and their political challenges and implementations.

    In addition to regional and local decicison makers, transport professionals from across Europe will present best practice examples. 
     

    Smart Cities are urban agglomerations, which use modern information and communication strategies, sustainable technology and socio-scientific methods in order to pave the way into a post-fossil society. A vital element for a smart urban development is therefore coordination in the areas of mobility, energy and eGovernance. In smart cities, individual mobility is predominantly public and eco-friendly. The city becomes again a meeting zone.

    EU and Ukrainian local governments establish partnerships to support decentralisation reform

    Europe and Ukraine:

    The European Union increased its support for local and regional authorities in Ukraine on 8th of March, with the launch of five partnerships between Ukrainian and EU regions and cities. The relationships will see Estonian, German, Hungarian, Lithuanian and Polish communities share their experience in areas identified as priorities by their Ukrainian partners – drawing up economic-development plans, supporting rural areas, helping small and medium-sized enterprises, boosting tourism, and increasing transparency.

    The initiative is part of a broader effort by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) to support the decentralisation of power in Ukraine, a process that began in April 2014 and that has seen a consolidation of local governments, an increase in their funding and the transfer of greater powers to them.

    The partnerships will see local officials and experts visit each other’s communities to identify objectives, analyse challenges, and implement plans over the course of the next three years or more. Four of the five EU communities involved have representatives in the European Committee of the Regions. Financial support comes from the European Commission, with GIZ, the German development agency, providing day-to-day technical support.

                     

    Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the President of the CoR, said: “Local and regional governments are working together to encourage decentralisation and increase capacity-building by providing practical support to communities in Ukraine. These partnerships will help Ukrainian communities emulate the progress of EU towns and regions that have prospered from greater control over local services. Strengthening relations and sharing good policy is in the interests of local communities and will ensure a securer, more prosperous European neighbourhood.”

    Sergey Chernov, Chairman of Kharkiv Regional Council and President of the Ukrainian Association of Local and Regional Authorities, said: “These partnerships are a very welcome initiative that will help the decentralisation process. Ukrainian communities are gaining more power and funding, but local politicians need very specific support as they learn how to use that power to the best effect for their communities. This is also a show of solidarity by communities – in eastern Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, and Poland – that have made a similar journey away from very centralised state management.”

    The city of Rakvere in Estonia will work with Vesele in southern Ukraine on energy efficiency and sustainable local development, while the Wielkopolska region has teamed up with Kharkiv region in north-eastern Ukraine to assist rural development. Shyroke in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in eastern Ukraine will be teamed with Barleben from Saxony-Anhalt in Germany, while the western Ukrainian region of Khmelnytskyi has asked Szabolcs Szatmár Bereg County in Hungary to help develop green rural tourism. Zarasai municipality in Lithuania will share its experience of improving transparency and involving local citizens in decision-making processes with Chemerivtsi, a town in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains.

    On the same day, representatives from the Ukrainian regions also attended a meeting in Brussels of the Ukraine task-force created by the CoR, at which the keynote speech was given by Vyacheslav Nehoda, Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister for Regional Development, Building and Housing. Other speakers included Marc Cools, Vice-President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Tibor Szanyi MEP, deputy chair of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee, and senior EU officials – including Peter Wagner, Head of the European Commission’s Support Group for Ukraine, and Dirk Schuebel, head of the Eastern Partnership division in the European External Action Service.

    Source: cor.europa.eu

    Vučić wins local election in Belgrade

    On Sunday, 4th of March 2018, municipal elections were held in the Serbian capital Belgrade, which had more than just local political significance. 1,606,931 people were eligible to vote, who had to choose between 24 lists. The councilors were elected for a four-year term.
    Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and his Progressive Party (SNS) clearly won the local elections in the capital Belgrade. Vučić (see picture) has reached 45 percent of the votes cast as an SNS list leader. His party won 64 of the 110 seats of the Belgrade City Council. Thus, the SNS does not need a coalition partner.

    His main contender, former Belgrade mayor and entrepreneur Dragan Đilas, came tp 18.9 percent and 26 seats. The former mayor of New Belgrade, Aleksandar Šapić, won 9.0 percent and 12 seats. The Serbian Socialist Party, which is a coalition partner of the SNS at the state level, achieved 6.1 percent and thus has eight seats in the Municipal Council of Belgrade. All other parties failed at the 5 percent hurdle and missed the entry into the council.

    Đilas speaks of vote purchase
    Most opposition parties acknowledged the defeat in the evening. However, Đilas accused his opponent of undemocratic practices and talked about buying votes. The president of the City Electoral Commission, Zoran Lukic, said that there were no major problems and that the irregularities that happened could not affect the election process. Vučić had led the list of his SNS, although the Constitution prohibits. It requires a separation of offices. Nevertheless, his party’s electoral list was officially named “Aleksandar Vučić – because I love Belgrade”. The Serbian president had made big promises to the citizens, such as the rapid construction of a subway and a cable car in the city. It was also noted that the President of the Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, (Bosnia-Herzegovina) cast his vote in the municipal elections in Belgrade.

    The following are the final results proclaimed by the City Electoral Commission:

    Source: derstandard.at, balkaninsight.com, Darko Vojinovic/dpa
          

    SPÖ won with 47.95 percent in Carinthian state election

    Landtag election in the Austrian province of Carinthia:

    In Austria, a state election took place for the third time this year. This time in the province of Carinthia on Sunday, 4th of March 2018. The turnout was 68.36 percent, 440,748 people were eligible to vote.

    The election winner in the Carinthian state parliament is the SPÖ (Social Democratic Party) with top candidate and governor Peter Kaiser (see picture). The party reached 47.94 percent of the vote (+10.55 percentage points), and took 18 of the 36 seats. Compared to the last state election in 2013, the SPÖ won three mandates, reaching half of the seats in the Carinthian state parliament.

    In second place follows the FPÖ (Freedom Party) which was able to record 22.96 percent of the votes and is represented in the future with nine instead of six members so far. The ÖVP (People’s Party) reached 15.45 percent (+1.05) and won a mandate to do so. In the future she will be represented in the state parliament with six seats. The Carinthia Team (5.67 percent) remains in the state parliament with three mandates. The Greens (3.12 percent) and NEOS (2.14 percent) failed to move into the state parliament at the five percent hurdle.

    The election results represent a good starting point for coalition negotiations. The SPÖ has a majority with each of the other three parties.

    Source: orf.at, kurier.at, APA/Georg Hochmuth

    Tyrol takes over the Presidency of the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region “For a Europe of Guidelines with more autonomy for countries and regions”

    On the 7th of February, the Austrian province of Tyrol officially took over the chairmanship of the European Macro-Regional Alpine Strategy (EUSALP), which brings together 48 regions from seven countries with more than 80 million inhabitants.

    The outgoing presidency of Bavaria symbolically presented Tyrol the “Kolo-wheel”, thereby demonstrating that Tyrol will now steer the direction of EUSALP for a year. “The EU Alpine Strategy is a political initiative emanating from the regions. Under the Tyrolean chairmanship, we will be faithful to the motto we have chosen “shaping.future.together. – In the interest of the Alps! “In cooperation with our partners in the Alpine states and Alpine regions to work on sustainable solutions for the Alpine region,” said the Tyrolean governor Günther Platter in his opening speech.
    At the kick-off event, high representatives of Austria, the EU and the Alpine regions were present. Among others, the Austrian Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen, the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the President of the European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the Special Adviser to the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Walter Deffaa and the heads of government of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regions, South Tyrol and Trentino, Laurent WauquiezArno Kompatscher and Ugo Rossi, took part.

    Europe of guidelines
    In the spirit of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the Union should focus in the future on the major guidelines: “The EU must take this back in other areas in order to leave the countries of regions and municipalities the freedom of local decisions. This is exactly where the EUSALP comes in”, says Tyrolean Governor Platter.
    “The priorities of the Tyrolean Presidency will be mobility and transport, dual training, resource and disaster management and energy”, announced Governor Platter. “Transit traffic in particular is a topic that is burning under the nails for the whole of the sensitive Alpine region: with 2.25 million lorries driving alone over the Brenner Pass year after year, the limit has been reached. Together with our partners in EUSALP, we want to bring about a solution here.”
    The Transport and Mobility Action Group is currently working on a tolling system that will apply to road transport in the Alpine region. The aim is to harmonize and implement measures to shift traffic from road to rail. In addition, a platform is to be developed that summarizes the various travel information systems.

    10-point dual education plan
    Under the EUSALP Presidency of Tyrol, the starting signal for the 10-point plan on dual training will be given. In addition to best practice examples, an action plan shows how dual training can best succeed.
    Other key topics include resource use and disaster management. Especially in the Alps, the different uses are due to the greatly reduced extent of the permanent settlement area early and clearly visible. “Therefore, during the Tyrolean Presidency of the EUSALP, a series of activities will take place for the sustainable use of soils,” stressed Governor Platter.

    Energy of the future
    Tyrol has set itself the ambitious goal of being energy-autonomous by 2050. A step towards the energy of the future is the construction of a common energy observatory in the Alps, which collects, evaluates and shares data. Governor Platter: “We want to know which sources of energy are needed and when to provide the best sources of energy at the right time. We want to plan for the long term and make the most of the advantages of our homeland, the mountains. “

    Regional diversity as strength
    The participating high representatives welcomed the work program of the Tyrolean Presidency. “EUSALP makes the European Union tangible and accessible. There are many common challenges that can only be tackled together, such as climate change. I wish Tyrol all the best”, emphasized the Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen.
    The Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz emphasized the role of the regions in the EUSALP:”In all the discussions about more or lessEurope, one thing is clear: it needs strong regions and we need a strong European Union based on the strength and strength of the European Union Regions sets – the EU is a diverse project. Diversity is not a problem but strength to live for.”
    The representative of the European Commission Walter Deffaa pointed out that “the future of Europe will become more concrete in the coming year”. This requires a space, such as the Alpine region, where the initiative lies with the regions in the case of important decisions”. “I wish the Presidency Tirol all the best – for the regions and for Europe as a whole”, concluded the President of the Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz.

    Source: CoR Newsletter

    ÖVP remains the strongest party in Tyrol

    Tyrol has voted – ÖVP triumphed in state election

    In Austria, the Landtag (state diet) elections were held on 25th of February 2018 in the federal state of Tyrol. 537,273 people were eligible to vote, the turnout was 60 percent. The People’s Party (ÖVP) remains on course for success and the election have brought a significant strengthening of the party under Governor and party chairman Günther Platter.

    In the election, the ÖVP was able to convince its main voters as well as previous non-voters, resulting in an increase of 4.9 percentage points compared to the previous election in 2013. The conservative party clearly surpassed the 40 percent mark, reaching 44.26 percentage points. Thus, the party wins one mandate and provides 17 of 36 seats in the state parliament (Landtag).
    Governor of Tyrol, Günther Platter

    The Social Democrats (SPÖ) with top candidate Elisabeth Blanik came with an increase of 3.5 percentage points to 17.25 percent of the votes. This puts the party in second place with six mandates. The Freedom Party (FPÖ) rose the most with 6.2 points and came to 15.53 percentage points. The Greens achieved a minus of 1.9 percentage points (minus one mandate) and could convince 10.67 percent of the voters of themselves. The List Fritz list received 5.46 percent (plus two mandates) of the votes. The liberal NEOS made it with 5.21 percent, respectively two mandates, for the first time in the Tyrolean state parliament.

    The main election topic of the federal state was the restriction of heavy traffic in the direction of Brenner and Italy. Since 2013, the federal state has been governed by a black-green coalition. Due to the election result, Governor Platter, who is going into his third term, can choose from five coalition partners. The outcome of the election in Tyrol represents the third victory in a row for the ÖVP after the clear win of the National Council election in October 2017 and the state election in the federal state of Lower Austria.

                             

    Source: orf.at, kleinezeitung.at and apa / georg hochmuth


    Poland’s experience with EU funds: good use of resources will lead to the successful development of all regions

    Conference in Zagreb:

    “For the next financial period, we need to set the strategic priorities of the Republic of Croatia in the coming years. In order to achieve this, it is important to involve citizens, but also representatives of universities, representatives of regional and local government as well as civil society organizations” stated Goran Pauk, Croatian County Association President, at a conference on 22nd of February 2018 in Zagreb.

    The conference “Experiences of Poland in the Negotiation Processes and the Importance of Regional Operational Programs for the Development of Regions” was organized by the Croatian County Association and the Ministry of Regional Development and Funds.

    Following the initiative of greater participation of the Croatian counties (županija) in the negotiations and the recognition of the importance of the operational programs for regional development in cohesion policy, the Croatian regions have brought two Polish specialists to Zagreb thanks to the good cooperation with the Polish Democratic Alliance.

    The key to successful implementation of the EU funds of the Republic of Poland lies in the reduction of national and regional programming levels, which means that the Polish regions correspond to the European regions, which Croatia is also aiming for. One of them is the West Pomeranian Voivodeship, from which Marcin Szymt and Piotr Wolski come from, both experts in the preparation and management of regional operational programs for the period 2007-2013 as well as for the current financial period 2014-2020: The operational programs in Poland go through several phases and many steps, the most important is good preparation. The focus is on the comprehensive collection of barriers as well as the investment and project potential of local and regional self-government units, said Marcin Szmyt in his speech.

    Both the national and the regional level were involved in the negotiation process, each with its own tasks. The division of tasks between national and regional levels has been undertaken in order to achieve greater transparency and accountability for the management of EU funds. The regional programs correspond to the thematic objectives of cohesion policy, starting with research and innovation, promoting social inclusion and combating poverty, as well as strengthening the institutional potential and efficiency of public administration.

    A good example of good practice is integrated territorial cooperation, emphasized Piotr Wolski. The Territorial Agreement provides for consistency between the actions undertaken by the Government, with local self-government setting the development priorities and strategic areas of intervention for which EU funds and national resources will be provided in a new financial perspective. The above mentioned agreement will serve as a basis for negotiations on the future regional program, as well as the basis of state budget support and the EU distribution instrument and national funds between regions.

    The Republic of Poland has received over 80 billion Euros from EU funds so far.
     
    Source: vusz.hr


     
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