This final note was prepared as part of a project on New avenues for functional cooperation at local and regional level in EaP countries commissioned by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).
The aim of the commissioned study is to provide data and information for discussion and analysis conducted by CORLEAP Bureau rapporteur Aleksandra Dulkiewicz in the course of compiling the report What can we do with our partners? The study will serve as an input for the rapporteur’s work on the report while also providing recommendations for future CoR and CORLEAP projects.
This final note presents research findings based on a combination of desk research, collected information requests and interviews, delivering an overview of the scale and structure of assistance to local and regional authorities in five countries of the Eastern Partnership. The note combines a tabular and textual modes of delivery of information in the format proposed by the CoR.
The CORLEAP Action Plan for 2021–2024 has recognised mounting pressures on the local autonomy in the Eastern Partnership area during and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts to combat the pandemic and lead post-pandemic recovery were highly centralized. This has further eroded local and regional authorities’ position in a variety of ways: placing stress on their already dire financial situation, making their resilience-building efforts relatively less visible than those of the central government and slowing down or halting decentralisation reforms. As a result, for the period until 2024 CORLEAP members resolved to build capacity of LRAs in the Eastern Partnership region for vital engagement in post-COVID-19 recovery and resilience. Three main directions of capacity-building support were envisioned:
- (1) safeguarding of the legal and institutional position of LRAs and maintenance of autonomy vis-à-vis central authorities;
- (2) putting LRAs on a sound financial footing through the promotion of further fiscal decentralisation and by ensuring the necessary resources for pursuing measures for resilience and recovery; and
- (3) building the local expertise through the exchange of experience as well as training and instruction, including under the umbrella of the EaP Academy for Public Administration.
The CORLEAP Annual meeting, held in Liberec in November 2022, noted that the identified challenges were being tackled by a variety of actors in the course of projects carried out in EaP countries. It is therefore vital to consider the areas of focus of those actors’ activities, the lessons of their implementation, and possible synergies and complementarities. Here we shall contemplate the opportunities that emerge in the respective thematic areas, noting in particular how the activities undertaken by major actors have tackled the challenges faced by local authorities in the EaP region and what lessons we could draw in regard to planning CORLEAP’s contribution.