PUBLIC GOVERNANCE IS THE FOUNDATION OF EUROPEAN INTEGRATION
“Public Governance as the Foundation of European Integration”, an international conference, was jointly organised on 23rd and 24th June 2016 in the City Hall of Vienna, Austria, by the Austrian Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, Austrian Development Cooperation, the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns and KDZ-Centre of Public Administration Research, the City of Vienna and the Regional Cooperation Council, in close cooperation with NALAS- Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe.
MMU’s Board Member and Mayor of Orhangazi/Bursa Neset Caglayan and International Cooperation Coordinator Mustafa Ozkul represented Marmara Municipalities Union (MMU) at the conference that brought together high-level speakers, such as Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission, Goran Svilanovic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Michael Haupl, Mayor and Governor of Vienna, Austria, Andrej Plenkovic, Member of the European Parliament, former Secretary of State for European Integration, Croatia, Ministers from SEE countries, international organisations, etc.
PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION REFORMS (PAR) DISCUSSED
Based on the new approach of the European Commission in the enlargement process: Fundamentals first, the conference examined regional and national ‘best practices’ towards achieving the three pillars rule of law, economic governance and public administration reform. This conference aimed to contribute to the current efforts of Public Administration Reform in the Danube Region / Western Balkans; linking efforts towards Good Governance within the “Berlin Process” and EU accession integrating the EUSDR and SEE 2020 Strategy; drawing attention to the importance of the coordination between national and subnational level in PAR-programmes, creating an overview of existing European Good Governance tools and connecting them to PAR in the Danube Region/Western Balkans; initiating knowledge exchange and achieving synergies between relevant stakeholders dealing with Good Governance topics in the Danube Region/Western Balkans.
A NEW INITIATIVE: DANUBE GOVERNANCE HUB
High-level representatives from national, local and regional authorities in the Western Balkans and the Danube region as well as EU-member states came together to identify practices and recommendations on how to best reform public administrations and improve policymaking procedures to foster good governance. On this occasion the Danube Governance Hub was launched connecting the different stakeholders of the Danube Region/Western Balkans. Michael Haupl, Mayor and Governor of Vienna, Austria, expressed he is glad to host the Danube Governance Hub and contribute to the European Integration Process.
“FUNDAMENTALS FIRST”: THE NEW APPROACH OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
During the conference, speakers presented “Fundamentals first” as it is the new approach of the European Commission which ensures a stronger focus on addressing fundamental reforms early in the enlargement process. These include the three pillars “rule of law”, “economic governance” and “public administration reform (PAR)”. PAR is no specific negotiation chapter but nevertheless has to be seen as horizontal priority of a successful accession process. Transparency, accountability, effectiveness and quality of the public administration and services need to be increased also among EU Member States. Manifold institutions and activities in the Danube Region and Western Balkans deal with these key issues and a knowledge exchange on PAR and Good Governance between them should be started.
WE GO ON WITH EU-INTEGRATION OF SOUTH EAST EUROPE
Speaking at the conference coinciding with Britain's referendum BREXIT to leave the EU, representatives of EU institutions expressed strong commitment for solidarity and concluded they would not deviate from the common goals for enlargement and integration. “We should not become desperate and tired about the British decision on BREXIT. Instead, we should go on with EU-Integration of South East Europe”, Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission, said.
BETTER SERVICES THROUGH STRONG CITIES
In the Practice Session "Better services through strong cities", organised by NALAS and moderated by the NALAS Executive Director Kelmend Zajazi, the President of NALAS, Mayor Naim Ismajli, said: “To keep the EU negotiation and pre-accession process on the right track, the involvement of the local governments, the cities, is of utmost importance, and that should be recognised in the strategic documents and programmes. In addition to that, and as indispensable part of the pre-accession process, the role that local governance tier plays in bringing the transpositioned EU legislation to effect should be central and should be underpinned by relevant funding. The public administration reform and improvement of public services will not happen without the local governments. That is why the constant dialogue between the central and local level, their effective and efficient interaction should be encouraged and fostered, and it ultimately should be rooted in the very base of all European strategies”.
Conference ended with conclusions by Thomas Prorok, the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns and KDZ-Centre of Public Administration Research.