Sustainability of integration structures. Message from the Deputy Minister of Interior, Romina Kuko, to the new local leaders
Government support, cooperation of all parties, the Municipalities for Europe project, and European integration structures within each municipality are the best guarantee we have for the success of this important process for Albania's future.
From ROMINA KUKO
Vice Minister of Internal Affairs
European integration is generally seen as a process that belongs mainly to the central government, bilateral meetings of heads and respective delegations of central institutions, and is viewed as a whole a set of political and legal criteria, which must also be met by the central level.
However, the more we go deeper into this process, the more clearly, we realize that real integration is about standards that must first be implemented at the local level. The approximation chapters of the legislation, or as it is called the Acquis Communautaire, coincides in large part with the fulfilment of standards and criteria that are exclusively the responsibility of municipalities.
In this sense, the "Municipalities for Europe" project can be considered without a doubt one of the most needed and most important projects funded by the European Union for Albania.
Its implementation in all 61 municipalities of the country makes it even more important, as the assistance provided is uniform throughout the territory of the Republic of Albania and makes it possible for each municipality to speak the same language when it comes to pursuing the European agenda. Although a challenge in itself, the project has managed to gain tangible access and results across the country.
Strengthening the capacity of local governments is no longer merely a wish, nor an objective that remains on paper. The will of our government, the cooperation of municipalities, the mayors themselves and their supporting staff, as well as the full and highly professional support of the Municipalities for Europe Project, makes this strengthening of capacities a reality.
Rome wasn't built in a day - that's the expression. Even the first steps of this project started by setting up EU corners and tables in the lobby or dedicated areas of the Albanian Municipalities. They would soon be institutionalized through a government decision and transformed into European Integration and External Aid Units. A process that went hand in hand with the philosophy already adopted by the Project and its funders: the transition from sustainability to mastery of the Process”. To be considered complete, the integration process must affect every corner of our country's territory. There can be no European Albania unless we have the same standards in Tirana and in Përmet, Shkodra, Pogradec or Dropull. Such standards include territorial development standards, agricultural development, environmental standards, equal opportunities, local democracy, tourism, etc.
Therefore, by joining not only the vision of the government, but that of all the citizens of Albania, the vision where our natural path is towards Europe, the new mayors have a historic chance to set up in the municipality they lead, a nucleus from which more Europe will be taken and given. More opportunities for projects and support will be seized, opportunities to improve staff performance and municipality performance, and in return more services, more prosperity, more democracy for our citizens, whom we have the honour to serve. You are fortunate that, in your municipalities have already began working on this, you have trained staff and assistance there. What needs to be guaranteed now is continuity. Institutional memory since the beginning of the process and the preservation of human resources that have been trained for more than two years now by the best experts.
It is up to you to strengthen the capacities of your local governments in terms of their functioning within European standards as well as the absorption of European funds on a project-by-project basis, because it is primarily in the interest of new local government leaders, across all Albania. As mayors who have regained citizens' confidence in their cities are already aware, the European Integration Units are a powerful and indispensable pillar in our path towards the European integration. Government support, cooperation of all parties, the Municipalities for Europe project, and European integration structures within each municipality are the best guarantee we have for the success of this important process for Albania's future.
Albania's EU integration process will not happen "by order" out of nowhere. Albania will become part of the large European family only by integrating first of all the local communities, from your Municipality.