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On April 12, 2022, the "EU for Municipalities" project, in cooperation with the "Municipalities for Europe" project, and with the support of the European Union, held a networking meeting in Tirana with the participation of heads of EU Integration Units in the 61 municipalities of Albania, as well as representatives from the municipalities of Southeast European countries.

The first day of the networking meeting was focused on sharing experiences from the countries of the region, on networking and the challenges of co-financing European Union funds, while the second day was focused on the opening of the second call for applications for grants.

Through this call, the European Union has increased financial support for 61 Albanian municipalities for the improvement of local infrastructure and services, environmental protection and the empowerment of young people and local communities.

Mr. Orlando Fusco, EU program manager in Albania said that "EU funds cover all areas of decentralization. The EU has increased financial assistance and almost every six months there is a call for grant applications for your municipalities. The second #EU grant for municipalities will support 12-15 municipalities, this is an opportunity to improve your experience, performance and services to communities".

"We encourage all municipalities to apply for grants as this is a way to increase the municipality's investments in the community and at the same time for capacity building, a key element for success in competitive grant processes”.

Some of the messages from all parties during the meeting:

Lenka Vitkova, Head of the Good Governance Sector at the EU Delegation in Albania:

"70% of EU legislation is implemented at the local level. The development of municipalities is an important and long-term investment, as it supports communities through local services. Technical assistance and grants are ways how the EU is supporting 4 areas of the decentralization strategy in Albania".

Enea Hoti, General Director of the Agency for the Support of Local Self-Government

"The bureaucratic process closed at the central level has now been opened at the local level. Thus, the EU directives are being implemented at the local level, where they are even more tangible. European values affect the lives of every citizen and you, as heads of the EU integration units, should convey this spirit in your communities. Your role is very important, as the structure that supports this process at the local level."

Elton Stafa, Team Leader, EU4Municipalities

"A more synergistic approach is required, so that not all the weight falls on the shoulders of the EU4Municipalities project team, but also that local actors with various functions in municipal institutions become more active, to cooperate in order to achieve the objectives.

Jolanda Trebicka, Project Manager, "Municipalities for Europe"

"We as a technical assistance project, will continue to support the municipalities of Albania. The European Integration Units are doing an excellent job. What is required at this moment is an increase in the awareness of the mayors, about the importance of these structures, which we we will continue to support in cooperation with the Agency for the Support of Local Self-Government and the two municipal associations".

Kelmend Zajazi, Executive Director of NALAS

"For NALAS, this project and activity is of particular importance. The exchange of regional experiences for the quality of local services is important, taking into account EU standards. The support of municipalities for the improvement of local services is of unique importance, as it makes citizens feel the benefits of being part of the EU family.

Ilir Beqaj, Head of the State Agency for Strategic Programming and Aid Coordination

"The fund of 200 million provided in the budget program "Execution of various payments", in the Ministry of Finance and Economy, is used for pre-financing, co-financing and payment for value added tax, and customs duties for projects with foreign financing".

Adelina Farrici, Head of the Association for Local Autonomy

"It is very positive that 36 municipalities have applied for the first call for grants announced in the first phase of the EU4Municipalities project. I want call all other municipalities not to be discouraged, but to apply in this second call".

Agron Haxhimali, Director of the Association of Municipalities of Albania

"I have a call for big municipalities to be more tolerant and create more opportunities for small municipalities, being more understanding and creating more spaces for them to benefit from these grants."

Keti Luarasi, Deputy Mayor of Tirana Municipality

"The EU4M project has opened the doors to the municipalities for application in the grant scheme and for the absorption of funds. We have a lot of work to do together with the civil society, for a common direction towards the European Union".

Vanja Starovlah, Deputy General Secretary of the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro

"The Association of Municipalities in Montenegro also plays an important role in managing relations with municipalities, to help them overcome challenges related to management due to staff changes, political changes and ongoing needs for increasing the capacities to absorb EU funds and their management".

Veselka Ivanova, Director of the Department for Municipal Programs and Projects, National Association of Municipalities of Bulgaria

"European Union funds do not create miracles. What is needed is for them to be managed well to give concrete results for the benefit of the community".

Fran Brahimi, Director of Local Finances in the Ministry of Finance and Economy

"The Ministry of Finance has begun to change budgeting procedures and practices to respond to the provision of co-financing and pre-financing funds in support of municipalities. The examples of Montenegro are useful to be considered by the Albanian side”.