Algeria set to benefit from CoR's new capacity-building initiative
Algeria remains a centralised state but the local and regional level can act as a catalyst for change, says Markku Markkula.
The European Committee of the Regions represents the EU's regions and cities in the legislative process. After the 1990s - a decade marred by civil war, violence and terrorism - Algeria has recovered political stability and is rebuilding its ties with Europe. Negotiations on a European neighbourhood policy action plan are currently under way to complement the current association agreement.
Algeria has backed the idea to permanently establish the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) to represent regional and local authorities within the Union for the Mediterranean as well as playing an active role in exchanging best practices in vital sectors as water management, urban planning and energy with its European partners.
As Co-President of ARLEM, the Committee of the Regions wants to enable strategic partnerships between local and regional actors on both sides of the sea to foster good governance and development.
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Integrated and sustainable urban development is a priority of the Union for the Mediterranean. Cities are the driving forces behind economic growth, education and innovation, but they also need support to provide adequate public services and to meet environmental challenges.
Members of the Committee of the Regions have significant experience from developing their municipalities; sharing these best practices through concrete examples is most fruitful to our cooperation.
Algiers is one of eight cities that will benefit from the Committee of the Regions' new capacity-building initiative in the form of technical and political assistance from European partner regions and cities in the coming years.
Pilot projects aim to improve the cities' capacities in urban governance with the ultimate target of improving the citizens' quality of life. Relations between the EU and Algeria have recently been focused on establishing a strategic energy partnership to allow better gas interconnections across Europe.
Cooperation has also increased in a number of other areas: the European Commission has launched a twinning project aimed at supporting the creation of a favourable ecosystem for developing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Algeria.
Modern and accessible telecommunication infrastructure is needed to facilitate the transition towards a knowledge-based economy. The development of relevant societal applications and services in Algeria can also be extremely useful for local authorities in providing services.
Meanwhile, EU support for Algeria through the SPRING programme is designed to strengthen economic and political governance. It aims to consolidate the rule of law, step up the fight against corruption, encourage participation by all citizens in the development process and improve monitoring of the use of public funds.
The path for reforming the country represents the quintessence of the "more for more" philosophy, also applied within the renewed European neighbourhood policy, to be presented end of the current year and to which the Algerian delegation within ARLEM has contributed through public consultation.
The European Committee of the Regions calls for further emphasis on decentralisation and more effective territorial administration within all of its Mediterranean partners. Our study on the division of powers in the Mediterranean can be a useful tool for assessing the state of play of decentralisation in our partner countries. Algeria remains a centralised state with limited powers for local administrative bodies.
We strongly believe that the local and regional level can act as a catalyst for change if they are provided with the necessary administrative skills, tools and capacity.
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