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Environmental Local Authorities InterBalkan Network - ELAIN

City of Rijeka has found Second International Event of ELAIN project in Bijeljina very beneficial and constructive throughout collaboration between partners within the project. Sharing the knowledge and exchanging experience about common problems give us feeling that we are not alone in coping with environmental challenges that are complex and variant.

Joint participation of local authorities, institutions, NGO's and citizens is prerequisite for solving environmental problems and issues, especially on local level. International conference gives opportunity for each stakeholder segment to find their match in project partners and exchange "know-how" and best practices. Altogether we can found many good ways to interact and collaborate about possible solutions to the greatest environmental problems (e.g. waste, wastewater treatment, nature protection, air pollution etc.) and then transfer the outcomes on the local level.

The Second International Event of ELAIN project in Bijeljina, gave also City of Rijeka insight in full extent of disaster caused by flood on the example of City of Bijeljina. From experience of Bijeljina we learned lesson we could not nowhere else posing the questions to ourselves "What are we doing to our environment?" and "What can be done to prevent climate change?"

Tanja Saulig Brajdić, City of Rijeka

It is generally recognized that the development potential of a region is enhanced through partnerships that are being promoted. Therefore local government authorities are investing in the establishment of international cooperation arcs in order to highlight and overcome common development problems. Especially in the current context, that is characterized by the presence of the economic crisis and the decline of environmental interest, the need for strategic partnerships is maximized.

The Environmental Local Authorities Interbalkan Network (ELAIN) was built according to the abovementioned reasoning. It began as a dialogue platform between its members and evolved into a EU funded project. The collective work and the cooperative development approach was rewarded by the EU and its financial tool “Europe for citizens”. This is a reason to be proud of.

Another reason to be proud of is the demonstrated common will as a key element toface the bureaucratic obstacles and the different procedural approaches of the participating partners. Additionally the introduction of participatory planning and the inclusion of civil society in the procedure of shaping the direction of the project and its final outcomes enriches the cooperation.

ConclusivelyELAIN reflects the participants strategic choice to abandonan isolated status in the environmental field and to invest in a long lasting cooperation, that may be specialized in the near future.

Banousis Dimitris

PESYDAP’s special consultant

ELAIN’s project manager

The Second International Event within the "ELAIN - Environmental Local Authorities InterBalkan Network, was held in ethno – village Stanisici near the City of Bijeljina , Bosnia Hertzegovina from November 4th - November 6th 2014.

We all come from our own specific environments but share the same goal and such international events where ideas and experiences are shared are not only very helpful but are essential in developing further protection strategies.

In our view and experience the cooperation between NGOs and public sector is of extreme importance since each can give their own input, from their own prospective and together work towards the mutual goal – the protection of environment in general as well as in their own city.

Tanja Mamula, Association Žmergo (NGO)

The Second International Event within the "ELAIN - Environmental Local Authorities InterBalkan Network'', was held in ethno – village Stanišići near the City of Bijeljina , Bosnia and Herzegovina from November 4th - November 6th 2014.

The main topics were:

  • The floods (how to prevent and react on floods),
  • Environmental decisions/ policies with public participation
  • Conclusions from second local event,
  • Submission of concrete proposals for cooperation, taking into consideration the framework agreed at the first international event

In May Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina were terribly affected by floods. From partner cities, Bijeljina was seriously affected. Forty percent of the city and surrounding area was flooded. City of Bijeljina released a short video in which participants could see the horrors that affected the town and the surrounding villages in May of 2014.

Participants presented their cities issues in relation to this type of disaster, and spoke about other given topics.

The city of Rijeka presented its two main natural resources; Adriatic Sea, River Rječina and two main water threats; floods and sea level rising. Operational management of flood risks and immediate procedure of flood defense are regulated with State flood defense Plan and Main Plan of procedures for flood is regulated by National Institution Hrvatske vode according to Water act.

In the past (1898) floods were very often in the City and surrounding area. Recently there were no dangerous threats by the river Rječina which is significantly contributed to the construction of accumulation and better proclamation of Flood defense. Unfortunately there are no defense measures for sea level rising.

Regarding to environmental decisions with public participation there are E-consultations via internet, various topics on public hearing. In course are Adoption of Noise Action Plan (public participation in defining quiet zones) and definition of locations for separate waste collection bins.

In the near future there is Waste Management Plan.

Regarding on second Local Event in Rijeka there was presented Conclusions of 1st International ELAIN Conference in Tirana.

Also there were discussion about Waste Management Issues – separate waste collection, awareness rising.

Propositions for further collaboration

•        Waste Management – Raising Awareness about Separate Waste Collection

•        Electromagnetic Pollution – Establishing Common Methodology for Monitoring

After the presentation of participating cities, there was a short workshop and roundtable discussion about the further development of the project ELAIN. The official opinion of the City Rijeka is that any kind of exchange of knowledge and experience is welcomed.

During our stay in City of Bijeljina we attended Joint Environmental Activity, visit to places of environmental interest: Municipal Landfill ‘’Eko dep’’, Eco Centre ‘’Jezera’’ and Coast of River Drina.

Vedrana Petrović Valentić, Communal company “Water-supply and sewage treatment” Rijeka

The City of Niš and The Environmental Association of Municipalities of Athens and Piraeus (PE.SY.D.A.P.), signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Interbalkan Cooperation for the Environment.

The first result of this cooperation is the joint realization of the project “Environmental Local Authorities Interbalkan Network”, ELAIN, having a goal to identify challenges in environmental protection and seek the best solution for the local environmental problems.

The second International Conference within the framework of this project was held from 3 to 6 November, 2014 in Bijeljina, Republic of Srpska. At this conference the representatives of the partner cities presented the problems and challenges they are facing in the field of environmental protection.

The results of participation are analysis of the status of the environment in the City of Niš territory, identification of problems in environmental protection field that the City faces and defining the ways how to address the priority issues. The project enabled better cooperation with NGOs and volunteers involved in environmental issues. In 2015 the City of Niš approved funding the NGO sector environmental projects that are to be realized through public competition. Of great importance are also the information on problems and way to overcome them in the project partner cities. The City of Niš has initiated the procedure to develop the Program of Environmental Protection with an Action Plan for the ten year period presented in the conference by the representatives of Novi Sad. Also important is addressing the problem of waste disposal and waste water treatment in other cities for addressing our local priority ecological issues.

The Conference in Bijeljina was important for the City of Niš because of the exchange of experiences with the project partners regarding the important environmental issues, enabling easier planning and addressing, as well as finding the initial fundings, i.e. opportunities to compete for EU funds.

We are looking forward to the continuation of cooperation through the establishment of the protected area networks as we consider it very important for the improvement of environment in our city and exchange of practice in the field of protected natural resources.

The Local Government of the future can only be characterized by efficient, transparent and innovative operations and activities in their daily functioning. Following that, there should be a planning promoting simultaneously a holistic approach that will both enhance local environment and economic development at the same time. Within this context, the road to international co-operation seems to be a unique path to be paved in order to discover new ways to act locally in a very efficient and effective way for the citizens.

A Holistic Approach for Local Environment.

Every municipality is trying to participate in any project that refers to environmental activities, works or policies. That is of utmost importance for any future planning regarding the local authorities. Nevertheless, instead of just trying to be part of, the best approach is to decide on the municipal vision that includes environment as a core policy of the town development plan. Therefore, the local authority needs to identify the environmental objectives that needs to fulfill within the whole development strategy of the city in the near and the distant future. In this direction, a very useful methodological tool is to draft a Local Agenda 21, using the already existing experience from other cities.

Enhancing Local Economic Development.

Finding ways to enhance local economic development is a continuous struggle for the city authorities. In any case, the municipal authorities are constantly in seek for alternative and new sources of funding in order not to be uniquely depended on the state for their fiscal needs. Therefore initiatives that promote investment, establishment of new businesses and expansion of already existing, building new infrastructure, enhancing transport, specializing their policy of local taxes, and maximizing the use of state and EU funding are a must for every mayor and the members of the municipal board. Especially in an era of economic crisis in combination with the fluency restrictions this has become a one way road to be paved by all elected authorities along with the relevant municipal services. That is why all municipalities should discover all good practices in this field not only nationally but also internationally.

Promoting International Co-operation for Innovation and Know-How.

As we are moving towards an era of competition between economies, states, regions and cities, there is best to find and focus on the local comparative advantages (e.g. nature, products, food, history, tradition, transport gateway or other). This should be an indispensable part of every city’s development vision. A key proposal in this direction is to value all ways of international co-operation in order to adopt innovative methods and expertise that have already been presented by other municipal authorities. This context is encouraged by the European Union with specialized programs that are funded by the EU’s budget. The co-operation between local authorities has only positive experience to offer in all those that are involved. Furthermore, the co-operation that is created is very important for the future of the planning both for the environment and for the local economic development.

Strengthening Cooperation Between Municipalities in South-Eastern Europe.

Having a long history -often a cloudy one, but only temporarily-, the states in South Eastern Europe due to their co-existence should adopt an approach of long term co-operation for development in every sector of economy, state and society. Establishing secure bonds between states opens the way for co-operation between regions and eventually between cities and their authorities. Any level of co-operation is definitely a productive one both in terms of transferring know-how and in building networks which may become crucial for the future. This is the aim of a number of activities from the side of the EU, which are also funded and supported. Networks, institutions, exchanges, conferences, visits, etc. are the practical outcomes of this process. The municipalities on behalf of their authorities have moved into a better and more organized co-operation between themselves and this tendency should be enhanced.

As a Conclusion for the Municipalities.

The first question in hand is to have a plan of co-operation in the core of every environmental and development planning in the municipality. The second question in hand is the mode of co-operation that should be adopted and the international networking that should take place between municipal authorities and cities in general in the area of South-Eastern Europe. Any effort in this direction can only be welcomed by all involved, otherwise they will become opportunities missed. We should encourage international co-operation between cities in order to succeed in the field of environment and economic development. That is something that we should not accept any compromise aiming to our future and that of our children.

 

Dr. Michalis Christakis

Political – Administrative Scientist Specializing in EU Funding

President of Panhellenic Association of General Secretaries (City Managers) in Municipal Authorities (Kleisthenis)

Special Scientist of National Center for Public Administration and Local Government (E.K.D.D.A.)

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The second international event in Bijeljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina,  held from 3-6 of November 2014, was a great chance to compare participants’ ideas, problems, solutions and some experiences relating environmental issues.
It was a joint opinion of the participants that the local ecological network in Balkans needs to be strengthened more, mainly so we can help each other, and as a next step, to establish a network of environmentally protected zones in this area.

After last year's floods in the region, the importance of environmental protection at the local level is especially evident. Team from Bijeljina showed a documentary film, regarding last year’s floods in their city, and participants from other cities and countries could saw how dangerous nature could be, especially when we didn't respect it, the way we should had.

Particularly interesting was a workshop which was organized at the event. The topic was - How to react in case of flooding? The participants were asked a question: "What are the three things that in the case of floods you would like to have with you?". Answers of participants were very similar, most of them wrote on papers that they would like to had with them these things: drinking water, cell phone and a flash light.

After the event, everybody agreed that we should continue with this activities, because we were just at the beginning, there was a lot more to be done.