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Environmental Local Authorities InterBalkan Network - ELAIN

Dr. Michalis Christakis, Promoting local Environment and Development in south-eastern europe with international co-operation

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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