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NALAS Digest 25 February 2016

27.02.2016     www.nalas.eu

Dear reader,
How to construct a law on local finance that will ensure adequate resources for competent and efficient local government for the benefit of the citizens of Albania is the topic of the regional workshop "Best practices in Local Government Finance Legislation: the South-East Europe experience and the challenges facing Albania", organised by NALAS and the USAID PLGP on 9 and 10 February 2016 in Tirana, Albania.
The event brought together over 70 representatives of Ministries of Finance, Ministries of Local Issues, Mayors, Local Governments, Local Government Associations, Academic Institutions and International Donors, as well as the Offices of the Albanian Prime Minister and President.
"Through the NALAS annual monitoring of the fiscal decentralisation trends in South East Europe we compare and see that the average share of local government revenues of the SEE GDP is 6,1%. It means SEE has a large potential to grow, considering that this share on the EU level is 11,3%. Within SEE the lowest share of local revenues of the national GDP is found in Albania, only 2,5%", said Mayor Naim Ismajli, NALAS Vice-President. "This is why we are here today, to give a clear message to decision makers in Albania that developing a new law on local finances is a great opportunity to improve the picture of fiscal decentralisation", emphasised Mayor Ismajli.
For more information, click HERE.


Enjoy your Digest!


National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria

Mayors “Undercover” engage to improve services to citizens
The Mayors of some Bulgarian municipalities found quite an original and innovative way to test the capabilities and competences (and also nerves) of the employees in their municipalities. They were pretending to be ordinary anxious citizens who are calling incognito to the municipal employees, working in the “front offices”, posting questions or asking for different services.
The Mayor of Cherven Bryag, Municipality nearby Pleven, phoned to the departments of local taxes, properties and the information center. Some of the tested servants ended up hanging-up the phone, screaming and even threatening him that they will call the police. The conclusions of the experiment show that the “servants from the older generation have more experience in working with the citizens, being also more polite and kinder with the people”. 
A similar practice was used by the Mayor of Burgas who was calling incognito on the municipal “hot line” posting signals for different accidents or infrastructural problems around the town. When he called, the person on duty several times connected him with different departments and at the end it was not clear which one was responsible for the problem solution. After this, the Mayor took measures so that emergency or similar cases go to one department only.
The “undercover” callings continue and have great effect on the work discipline, whereas no one dares to leave the working place earlier.
Some time ago, a different practice, but with similar disciplining effect, was undertaken by the Mayor of Stambolijski. He installed a big billboard at the town’s entrance, declaring that “in the municipality of Stambolijski the usage of the expressions “I cannot” and “I don’t know” is prohibited” with the remark that it is valid for all municipal officers during working hours.

The billboard at the town’s entrance

NAMRB Health Standing Committee debates with the Minister of Health to protect municipalities' interests
On 11 and 12 February in the NAMRB Training Centre in Gergini, the first meeting of the Standing Health Committee for the new local mandate 2015-2019 was held. The members of the Committee met with the Minister of Health Dr. Petar Moskov and the Deputy Ministers Dr. Vanyo Sharkov and Dr. Adam Persenski.
The hot topic of the discussions was the reform in the health sector. Part of this is the so-called draft National Health Map, which determines the needs for health services by regions, the surpluses and shortcomings in the health care system and will be decisive for the future contracts between hospitals and the National Health Insurance Fund. This issue is very sensitive for some of the Bulgarian municipalities as they have their own municipal hospitals in which they invested a lot of funds, including resources from the EU. Tensions related to the draft of the National Health Map at local level heated up during the last month. Citizens of some of the municipalities protested and blocked roads, while municipal councils accepted declarations against the Map, as they suspect that the reform will lead to the closure of the municipal hospitals and citizens will have to travel hundreds kilometers to receive health care in the “nearest” hospitals.
In an open debate with the Minister and the Deputies, most of the hot issues were clarified and also a commitment for future regular dialogue was negotiated. The Minister promised that no municipal hospital will be closed as a result of the reform. Meanwhile, NAMRB is elaborating the municipal position on the main issues of the health reform. 

Minister of Health explaining the Health reform

160 participants at the national meeting of municipal education experts 
From 10 to 12 February Pravets Municipality hosted the third national meeting of municipal education experts. The meeting attracted more than 160 professionals from more than 100 municipalities. Senior officials from the Ministry of Education and Science took part in the meeting, as well as representatives of the ministries of finance, agriculture and food, health, and heads of the managing authorities of EU funded programs.
The main topic of the meeting this year was the implementation of the newly adopted Law on pre-school and school education. According to the Law from 1 August 2016, the ownership of the vocational schools in the area of agriculture, food and forestry shall be transferred from the Ministry of agriculture to the respective municipalities. The number of the schools to be transferred to municipalities is approximately 80, situated all around the country. The procedure of the ownership transfer and the time frames of its implementation were discussed in details.

The meeting in Pravets


Marmara Municipalities Union

The most successful municipalities of Istanbul
A service satisfaction survey was conducted in the European side of Istanbul where the majority of the population of the city lives. As a result of the survey, Fatih Municipality ranked the first in terms of service satisfaction by taking a very high number of the rates (66% of the votes). Esenler, Beyoğlu, Kağıthane, Büyükçekmece, Beşiktaş, Bağcılar, Avcılar, Bakırköy and Bahçelievler Municipalities followed Fatih Municipality.
Digital cities announced
2015 Digital Cities Local Governments Digital Asset data have been announced. Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality became the best municipality in using digital assets in 2015 while Mayor of Antalya Metropolitan Municipality Menderes Türel ranked best among other Mayors.
Digital Asset Rating measured, graded and ranked websites, mobile applications, impacts on social media, topicality, interaction and content management of 240 users consisting of municipalities and Mayors in Turkey according to 68 criteria. In total 300 digital assets including 970 social network accounts, 202 websites and 128 mobile applications of 120 municipalities and Mayors - composed of 81 provincial municipalities and 39 district municipalities of Istanbul have been analyzed. The ratings will be updated in every 3 months.
Participants of Digital Life Programme under MMU Local Governance Academy received their certificates
The first participants of the Digital Life Programme organized by Marmara Municipalities Union (MMU) Local Governance Academy received their certificates from Bağcılar Municipality Mayor and MMU Vice-President Lokman Çağırıcı.
The Digital Life Programme of MMU Local Governance Academy aims at increasing quality of local services and improving institutional capacity by training local government officers with an interdisciplinary approach. To this aim, 16 precious trainers including academics and experts in social media, internet and communication have provided training for local government officers during eight weeks. Trainings included several topics such as ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow of digitalization’, ‘digital citizenship’, ‘digital media tools’, ‘corporate communication’, ‘crisis management in social media’, ‘information technology law’, and ‘internet culture’.
MMU Mayors Summit was held in 11-14 February 2016
Marmara Municipalities Union (MMU) Mayors Summit was held in İzmir on 11-14 February 2016. During the Summit, leading Mayors of the Marmara Region discussed problems and targets of the local governments. They exchanged ideas on several issues primarily in the context of the Syrian refugee problem, interaction of the Sea of Marmara, Black Sea and Danube River, and building livable cities as well as future plans and actions of the municipalities.

Association of Albanian Municipalities


Fiscal decentralization and the lack of Law on Local Finances
The Regional Conference on legislation on local finances gathered in Tirana Mayors and experts on local finances from the SEE region, as well as representatives of central institutions in Albania. The Conference was organized by NALAS and PLGP/USAID with the cooperation of Albanian Association of Municipalities.
On behalf of AAM, Mr. Eduart Kapri, Mayor of Pogradec considered the initiative as a very good step towards an effective decentralization strategy and consolidated local governments. When it comes to the Albanian case, municipalities have major uncertainties on budgeting instruments available.
The legal framework covering local finances is made of several laws and bylaws that are subject to frequent amendments and lack ease of implementation. It is now the moment for Albanian municipalities to be guided by a comprehensive law on local finances.
AAM suggests that this law covers the following issues:
  • Terminology and definitions, i.e. taxes and tariffs and to define financial principles in compliance with the local autonomy;
  • Management models meaning instruments of public finances, unified rules and set standards recognised by municipalities;
  • Unified transparent procedures on monitoring the budget implementation.
The main concerns the new municipalities have are the inherited debt and the financial insufficiency for complying with the new functions transferred to the local government. AAM will continue to advocate and lobby for the interest of municipalities and on behalf of their citizens.


Association of Kosovo Municipalities

The Council of Mayors coordinates with the Government of Kosovo on the development of the country
The Council of Mayors met with the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Mr. Isa Mustafa, the First Deputy Prime Minister/the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Hashim Thaci, the Minister of Finance Mr. Avdullah Hoti and the Deputy Minister of Local Government Administration Mr. Bajram Gecaj to discuss the priorities in 2016 related to European Integration, the internal development processes and promotion of local government.
The Prime Minister Mr. Isa Mustafa emphasized that one of the most important issues on which central and local government must work together during this year is the Stabilization and Association Agreement, as an important step in the final integration of Kosovo in the EU. He also emphasized the joint work that needs to be done to meet the criteria and recommendations for visa liberalization and overall economic, social and infrastructure development of the country.
The First Deputy Prime Minister, also the Foreign Minister, Hashim Thaçi, while congratulating for the good work that Mayors have done, emphasized that an even greater success can be achieved through coordination between the central and the local institutions. He further talked about joint efforts and continuous dialogue between the central and the local institutions, which have resulted in great achievements in all fields of life and in serving the interests of citizens.

The President of the Association of Kosovo Municipalities, Mr. Naim Ismajli expressed the readiness of Kosovo municipalities to coordinate activities with the purpose of using opportunities in the integration agenda, economic development and coordination of activities in order to face challenges in front of us.
“Mayors are willing to coordinate their activities, be part of active participation in all matters for the purpose and in the interest of development, security and integration. We encourage your commitment as a government, as well as the entire political spectrum, even the opposition, that through dialogue and without violence we shall solve all the issues that we have in front of us because I believe that this is one of the basic or fundamental requirements of each citizen of Kosovo today. Citizens expect and hope for the development and integration and we really need to give them this through commitment, coordination of activities, understanding and not through misunderstandings, unwillingness to communicate and through violence shown in institutions", said the President of the Association of Kosovo Municipalities.
More: http://komunat-ks.net/en/keshilli-i-kryetareve-takohet-me-qeverine-e-kosoves-per-bashkerenditje-te-veprimeve-per-zhvillimin-e-vendit/

Association of Municipalities,
Association of Cities in the Republic of Croatia

AoM committed to accurately define the objectives of the local government reform
AoM will continue with argumented and energetic campaign so that the general public understands the situation in the Croatian municipalities and, in particular, which defined goals should be approached with the local government reform. Soon the answers to all the specific questions like functioning of local self-government, fiscal and functional decentralization, will be provided for Croatian citizens. This was emphasized at the meeting of AoM Management Board on 5 February in Zagreb, including the conclusion that the process of adopting the guidelines of the reform, which will take place in partnership with the Government and all relevant factors, should include as many municipalities as possible. In order to achieve efficiency in the coming activities, the Board has appointed two representatives in the National Partnership Council for Regional Development Strategy for the period up to 2020 and five representatives in the Council for statistical sub-regions.
Meeting with the new Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds
A delegation of the Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Croatia held a meeting with the Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Tomislav Tolušić on 15 February to express the assurance that the Minister, considering his knowledge in the area and the experience as County Prefect, can perfectly understand the needs of municipalities and articulate them at the ministerial level.
The delegation pledged support to the Minister, offered cooperation and particularly pointed out that recent analysis showed that Croatian Municipalities are fully prepared for the execution of pending projects worth about 300 million euros. The Minister agreed that there is a lot of potential and that the framework of feasibility projects is realistic. He stressed that he will try to take the advantage of all the resources that are available and to strengthen local and regional development.
Media Training
One day training for communication with media and PR activities was held in the Association of Municipalities on 12 February under the working title "Communicating with the media - art or science?". Fifteen Mayors and municipality employees  attended the workshop to learn more about the functioning of media and techniques for improving the presentation and media skills. The AoM will continue to consistently provide this training.

Association of Municipalities and Towns of Republic of Srpska

The role of the Local Government Association in EU integration
A delegation of the Association of Municipalities and Towns of the Republic of Srpska visited BiH Presidency member from  the Republic of Srpska Mladen Ivanic to discuss the current status of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the EU integration process and the possible role of the Association in the future activities. Bosnia and Herzegovina officially submited its application to join the European Union on 15 February 2016.
The representatives of the Association informed the member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina about the Association’s activities, with special reference to the possibility of more active involvement of local governments in the process of European integration.
The both parties agreed that strengthening the capacity of local governments to use the funds from the EU pre-accession sourses is of great importance, given the position and competences of local self-government, as well as the need for adaptation and application of EU regulations at the local level. They also agreed that local authorities need to stay committed to raise the quality of services provided to citizens, in order to harmonize with European practice, and raise living standards.
The BiH Presidency member Ivanic welcomed the work of the Association and expressed full support for the efforts of active involvement of local governments in the European integration process.

Union of Municipalities of Montenegro

Cooperation with TIKA
The Secretary General of the Union of Municipalities Refik Bojadzic visited the TIKA office in Podgorica, on 4 February, where he met with TIKA Coordinator for Montenegro Mr. Mustafa Yazıcı to discuss the support that TIKA provides to Montenegrin municipalities. With a brief overview of the visit and the conclusions from the meeting of the Union of Municipalities and TIKA held in TIKA Headquarters in Ankara, Mr. Bojadzic expressed his gratitude for all activities that TIKA implemented in Montenegro.
The Secretary-General stressed the need to utilize as much as possible the position that the Union of Municipalities has as a representative of all Montenegrin local governments to collect municipal project proposals for funding, as it was the case at the end of last year when the Union of Municipalities has collected proposals from the majority of Montenegrin municipalities (a total of 34 projects from 17 municipalities) and submitted them, through the Embassy of Montenegro in Turkey, to the TIKA headquarters.
Mr. Yazıcı confirmed that they had received the list of these projects and considered them in detail. In line with it, TIKA has already visited a number of municipalities where they, in principle, agreed to support the implementation of certain projects. He also stressed that TIKA has a very intensive cooperation with all local authorities in Montenegro.
At the end of the meeting it was agreed that the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro and the TIKA Office in Podgorica cooperate more closely and inform each other regarding the cooperation and projects with Montenegrin local governments.

Association of Municipalities and Towns of Slovenia

Programs and financing the participation of municipalities, Associations and NGOs in the European Community 
On 10 February 2016, the Association of Municipalities and Towns of Slovenia in cooperation with the project partners in the project Network for cooperation and democratic participation of citizens in the Adriatic-Balkan region (CAPE -AB), organized an international conference titled "Programs and financing the participation of municipalities, Associations and NGOs in the European Community”.
At the conference, Dejan Bogdan from Maribor Europe Direct office in Maribor pointed out the importance of participation and cooperation in the common European area and presented the organization's role in providing and disseminating information, and the priorities of the European Commission. Georg Muellner, project manager, introduced the possibility of supporting transnational co-operation of municipalities in the next two years, presented the program Europe for Citizens, especially town-twinning, networks of cities and civil society projects and guided the participants through the latest application form, with the focus on mistakes that occur when registering. Representative of the Municipality of Maribor, Dr. Martina Rauter, presented a successfully implemented project under the Europe for Citizens program called From YU2EU, which established political networks between cities and developed an innovative model for the development of mechanisms for young people and those involved in youth employment policy.
In the second part of the meeting the participants got acquainted with Erasmus + Sport program, which was presented by Tina Kenk from the organization CMEPIUS. Projects should be focused mainly on the multiplicity of sports and solving international problems of the integrity of sport, promote and support good governance in sport and parallel careers of athletes and the promotion of volunteering in sport for social inclusion, equal opportunities and awareness of the importance of the health effects of sports activities through the pervasiveness of participation in sport for all.
Mag. Thomas Pseiner, Secretary General of the Alps-Adriatic Alliance and Ratko Vukovic, head of thematic point for sports of Karlovac County, presented the Alps Adriatic Alliance, which offers opportunities for funding in the common region, examples of such projects and the potential for the application of joint projects in this call with Karlovac County.
In the afternoon participants were more closely acquainted with the possibilities of support for the European cultural and creative industries, film, television, music, literature, performing arts, cultural heritage, etc. through the program "Creative Europe 2014 – 2020”, presented by Tanja Kos from Creative Europe Center in Slovenia. She presented specific measures and specially cooperation projects for which the application deadline is 5 October 2016.
After the conference the project manager, Georg Muellner, dedicated his time to individual issues and direct project advices to the participants, who had previously submitted a project proposal.



2016 Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation (the Guangzhou Award)
The Guangzhou Award aims to recognize innovation in improving social, economic and environmental sustainability in cities and regions and, in so doing, to advance the prosperity and life quality of their citizens. The Award is co-sponsored by the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the World Association of the Major Metropolises (Metropolis), and the City of Guangzhou.
The Guangzhou Award will be discerned to five (5) cities for each award cycle. Each of the winning cities will receive a USD 20,000 cash prize, a trophy and a commemorative certificate.
Submission Process: 
Submissions must be made in accordance with the registration and application forms, which could be downloaded from the official website of the Guangzhou Award at http://www.guangzhouaward.org.

31 May 2016 Registration deadline
30 July 2016 Submission deadline
August-September Technical Committee evaluation
October Short-listed initiatives are notified of selection and may be requested to send additional supporting materials
November Final selection by the Jury; the Guangzhou Award Ceremony

For more information, please contact the Guangzhou Award Secretariat at:
Website: http://www.guangzhouaward.org
Email: info@guangzhouaward.org
Tel: +86 20 66289390
Fax: +86 20 66289391