The Committee of the Regions (CoR) has called on its Eastern partners of Armenia, Ukraine and Belarus to go further with their reforms. According to a CoR press release, three opinions were adopted on 2 December that welcomed the progress made but highlighted shortcomings in the allocation of financial resources and the development of local democracy.
"New and democratic laws are needed. However, attention must also be paid to how these new laws are applied and enforced," said Teet Kallasvee (EE/EPP), member of Haapsalu City Council in his opinion on the implementation of the Eastern Partnership in Armenia. He added that in Armenia, "international experts and election observers have often had their work cut out in getting the authorities to follow through on promises made".
Istvan Serto-Radics (HU/ALDE), Mayor of Uszka, said that decentralisation in Ukraine remains patchy, and that it was essential that Ukrainian legislation guarantees the political, administrative and financial independence of local authorities. The CoR called for the EU to facilitate cross-border exchanges, for example by exempting residents of cross-border regions from visa requirements.
The CoR also called for more radical reforms in Belarus, and strongly urged the Belarusian government to return to the path of democratisation and to put an immediate stop to the imposition and carrying-out of death sentences, human rights violations and intimidation of civil society groups, as well as to end discrimination against ethnic minorities. The CoR also encouraged local and regional authorities NGOs in Belarus to become involved in projects in partnership with the European Union.
The European Commission and the Council of Ministers asked the CoR to play an active role in implementing the Eastern Partnership by establishing regular cooperation with local and regional authorities in six countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). The partnership adds a specific Eastern dimension to the EU's European Neighbourhood Policy.
The CoR adopted opinions on Moldova and Georgia last October and is continuing to evaluate the situation of local and regional authorities in the Eastern Partnership countries. An opinion on Azerbaijan is scheduled for January. The first EU/Eastern Partnership conference of local and regional authorities will be held in Hungary in the first half of next year.