2.9.2011   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 259/62


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on ‘Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2010-11’

2011/C 259/11

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

stresses that one of the main political priorities of the Committee of the Regions is to secure the success of the EU enlargement process;

considers visa liberalisation for some countries of the Western Balkans to be a good example of how much can be achieved when imposing strict conditions is combined with granting specific advantages;

has not overlooked the fact that in most countries a whole series of challenges remain, the solution to which will in part be very slow and long drawn-out; it sees a need for reform particularly in nation-building, the rule of law and expansion of administrative capacities at all levels, particularly at regional and local level, and also in better governance, reform of the judicial system and efforts to combat corruption and organised crime at every level of government;

stresses that accession countries must continue to receive support for their efforts in the form of subsidies from the instrument for pre-accession (IPA) and loans from the European Investment Bank and other international financial institutions;

is firmly convinced that without properly prepared and trained political and administrative representatives at regional and local level, enlargement efforts cannot be carried through to a successful conclusion.

Rapporteur

Mr Franz SCHAUSBERGER (AT/EPP), Delegate of the Land of Salzburg in the Committee of the Regions

Reference document

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2010-2011

COM(2010) 660 final

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

Relevance of the document for local and regional authorities and the Committee of the Regions

1.

stresses that one of the main political priorities of the Committee of the Regions is to secure the success of the EU enlargement process;

2.

underlines that the local and regional authorities represented on the Committee of the Regions (CoR) have a key rule to play in dialogue with the candidate countries and potential candidate countries, all of which have very different forms of decentralisation hallmarked by their particular backgrounds and cultures;

3.

acknowledges the need to build up a decentralised information and communications policy at regional and local level for the enlargement process and declares its readiness to support regional and local authorities in this sphere, so as to help prepare them for their future responsibilities and to foster cooperation with the relevant European institutions;

4.

through its external relations strategy, promotes political dialogue and economic as well as cultural cooperation between local and regional authorities in the candidate countries, potential candidate countries and EU Member States;

5.

is making considerable efforts to improve the capacities of local and regional authorities in legal, financial and administrative spheres by pursuing direct institutional contacts and organising public events, specialised conferences and working groups;

6.

refers gratefully to the opinions and information of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and to the important contributions of the delegations of the enlargement countries, their associations of municipalities and various NGOs;

General comments and suggestions

7.

welcomes the fact that – as indicated in the Commission communication – the EU enlargement process has gained new impetus since adoption of the latest progress reports, despite many other challenges, including the financial and economic crisis; with that the Lisbon Treaty's entry into force will ensure that the dynamics of the European integration process will be maintained;

8.

welcomes the fact that, thanks to progress in the accession negotiations with Croatia and those launched with Iceland in July 2010, a sixth round of EU enlargement is now within reach;

9.

nevertheless emphasises the need for preparing thoroughly for any new accession by ensuring that conditions are properly met;

10.

firmly believes that the accession process offers a unique opportunity for political and economic reform in the enlargement countries to bring these countries up to European standards, help cope with the financial and economic crisis and put the 2020 reform agenda into practice;

11.

points out that the enlargement countries, especially in the Western Balkans, have very different political and administrative structures and traditions – also in part at local and regional level – and display great diversity in development; these factors ought to be properly taken into account in the enlargement process;

12.

proposes that targeted measures be taken to strengthen SMEs at regional and local level in the countries of the Western Balkans with a view to creating jobs and thus decreasing the incentives for young people to migrate, in particular from underdeveloped peripheral regions;

13.

considers visa liberalisation for some countries of the Western Balkans to be a good example of how much can be achieved when imposing strict conditions is combined with granting specific advantages;

14.

welcomes the fact that, since the last progress report, breakthroughs have been achieved on long-standing bilateral conflicts, and dialogue has been able to be launched, whereby accession countries have themselves begun to take on more responsibility for regional cooperation;

15.

has not, however, overlooked the fact that in most countries a whole series of challenges remain, the solution to which will in part be very slow and long-drawn-out; it sees a need for reform, particularly in nation-building, the rule of law and expansion of administrative capacities at all levels, particularly at regional and local level, and also in better governance, reform of the judicial system and efforts to combat corruption and organised crime at every level of government;

16.

stresses that accession countries must continue to receive support for their efforts in the form of subsidies from the instrument for pre-accession (IPA) and loans from the European Investment Bank and other international financial institutions;

17.

sees a need in most of the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey to take concrete measures to counter all forms of discrimination and to step up the protection of human rights, particularly the rights of women and children and the Roma people,; with regard to Turkey in particular, the Committee sees the need to restore the human rights of all Cypriots, place a moratorium on settlements, secure the immediate return of Famagusta to its rightful inhabitants, in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council, and apply the Ankara Protocol, which is an EU condition;

18.

is firmly convinced that without properly prepared and trained political and administrative representatives at regional and local level, enlargement efforts cannot be carried through to a successful conclusion;

19.

would encourage the accession countries in their efforts to further decentralise and regionalise; this also makes decentralised information and communication policy easier, as well as civil and political dialogue between the European Union and the people of the enlargement countries;

20.

points out that there is a need to build up the capacity of local and regional institutions in the legislative, financial and administrative spheres and, in keeping with the subsidiarity principle, to transfer as many powers as possible to regional and local level and ensure the financing thereof;

21.

welcomes the fact that European macro-regional strategies provide important means of accelerating the integration process, not least by enhancing the role of regional and local authorities and sees new possibilities for regional cooperation, including with enlargement countries, in the EU strategy for the Danube area, and in the future EU strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian macro-region;

22.

notes that since 2000 the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative (AII) has been pursuing the objective of securing peace, security, development and cooperation in the EU-western Balkans area, and that the Adriatic and Ionian Council is committed to backing the EU strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian region within the European institutions and with the involvement of national, regional and local institutions;

23.

requests the relevant Member States and the European Commission to examine to what extent interconnections and synergies could be generated between the various EU strategies for macro-regions;

24.

calls on the European Commission to explore how to tap into the potential of existing European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (ΕGTC) active in the Western Balkans and Mediterranean Basin region with a view to enabling the local and regional authorities of the Western Balkan states and Turkey to adapt to the Community acquis;

25.

suggests above all to the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey that measures be taken to increase significantly the number of women in regional and local representative bodies;

26.

recommends that the Commission go into greater detail in its future enlargement strategy reports about the regional and local self-government situation and the standard thereof in relation to the important role they play in transposing EU policies, and also do more to point out to enlargement countries the need for regionalisation and decentralisation reform;

Country specific recommendations

A)   Candidate Countries

Croatia

27.

welcomes the fact that Croatia made such good progress in the accession negotiations with the EU in 2010 and 2011 that these negotiations were able to be officially closed on 30 June 2011 and that the country will probably be able to join the EU as its 28th member state on 1 July 2013;

28.

nonetheless also considers it absolutely vital for Croatia now to take the necessary time to meet the outstanding benchmarks in chapter 23; these include full cooperation with ICTY, consistent combating of corruption and organised crime at the highest level of government, an efficient and independent judiciary, and respect for and protection of minorities, including refugee return;

29.

points out that further efforts are needed to reform public administration and that regional and local administrations absolutely must be involved in this process in order to do away with current cumbersome administrative procedures and excessive politicisation, and build up the capacity, efficiency, independence and reliability of administration at all levels;

30.

calls for the speedy implementation of the new law on local and regional authority employees' pay and of the ‘2009-2013 National Training Strategy for Regional and Local Government Officials and Staff’ so as to improve the provision of decentralised services for the public and build up a modern, efficient public administration;

31.

suggests that, despite progress in regional policy and structural fund coordination, further measures will have to be taken to involve regional and local authorities more in the implementation of EU cohesion policy and, by thoroughly training and preparing administration employees and regional and local politicians, offer regions and municipalities the possibility of developing projects suitable for EU fund support. This would serve to tackle the differences in development between Croatian regions, thereby boosting territorial cohesion;

32.

recommends that a decentralisation strategy be implemented which would inter alia improve the financial situation of regional and local authorities and enable regional and local representatives also to participate in the legislative process; also recommends that the Guidelines for Functional Decentralisation and Territorial Organisation adopted in July 2010 be implemented;

33.

welcomes the many independent local policy initiatives launched by regions and municipalities for attracting investors, such as efforts to cut back red tape and provide assistance, which can lead to an increase in the number of companies established locally, as well as more jobs; it does however hope that legal uncertainty about property issues can be cleared up by means of new legislation;

34.

points out that the recent improvement in bilateral relations between Croatia and other accession countries such as Serbia, and neighbouring EU Member States such as Slovenia, could still be significantly consolidated through cross-border regional and local cooperation;

35.

suggests that further progress be made on minority rights, cultural rights, minority protection and the return of refugees by means of more involvement for those responsible at regional and local level and that steps be taken to boost targeted regional support for the return of refugees, above all to those regions which were left empty - and have remained so to a considerable extent - when people were displaced during the war in former Yugoslavia; in this connection, welcomes the improvements in cooperation with Serbia and the UNHCR;

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

36.

is pleased to note that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia still meets the political criteria and also achieved further progress in 2010; it would however point out that further efforts need to be undertaken and a general willingness to carry out reforms is needed in most areas of the political criteria, such as independence of justice, public administration reform and freedom of expression in the media; also considers that a key element for bringing FYROM and the EU closer is the maintenance of good neighbourly relations, especially at cross-border regional and local level. This includes a negotiated, mutually accepted solution to the name issue under the aegis of the United Nations;

37.

urges that dialogue on inter-ethnic relations be consolidated and calls for regular meetings of the competent parliamentary committee to implement the Ohrid Agreement objectives;

38.

welcomes the fact that decentralisation, one of the basic principles of the Ohrid framework agreements, has continued, that the Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Decentralisation has met regularly and that the programme and action plan for implementing decentralisation (2008-2010) been brought up to date;

39.

welcomes the fact that other municipalities have entered the last phase of the financial decentralisation process: 77 out of 85 are now in this phase;

40.

likewise welcomes the fact that the law on financing local self-government has been overhauled to ensure that the share of value added tax earmarked for the municipalities is increased from 3 % to 4.5 %, although that might still not be enough for municipalities to be able to carry out satisfactorily the tasks delegated to them;

41.

sees as positive the fact that the strategy on transferring administration responsibilities for land located on government property to municipalities as of 2011 has been completed and now expects this strategy to be implemented as quickly as possible;

42.

notes that, despite the fact that several municipalities have expanded monitoring of financial matters, further capacity-building programmes are necessary to boost the municipalities' capacity in tax administration, staff career development and financial monitoring, and laments the fact that the reforms agreed at the monthly meetings of the High Committee for Public Administration have not been systematically or effectively implemented;

43.

suggests that decentralisation and greater financial and budget policy capacity at local level be accelerated through special involvement of the relevant ministry; regrets the fact that the inter-ministerial committee for monitoring the funding of municipalities has only met once and that in national government funding for municipal projects there is neither enough transparency nor adequate coordination for balanced regional development;

44.

laments the serious delays in implementing the regional development work programme, as well as the continuing lack of technical capacity in ministries and local administrations for preparing and implementing projects;

45.

calls for fair criteria to be drawn up for allocating state investment fund resources to the municipalities, so that they do not appear to be awarded on a party political or ethnic basis and discrimination against ethnic minorities can be prevented;

46.

underlines the need for legal guarantees for minorities to be safeguarded at all levels and for the integration of ethnic communities, especially the Roma, to improve; it calls on the government to ratify the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages and boost the status of the committees on inter-ethnic relations;

47.

notes that the law on local self-government does transfer key powers to local authorities, although it is limited in its effect by other legal provisions and not enough financial resources have been made available for its implementation;

Iceland

48.

welcomes the fact that in June 2010 the European Council decided to launch accession negotiations with Iceland; is satisfied to note that Iceland meets the political criteria, and that it is a smoothly operating parliamentary democracy with strong institutions, a stable constitutional and legislative system, well-established judicial system and efficient public administration;

49.

welcomes the fact that Iceland has efficient local self-government, but does however recommend that there be further decentralisation and transfers of tasks to the municipalities, in keeping with the subsidiarity principle;

50.

sees an opportunity to counter rural depopulation from small outlying municipalities and prevent the amalgamation of existing municipalities, by devising targeted regional development projects with support from EU funds;

51.

welcomes the involvement of working groups on regional policy in the accession negotiation team and recommends that local government representatives be closely involved;

52.

recalls that, under the EU Treaties, all EU citizens have the right to stand and vote in local elections in their country of residence under the same conditions as nationals of that state [Art 40 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights]; therefore encourages Iceland to align its voting rights in local elections with these provisions;

53.

notes that there is considerable scepticism about and/or opposition to EU accession amongst the population and various political groups in Iceland, and that considerable efforts are needed to provide Icelanders with comprehensive information on the effects of EU membership, recommending to this end that local authorities be closely involved;

54.

recommends that, in keeping with the subsidiarity principle, a clear distribution of powers between central and local government be established by means of appropriate legislative measures and that a legislative instrument be put in place allowing local authorities to challenge decisions should these contravene the principles of local self-government;

55.

sees a problem in the fact that 26 out of the 76 Icelandic municipalities have fewer than 500 inhabitants; moreover municipalities are sometimes located very far from one another, so that a further reduction in their number could create a situation where people might have to travel long distances to reach municipal services and representations; therefore recommends that cooperation be stepped up significantly between smaller municipalities to secure their continued existence and enable them to work together to devise and implement EU-sponsored projects;

Turkey

56.

hopes that the current Constitution could be replaced by a civilian Constitution based on the most wide-ranging consultation of diverse groups and segments of society, including local/regional levels, as well as all ethnic minorities and religious communities. In this respect welcomes the adoption of the constitutional reform package and the associated democratisation and liberalisation efforts, and hopes that on this basis the political climate will improve and there will be a greater willingness amongst the political parties and institutions to enter into dialogue and compromise; therefore calls for a speedy implementation of constitutional reform from now on and for broad support for this from political parties and civil society;

57.

acknowledges the reforms introduced so far and the intention to implement further ones, which should also have a positive impact on regional and local administrations;

58.

encourages the Turkish government, despite welcome progress to date in this area, to continue efforts to ensure respect for religious freedom, women' rights and the basic rights to freedom of expression and press freedom; calls on Turkey to take additional measures and, if necessary, adopt new legislation in order to secure freedom for non-Muslim religious minorities to exercise their rights without impediment and carry on their activities without restriction;

59.

is happy to note that progress has been registered in regional policy and the coordination of structural policy instruments, and that sub-national players have been more involved in the preparations; it does however point out that at national level improvements are needed to boost the effectiveness of the administrative bodies dealing with these matters, so that resources can be deployed more efficiently and so that Turkey is properly prepared at all levels for using the Structural Funds;

60.

is convinced that a resolution to the hitherto largely unresolved Kurdish question, in particular in the east and southeast of the country, can be helped by strengthening regional and local self government, and recommends the Turkish authorities to continue the efforts to strengthen regional and local self-government by means of a longer term decentralisation strategy; and encourages the Turkish authorities to provide more resources to the local self-governance;

61.

suggests examining how far existing best practices and good examples of regional/federal power-sharing structures within the EU and the application of the principles of subsidiarity and decentralisation may be helpful in finding a solution to the problems;

62.

calls on Turkey to show its willingness, in the current negotiations, to resolve the Cyprus question and to implement the UN Security Council resolutions relating to Cyprus;

63.

deplores the lack of progress in implementing the second Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement (the so-called Ankara Protocol) extending the customs union with Turkey, which has been in place since 1996, to ten new Member States, including Cyprus;

64.

supports the efforts launched by the European Commission in 2010 to build up project partnerships between the EU Member State municipalities and Turkey in order to provide Turkish municipalities with support for developing, building up and extending waste management, environmental protection, transport, social services, energy provision, tourism and culture;

65.

would welcome it if Turkish municipalities and provinces were given the opportunity to strike up relations with regions and municipalities in other countries without requiring prior authorisation from the Ministry of Interior, and encourages regional and local institutions in EU countries to step up cooperation with Turkish regions and municipalities;

66.

highlights the need to involve regional and local authorities early on in the accession process, since a large part of EU legislation will have to be implemented at local and regional level, and deems it specially important to consolidate administrative capacity at local and regional level;

67.

is willing to be part of a joint consultative committee together with the representatives of regional and local bodies in Turkey in order to support the decentralisation process in the country even further and make concrete contributions to building up institutions and strengthening administrative capacity at regional and local level;

68.

recommends a gradual reduction of the governors' influence on the work of regional self-government;

69.

suggests creating a legal structure which makes consultation of regional and local authorities mandatory wherever their interests and powers are affected;

70.

points out that Turkey is a country where there are still major regional disparities, which creates serious regional policy and structural development challenges for gradually reducing these disparities and therefore calls for a comprehensive strategy to be devised for narrowing the development gap between rural and urban areas;

71.

recommends starting as quickly as possible on opening Chapter 22 in particular, in the Community acquis on regional policy and structural policy instruments;

72.

recommends enacting legislation on regional and local authority funding as quickly as possible, in order to make adequate financial resources available to sub-national authorities so they can carry out their duties and tasks;

73.

points out the important role Turkey plays as a regional actor in relation to the EU-Black Sea strategy and recommends a firm commitment from Turkey on this issue, also with the involvement of those regions directly bordering on the Black Sea;

B)   Potential Candidate Counties

Albania

74.

welcomes Albania's efforts to comply with the European Union's political criteria, particularly by carrying out the commitments set out in the Stability and Association Agreement;

75.

notes that Albania still has to put significant regional policy measures in place in order to come up to European standards; this relates in particular to the lack of NUTS-2 equivalent territorial units and to the need for uniform, coordinated legislation for implementing regional development projects;

76.

laments the still inadequate structures for the financial management of local and regional authorities, especially with regard to the possibility of collecting financial resources, limited expenditure possibilities and sluggish implementation of both decentralisation measures and administration autonomy, together with the associated transfer of powers to sub-national levels;

77.

notes that there are still not enough properly trained staff at all levels for dealings with EU programmes to be efficient;

78.

calls for the consolidation of democratic structures in Albania, especially with regard to political institutions and cross-party dialogue, so that there is more political stability in the country and the government can shape administrative activities more efficiently, without which the necessary reforms are impossible; in this connection, it highlights the absolute necessity of the opposition participating in parliamentary work;

79.

recommends that direct elections for regional councils be introduced and new legislation on local self-government be drawn up;

80.

suggests, with a view to strengthening local and regional authorities, reforming the role of the prefects and in this way limiting their monitoring rights and securing a clear definition of their responsibilities vis-à-vis regional councils;

81.

calls for adoption of the electoral reform recommended by the OSCE, with a view to ensuring that elections at all levels comply with European and international standards; takes note of the report by the OSCE and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, according to which the municipal elections held on 8 May 2011 were carried out largely transparently, fairly and calmly; calls particularly for clear rules to be drawn up concerning the validity of submitted ballot papers and hopes that the political parties will return to ordinary political life;

82.

highlights the most recent violent conflicts and expects Albania to take all possible measures urgently to secure political stability at national, regional and local level;

83.

strongly recommends that municipal representatives be involved in the negotiation process with the EU;

Bosnia and Herzegovina

84.

regrets the fact that in 2010 Bosnia and Herzegovina did not secure much progress in implementing major reforms and that inconsistencies remain between the constitution and the European Human Rights Convention, despite the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights;

85.

calls for an urgent overhaul of the constitution and an improvement in the efficiency and operation of all state bodies so that the country can be in a position to take over, transpose and implement EU legislation and regulations;

86.

deems it unacceptable for the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue to stipulate that citizens who not describe themselves as belonging to one of the three communities (Bosnian, Croat or Serb) may not run for the presidency or for parliament; underlines the judgement of the European Court for Human Rights, according to which these provisions are incompatible with the general principles of human rights;

87.

considers it important that the Council of Ministers adopted an action plan on 10 March for implementing the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights and set up a working group; it does, however, lament the fact that this group has not yet reached any agreement;

88.

regrets the fact that the last elections in 2010 were also subject to ethnicity and residency-based limitations on suffrage rights, which blatantly contravene democratic principles and the right to equal treatment without discrimination;

89.

regrets to report that the prerequisites for closing the Office of the High Representative (OHR) are still far from being met; these include reasonable apportionment of property between the State and the other administrative levels; it likewise regrets that the work of the executive and legislative bodies at all state levels is still almost exclusively organised along ethnic lines and suffers from a severe lack of coordination;

90.

regrets the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only country not to take part in the 2011 census because to date no census law has been passed;

91.

notes that limited progress has been secured in matters pertaining to the judicial system, although further improvements are needed in the (sub-national) entities and cantons;

92.

laments the fact that only limited progress has been made in fighting corruption, that legal proceedings in corruption cases only proceed at a very slow pace and that only a small number of prominent cases have gone to court; this is also rooted inter alia in inadequate implementation of legislation and in coordination problems between entities;

93.

welcomes the fact that the number of schools divided along ethnic lines has fallen and in most schools a common nine-year school curriculum has been introduced; it does, however, criticise the fact that there is still ethnic division of pupils within schools;

94.

regrets that Bosnia and Herzegovina, although receiving financial support from the IPA, has not yet been in a position to build up the structures necessary for decentralising the administration of EU funds to the proper extent;

95.

highlights particular problems in the Bosnian and Herzegovinian Federation where the powers of the entities, cantons and municipalities overlap, because to date there has been a failure to harmonise legislation at the different levels;

96.

firmly rejects the repeated challenges to the territorial unity of the state, its institutions and its powers, above all from the Republika Srpska, strongly criticises the Republika Srpska's most recent attempts to cast doubt, in a referendum, on the legitimacy of the high representative and of the national courts, and advocates consolidation of the powers of the whole of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian state in certain areas and the establishment of a single economic space, to this end urging politicians at the country's entity and canton level to be willing to do this, in line with the interim agreement (IA);

97.

notes that local authority resources are at present exceedingly limited, the matter of public property has not yet been adequately clarified and the ethnic criteria for exercising political rights at regional and local level require urgent reform;

98.

considers that reform of public property at all levels is urgently needed;

99.

urges those responsible at all levels of government to strengthen cross-border cooperation with neighbouring countries;

Serbia

100.

is pleased to note that Serbia has moved further ahead with its political reform agenda and has continued to make noticeable progress in meeting the requirements of the stabilisation and association agreement; nonetheless notes that further efforts are still needed;

101.

is likewise happy to note that Serbia has taken major steps towards greater reconciliation in the whole of the Western Balkans region and is continuing its constructive cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia;

102.

warmly welcomes the start-up of direct talks between Serbia and Kosovo, as well as the fact that it has already been possible to achieve a little convergence, and urges both sides to pursue these talks in a constructive fashion;

103.

welcomes the fact that the new statute of the autonomous Vojvodina province came into force on 1 January 2010 and urges the Serbian government to finalise and implement some as yet undefined provisions of the statute as soon as possible, such as the transfer of public property to the Vojvodina province;

104.

particularly welcomes the boost in efforts and initiatives in 2010 to decentralise government in Serbia;

105.

urgently recommends that representatives of the autonomous province of Vojvodina and of the Assembly of Serbian Towns and Municipalities be included in Serbia's committee for negotiating with the EU;

106.

suggests establishing legal provisions stipulating mandatory consultation by national government of regional and local institutions whenever their interests and powers are affected;

107.

recommends creating legal requirements and incentives for better communication between municipalities in order to improve the performance of public administration and ensure available resources are used more sparingly;

108.

notes that Serbia still has an exceedingly high number of refugees awaiting a solution to their situation; this requires above all comprehensive measures at municipal level;

Montenegro

109.

welcomes the fact that solid progress has been made in fulfilling the political criteria and conditions of the stabilisation and association process, but would point out that further efforts are needed here;

110.

underlines the importance of transparent, reliable administration at local level and of the further decentralisation of responsibilities and financial resources;

111.

calls for adoption of the law on regional organisation and supplements to the law on local finances;

112.

is pressing for better cooperation between the government and minority councils in order to ensure that minorities are represented in public administration, state organisations and local self-government bodies;

113.

encourages Montenegro to continue expanding its administrative capacity in all areas, particularly at local level, to increase the professionalism of the civil service and to depoliticise public administration;

Kosovo

114.

is satisfied to note that the decentralisation process in Kosovo has clearly moved forward, cooperation with EULEX has been stepped up and some progress has been achieved in implementing the European agenda and reform policy;

115.

is pressing for full, early clarification of the accusations levelled at high representatives of Kosovo in the resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the basis of the Marty Report;

116.

notes with concern that there is considerable lack of dialogue and reconciliation between the different communities, as well as inadequate protection and integration of minorities, particularly Kosovan Serbs;

117.

is most worried about the irregularities, illegal practices and electoral fraud seen at the last elections, which recurred in the subsequently necessary by-elections, and views this unfortunately as a clear indication that democratic maturity is lacking;

118.

encourages Kosovo to pursue and complete the decentralisation process and local government reform; welcomes the establishment of a working group at the Ministry for Local Self-Government specifically to deal with northern Kosovo; points out that decentralisation can only be achieved when the local population is involved;

119.

is also concerned to see that there have been recurring violent incidents in the Mitrovica region of northern Kosovo, precisely in connection with elections, and that there has to date been no success in securing peace for this region.

Brussels, 1 July 2011.

The President of the Committee of the Regions

Mercedes BRESSO