Local communities are crucial to the EU integration process – that is why the EUSR/HoD Wigemark and EU Member States’ Ambassadors embarked on an Outreach to 15 Local Communities over the past few months.
Citizen participation in government begins at the local level. BiH has ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government and is committed to guaranteeing the political, administrative and financial independence of local authorities.
A Joint Commission on Local Government began work in October 2017. It was supported as part of the Local Government Initiative (LGI) by the EUSR, USAID and Swiss Embassy in BiH and tasked with identifying—in consultation with local governments and civil society—systemic problems that impede the operations of local governments.
The Report of the Joint Commission has been released today and contains a set of concrete observations and recommendations that could be considered by local governments. The LGI had engaged in a comprehensive consultation process that included: all Cantonal prime ministers and many of their ministers; almost all mayors and many of their advisers; as well as representatives from the business sector, local NGOs and public utility companies.
However, the process of introducing systemic change must be driven by local governments themselves. The Joint Commission identified a set of common challenges across BiH that stem from the fact that the population is declining and aging. There is a growing gap between the capacities of smaller and larger municipalities to provide a full range of services to citizens. The solution must lie in agreeing on how these tasks should be divided and in coordinating local service delivery across municipal (and Cantonal) boundaries.
Building on these efforts, the EU will tomorrow launch an initiative called EU4 Business (worth €16 million) that is aimed at local and SME development in Bosnia and Herzegovina.