European Union and City Twinning Program at Local
In this article, we talked with Gözde Bedirhanoğlu, a graduate of Bilkent University, Department of International Relations, who works as a Project Coordinator at WYG Turkey’s Socio-Economic Counseling Unit, the “City Twinning Programme”, which has been implemented to contribute to the establishment of partnerships between the local / regional administrations of the Turkish and EU member states for the exchange of experience on the implementation of the EU Acquis at the local level through various themes, and can be shown as one of the best project implementation examples in this field, under the scope of the “Capacity Building Project for European Union Affairs in Governorates (VABpro)” funded by the European Union’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), of which the Contracting Authority is the Central Finance and Contracts Unit and the Beneficiary Institution is the Ministry for EU Affairs, implemented by the Consortium led by WYG Turkey.
Since 2007, the European Union (EU) has combined its financial assistance to candidate and potential candidate countries under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). IPA provides financial support to projects which will contribute to preparation of candidate and potential candidate countries under 5 separate components covering (i) transition period and institutional capacity building, (ii) regional and cross-border cooperation, (iii) regional development including environment, transport, regional and economic development (iv) human resources of candidate and potential candidate countries. It provides financial support to projects that will contribute to their preparation for EU membership under the titles of development and (v) rural development. The VABpro Project has been developed within the scope of the Pre-Accession Financial Assistance Tool to increase the service capacity of the governorships on EU-related issues in order to fully implement and follow up the projects carried out locally during the European Union accession process and to better understand the EU membership process in the eyes of the public.
With the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the principle of protecting and increasing the powers of local governments, which has survived to the present day, has been adopted, along with the importance given to local and regional governments within the EU community. With the said Project, it is aimed to increase the efficiency of the Provincial EU Permanent Contact Points and Provincial European Union Harmonization Solidarity and Steering Committees, and to increase the technical and administrative capacities of the Governorate EU Units, and to ensure that the governorships continue to be the leading institutions in the province regarding our EU membership process.
Within the scope of the project with a total budget of 1,949,500 Euros and implemented in 20 pilot provinces, “City Twinning Program” has been started to create opportunities for international cooperation in the pilot provinces (Tekirdağ, İstanbul, Yalova, Manisa, Denizli, Muğla, Antalya, Isparta, Hatay, Aksaray, Karaman, Düzce, Bartın, Amasya, Trabzon, Kahramanmaraş, Mardin) , Adıyaman, Elazığ and Erzincan) . The main target of the program is to enable the governorships in 20 pilot provinces, (Special Provincial Administration, Municipality, Development Agency, University, Chambers of Industry and Commerce, NGOs, etc.) establish partnerships with other equivalent organizations in EU member countries towards practices at local level and to carry out joint activities towards the themes specified. To this end, the EU Units of the governorships in 20 pilot provinces, the Provincial EU Permanent Contact Points and the Provincial Solidarity and Steering Committees for Harmonization with the European Union were involved in the international cooperation networks, thus enabling them to exchange information and experience with equivalent institutions in EU member countries and to increase their capacities at the technical level. We can summarize the subjects that pilot provincial governorships cooperate with equivalent institutions within the scope of the City Twinning Program as Environment, Waste Management, Logistics, Culture-Tourism, Eco-Tourism, Agriculture, Livestock, Energy-Renewable Energy. Within the scope of the program, within the framework of the priorities and needs determined in line with the guidance of the Technical Support Team of 20 pilot provinces and the Ministry for EU Affairs, mutual study visits are being conducted with the equivalent local governments in 35 different cities, regions and states from 18 EU member countries with the aim of developing long-term cooperation on thematic issues, and joint activities and projects are being executed on the determined themes.
The “City Twinning Program” realized within the scope of the VABpro Project, which is the first EU financial resource for the Governorship EU Units, was implemented as an important indicator of the emphasis placed on the importance of the role of governorships and local actors in the harmonization process of the Ministry for EU Affairs, which continues its reform actions in the acquis chapters without slowing down, and while ensuring that it takes a more active role in the process and increases its capacity, it also ensures that a Deputy Governor determined in the provinces is equipped with the qualifications of the EU contact point.
Local governments and local public institutions and organizations are directly or indirectly responsible for implementing approximately 60% of the EU acquis. Therefore, increasing the capacity of local governments and institutions is of primary importance for the implementation of the acquis. With this awareness, within the scope of the VABpro Project carried out for 20 Pilot provincial governors, the “City Twinning Program”, which was implemented together with activities such as training needs analysis studies, training of trainers program, basic EU trainings and study visits to Brussels, directly serves the purpose of improving the capacity of local government in Turkey.
The City Twinning Program, which was established by adopting the principles of increasing capacity, participation and strengthening localization for democratic development, consists of four stages. In the first stage, a call for proposals was made to the pilot governorships for the program and applications were collected from the pilot governorships; in the second stage, applications from EU member states were evaluated and thematic areas were determined; in the third stage, representatives of 20 pilot provinces and 34 cities, regions and states from 18 European countries came together at the EU-Turkey Network Development Conference, and as a result of a total of 120 meetings, Statements of Interest were signed, and in the fourth phase, EU-Turkey reciprocity matching visits were started to be made.
Within the scope of the City Twinning Program, our 20 pilot provinces matched with the cities in EU member countries and the determined themes are listed below;
Istanbul – Lisbon (Portugal), Tourism and City Branding
Hatay – Braga (Portugal), Culture and Tourism
Düzce – Dubrovnik (Croatia), Tourism and City Branding
Kahramanmaraş – Citta di Portici (Italy), Food-Ice Cream Sector and Tourism
Bartin – Riga (Latvia), Environment and Waste Management
Karaman – Lodzkie Region (Poland), Education, Energy and Tourism
Aksaray – Kujawsko Pomorskie Region (Poland), Agriculture
Muğla – Province of Castile (Castilla La Mancha) (Spain), Environment and Tourism
Elazig – Tallinn (Estonia), Agriculture, Solid Waste Management and Transportation
Tekirdag – Klaipeda (Lithuania), Logistics and Environmental Waste Management
Erzincan – Eszak Alföld Region (Hungary), Agriculture and Eco-Tourism
Isparta – Andujar (Spain), Renewable Energy, Agriculture, Eco-Tourism
Adıyaman – A Coruna (Spain), Culture and Tourism
Manisa – Budapest (Hungary), Environment and Urban Planning
Yalova – Rottenburg (Germany), Culture
Trabzon – Lucca (Italy), Tourism and Agriculture
Antalya – Picardie Region (France), Logistics, Renewable Energy, Tourism
Denizli – Thessaloniki Region (Greece), Environment, Tourism and Education
Mardin – Varazdin (Croatia), Tourism
Amasya – Puglia (Italy), Culture Industry, Energy, Natural Stone
The “City Twinning Programme”, being the most comprehensive Twinning Program realized in Turkey and even in Europe within the scope summarized above, is a very important example of good practice that local and central governments can follow in their future similar practices.
The activities carried out within the scope of the VABPro Project and the City Twinning Program, the activities carried out locally within the scope of the project, the relevant media news and other curious topics can be found on the project’s website (www.vabpro.org), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/yereldeab1) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/YeleldeAB accounts.
In addition, thorough the “EU At Local Portal” developed under the scope of the Project (http://yereldeab.org.tr) detailed information about the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) and Union Programs, up-to-date Calls for Proposals and Grant Announcements, EU Permanent Contact Points in Provinces and contact information of the Governorship EU Project Unit, the meeting notes of the EU Harmonization Solidarity and Steering Committee, detailed information about the projects carried out and completed locally, various publications, presentations, press releases and the e-learning module developed within the scope of the project.