Local Harmonization Process with the European Union: New EU project in our cities

Local Harmonization Process with the European Union: New EU project in our cities

At the beginning of 2010, we developed a new local strategy with the aim of raising EU awareness all over our country and supporting local actors to benefit more from the opportunities offered by the EU, because we think that EU-related studies are as important for all our other provinces as for Ankara and Istanbul. . Within the framework of this strategy, as the Ministry for European Union Affairs, we not only coordinate the efforts for harmonization with the EU acquis at the central level, but also make an intense effort to involve all actors at the local level in this process, with the slogan “EU Process Starts Locally”. We are implementing projects that will ensure that our provinces do not remain passive in the EU process, but become an important factor by using EU financial aid on the one hand and Ministry resources on the other. Capacity Building for European Union Affairs in Governorates Projectis a project supported within the scope of Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) and will be implemented in 20 provinces. With this project, we will work in cooperation with all important local actors, including our governorships, our special provincial administrations, provincial directorates, municipalities, development agencies, universities, chambers of industry and commerce and other non-governmental organizations active in the provinces, and we will organize different activities to meet the needs of each province. . Within the framework of the project activities, we will train competent personnel in our provinces with unique training programs, and we will carry out various capacity building activities and regional workshops for the needs of the locals. In addition, within the scope of the city twinning program, we will ensure that our provinces come together with their EU counterparts, and we will provide experience sharing regarding the implementation of the EU acquis in local applications. We will work in close cooperation with 20 provinces within the scope of the project. I sincerely believe that the concrete and sustainable outputs of the project will raise the bar a little bit more within the framework of our goal of raising EU awareness at the local level and will provide an important added value for more active participation of our provinces in the EU process.

Egemen BAĞIŞ

Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator

With the fulfillment of the Copenhagen Criteria, Turkey gained the status of a candidate country to the EU at the December 1999 Helsinki Summit. Accession negotiations, which started on 3 October 2005, are carried out in 33 chapters. Until today, 13 of the 33 chapters in question were opened to negotiations and the chapter “Science and Research” was temporarily closed. The negotiation process continues within the framework of the positive agenda.

However, the obligations and responsibilities that our country must fulfill in the EU membership process are not limited to legislative harmonization studies carried out at the legal level. Pursuant to the decisions taken at the 1995 Madrid Summit, effective implementation of the harmonized legislation is equally important as well as legislative harmonization studies.

In terms of the extent of implementation of the acquis, Turkey continues its harmonization efforts with the EU in 33 different chapters, from “Environment” to “Statistics”, from “Business and Industrial Policy” to “Food Safety”, with harmonization laws, new policies and with the contributions of central level public institutions.

However, harmonization with the EU at the local level and promoting the EU at the local level are as important as the studies carried out at the central level. According to the European Council of Municipalities and Regions data, it is stated that 60% of the acquis is under the authority and responsibility of local governments. This situation brings with it the necessity for local governments to have sufficient knowledge and awareness on EU-related issues in order to implement the acquis effectively.

The Ministry for European Union Affairs carries out various projects in the provinces by using national and EU financial resources, based on the fact that  important dynamics will be created in contributing Turkey – EU relationships with the promotion of the EU at the local level, the more effective use of EU funds for the needs of the provinces, the realization of development locally and throughout the country, which have an important place in EU membership process and to enable Turkish public to better know the EU.

Being aware of the importance of local stakeholders in the EU membership process, Turkey, under the coordination of the Ministry for European Union Affairs, has taken steps to ensure greater local ownership of the EU accession process in 81 provinces through projects such as “Increasing the Effectiveness of the Governorships in the EU Process” and “Our Provinces are Getting Ready for the EU Programme” and various tools such as the “EU Process and Our Provinces Portal”. Within the scope of the “ Project for Increasing the Efficiency of Governorships in the EU Process ”, a deputy governor was appointed as the Provincial EU Permanent Contact Point in each province and an EU unit was established in each governorship with the support of the Ministry of Interior.  Moreover, European Union Harmonization Advisory and Steering Committee meetings are held four times a year in each province. Administrative and financial support is provided from the budget of the Ministry for EU Affairs to the EU studies carried out locally by the governorships within the scope of the “Our Provinces are Preparing for the EU Programme”.

The “Capacity Building Project for European Union Affairs in Governorates” , funded by the European Union and beneficiary of which is the Ministry of EU Affairs, is a continuation and supporter of these activities carried out in the provinces. The project, which was put into practice as of 2013 and will be implemented in 20 provinces, is directly supported under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). Within the scope of this project, many activities, from different training programs to capacity building activities and regional workshops, from city matching to study visits, are expected to be completed within two years.

We talked the details of this project, which will be implemented under the leadership of WYG Turkey by the Ministry of EU Affairs with the support of WYG International Limited (United Kingdom), SKL International AB (Sweden), and Project Group (Turkey) Consortium, and the areas where it will add value, with Deniz Demircioğlu, WYG Turkey Business Development Department Director and expert Nazım Sönmez, who also played an active role in the preparation process of the proposal

Within the scope of the “Capacity Building for European Union Affairs in the Governorships” project, which will last for 24 months and with a total budget of 1.94 million Euros, in addition to “Provincial EU Permanent Contact Points”, “EU Harmonization, Advisory and Steering Committees” and “Governorship EU Units”, technical support will be provided to 20 pilots determined within the scope of the project and other relevant institutions in these provinces. The project will be carried out by the Ministry of EU Affairs in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior. 20 provinces selected as beneficiaries within the scope of the project are Tekirdağ, İstanbul, Yalova, Manisa, Denizli, Muğla, Antalya, Isparta, Hatay, Aksaray, Karaman, Düzce, Bartın, Amasya, Trabzon, Kahramanmaraş, Mardin, Adıyaman, Elazığ and Erzincan.

The ultimate goal of the “Capacity Building for European Union Affairs in the Governorships Project” is actually to support increasing the awareness of the European Union locally and to contribute to local governments to play a more active role in the EU accession process by enabling them to benefit more effectively from EU funds.

The Project includes such activities as:

  • Organizing training activities for the “Governorship EU Units” staff and members of the “EU Harmonization, Advisory and Steering Committees” (EU UDYK) and preparing a “Training Needs Assessment Report” for these institutions,
  • Training “Governorship EU Units” staff and EU NHRI members as trainers on EU policies and the accession process, and benefiting from various capacity building activities to be prepared for the needs of each province,
  • Establishing twinning partnerships between governorships and local organizations and local governments in the EU within the scope of the City Twinning Program and organizing the “EU Turkey Networking Conference”,
  • Having the personnel who received training in the field of “EU Funds and Project Development” in the provinces take a role as trainers in the realization of the training activities in their own provinces,
  • Organizing study visits to important EU institutions in Brussels,
  • Establishing strong mechanisms for information control and sharing between the local and the center with advanced information technology tools such as internet portal, self-learning module, e-bulletins,
  • Preparation of a strategy document on “Strengthening Capacity for EU Affairs at Local Level” on EU-related issues, including making more effective use of EU Financial Assistance,

With the projects implemented at the local level such as the “Capacity Building for European Union Affairs Project in the Governorships”, the EU accession process is better understood locally, the prejudices about the EU are eliminated and Turkey is brought one step closer to EU membership with each passing day. With this project, in which the Ministry of EU Affairs both undertakes the coordination and takes place as the main beneficiary, Turkey will gain a significant acceleration in the process of harmonization with the EU locally.

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