Twinning in the Balkans : A CEMR seminar in Sarajevo
“The efforts Balkan countries have made to move closer to the European Union and to strengthen citizenship through twinning must be supported”. This was the message addressed by the mayor of Mostar, Ljubo Bešlic, during the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)'s seminar on “Balkan countries participation to the European twinning programme”, held in Sarajevo on 27 March 2009.
The aim of the seminar was to strengthen cooperation between local authorities from Balkan countries and their other European counterparts as part of the twinning programme. The working sessions focused on the needs, objectives, and eligibility conditions for participation of the Balkans to the European programme, as well as on the role national associations could play in this process.
Janusz Marszalek, Mayor of Oscwiecim (Poland) and chair of CEMR's working group on twinning, was pleased by “ the possibility offered to Balkan countries to benefit from the support of the EU for twinning actions”, and pledged to continue acting to ensure that access to the European programme for local authorities in the Balkans becomes a reality.
More than 15 representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina attended, as well as the first secretary of the European Commission delegation in Bosnia Herzegovina
. Altogether, 13 European countries were represented (including Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)).
The new "Europe for Citizens" programme for the 2007-2013 period, strongly supporting twinning, is open to countries that are not yet members of the EU, including the Balkans. To participate to the programme these countries must meet certain conditions. So far, only Croatia has undertaken this process; the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania have also started negotiations to be able to benefit from the programme.