NALAS President Mr. Turan Invites CoR’s Enlargement Days to Turn from Deliberation to Action

The annual Enlargement Days, the European Committee of the Regions’ (CoR) flagship event on EU enlargement policy dialogue and capacity-building, took place on 4-5 May 2023 in Brussels. Vice President of Marmara Municipalities Union and Mayor of Fatih, Mr. M. Ergün Turan gave a speech at the event in his function as NALAS President.

The raison d'être of this annual event is the growing realization - among the EU institutions and partner countries alike - that for a country joining the EU, it is not enough to prepare its central government and administration. In fact, local and regional authorities will also need to be fully prepared for accession, as perhaps 70% or more of EU legislation will have an impact on them.

Local and regional authorities combat to have an important role in the EU integration path

The EU enlargement has been back in the limelight, with more EU candidate countries, some more striving to achieve that status, and the renewed enthusiasm both in the EU and among those on the EU integration path. Local and regional authorities have to combat to have their important role in the process recognized. The 2023 event, organized in co-operation with the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU, offered a forum for political dialogue and capacity-building in this context.

Vice President of Marmara Municipalities Union and Mayor of Fatih, Mr. M. Ergün Turan, in his function as NALAS President, shared a number of recommendations with the participants during his intervention in Day 2 of the Annual Enlargement Days 2023 related to EU Enlargement policy.

“Peace, prosperity and security in the EU can only be sustainable with the integration of the South-East Europe”

Preceded by welcome of the CoR President, Mr. Vasco Alves Cordeiro, CIVEC rapporteur on the Enlargement Package 2023, Ms. Anna Magyar (HU/ECR) and Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Tobias Billstroem, Mr. Turan pointed out that the EU Enlargement policy represents for NALAS the most important foreign policy instrument. It is the Enlargement policy that invites candidates to be in the driving seat for reforms and improve the standard of living of their citizen as well as the development potential of their respective countries. The NALAS President stressed his conviction that peace, prosperity and security in the EU can only be sustainable in the future integrating the Western Balkan countries and Türkiye.

Asked about what the CoR could do to enhance its activities the straightforward reply was to further raise its visibility and sphere of influence to translate the deliberations of the Enlargement Days in action that can be seen at the local level.

“Candidate countries will be an undeniable asset contributing to the EU”

With regard to open issues that were not subject to discussion, Mr. Turan pointed out to different perspectives of enlargement. On the one hand, EU Enlargement represents for candidate countries access to prosperity, whereas on the other hand the EU, to maintain its attraction, needs to be dynamic. Stalemate comes along with a loss of appeal. Enhancing cooperation with local and regional governments adds to the dynamic of the accession process. In this context the NALAS President emphasised that the candidate countries will be an undeniable asset contributing to the EU.

Making the case for enlargement policy towards the candidate countries to become more flexible, dynamic and rewarding, taking into consideration both the political realities and the new geopolitical context, empowering local leaders, local communities, local government associations to develop local solutions, innovations and improve and modernize the public space and public services, should captivate the attention of the EU. In short, it is high time for the role of Local Governments to be fully recognized and better positioned in the EU Integration process. Subnational governments and their associations should be embraced as “strategic dialogue partners” by the EU institutions. This point received full support from Darko Mrvaljevic, panellist of the same session in his function as Secretary of the Committee for EU integration and international cooperation of the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro.

More than 100.000 buildings are being reconstructed after the earthquake disaster in Türkiye

With regard to his own country, the moderator inquired about the recovery from the earthquake disaster in southern and central Türkiye on 6 February and the perception of Turkish citizens in general terms regarding the EU. Mayor Turan thanked on this occasion the EU for its 3.6 billion EURO pledge for reconstruction and the dispatch of the rescue teams. Currently, more than 100.000 building foundations being laid underline the recontraction progress underway. With respect to the EU perception in Türkiye, Mr. Turan indicated that the Turkish citizen still hope to become part of the EU. This hope rests on the conviction that Türkiye is part of Europe and that the Turkish people feel that they belong to Europe. On the other hand, there is a loss of confidence in the EU enlargement process conceiving the EU of being inconsistent and a general impression of being looked down on. However, there is expectation that the EU will look upon Türkiye as an anchor in a region in turmoil referring to the Near East and Ukraine. Here, the economic and political potential of Türkiye could be used for the benefit of stabilising a regional and geopolitical situation heading to an uncertain future.