EU's Community Initiatives would bring Europe closer to its people

Article published on June 20, 2009
Article published on June 20, 2009” –article, posted by “Challenge for Europe” on 19th June 2009  highlights the importance of EU’s Community Initiatives as most successful popular direct contacts between the EU institutions and the citizens in their local communities.

“The EU mobilized European citizens in getting together, discovering sustainable practices elsewhere, while getting involved in decision-making at home. It opened doors to similar initiatives in Member states and accession countries and made Europe tangible.”

The article also makes proposal that EU should again substantially invest into local initiatives and bottom-up support in order to bring Europe closer to its people.

I full agree with initiative made by "Challenge for Europe".  I personally have been enjoying about the real progress on the ground while managing many international "bottom up" projects financed by EU.  I also agree that real effect can best be achieved through participatory planning methods and commitment of local stakeholders is the key element for successful project implementation. As side effect I don’t expect only EU citizens feel EU closer but also that people outside member-states could see EU as practical partner instead of colonialist administrator or mastermind.

When the project is made like desk plan in Washington or Brussels with some cooperation with state's central government there always is a risk of more or less big gap between beneficiary needs and centralized aims. Some of these failures I  have earlier described in my writings "World Bank destroyed Albanian village in joint operation with corrupted Government..." , "UN death Camps, EU money, local negligence" and "Squandering Kosovo's Aid Funds".

Personally I am most interested about EU community initiatives which are improving cooperation between regions/institutions inside EU and those outside of them.  Projects inside ENPI (EU's neighbourhood policy tool) as well Interreg and Framework programs allow some actions implemented also outside EU borders.  As the challenges and practices many times differ a lot of those inside EU the situation makes it possible to develop good and creative practices to all participants.

From my point of view new community initiatives should be more implemented especially on the fields which normally are under EU's external relations, enlargement policy, pre-accession instruments, CFSP (common foreign policy) or ESDP (security & defence policy). Characteristic today is that huge EU funding is going through programmes, operations and missions on those fields based on centralized planning and only fraction at best is planned with local stakeholders.

The key element is the local participation, without it the results can be like in Afghanistan which is going opposite direction than originally intended (more e.g. in my article "Karzai's administration worse than Taliban".)  Same case in Bosnia-Herzegovina where ethnic groups are building their own statehood components against EU’s efforts to strengthen centralized state. Same in Kosovo where despite high-flown statements about developing “European” standards the province is still a tribe leaded protectorate with poor administrative record, unsustainable economy and captured by crime organized crime groups.

To close the gap between centralized (Brussels, state level) aims and practice on field (regional or mission level) the following actions could according my experience be useful:

improvement of situation analysis,developing field experience feedback during missions or program period,applying “project cycle management” practice in operation/mission/program planning procedure,Logical Framework Approach should be applied through the process,Special need is also use Participatory Planning methods so that all stakeholders can commit to actions.

The EU funding(programs) should not be too fixed, new - and old - community initiatives should give free space for local challenges because then it is also possible to find some creative solutions, good practices for both participants in EU member-states as well outside of them.