Informative Session in Vlora: Innovations and Challenges of Territorial-Administrative Reform

On the 19th of May 2017, in the chamber of the Vlora Regional Council, the European Movement in Albania (EMA)in cooperation with the Vlora State Social Service and the Vlora Region Council, in the framework of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) initiative, met to discuss the following topic/initiative/plan: Building bridges – a new culture of cooperation between local institutions and their communities, conducted the informative activity related to the implementation and challenges of the Administrative-Territorial Reform (RAT), the role of the new municipalities, the capacity of local officials to implement the necessary changes, and the involvement of the citizens directly affected by this Reform. This activity was attended by Mr. Ervis Mocka, Chairman of the Vlora District Council; Mrs. Marbona Cuka, Legal Expert Part of the Working Group on the Preparation of the Informative Manual; Mrs. Ines Stasa, Director of the State Social Service in Vlora; as well as representatives of various institutions and non-profit organizations. After the greeting speech of Mr. Ervis Moçka the speech was received by Mrs. Marbona Cuka.

Opening and welcoming speech by the Mayor of Vlora District, Ervis Mocka in his opening speech welcomed the initiative of the research conducted, the community information campaign and the need to conduct discussion rounds. Mr. Moçka talked about the role of the District within the Administrative Territorial Reform highlighting the challenges of the local institution.

Project Coordinator of the European Movement in Albania “Building bridges – a new culture of cooperation between local institutions and their communities” Mona Xhexhaj presented the initiative, which has taken place in some municipalities, such as Tirana, Shkodra, Vlora and Elbasan. In her speech, she emphasized that EMA has been working for 10 years now with issues of democracy, power, good governance and transparency of local government. According to the research carried out by EMA researchers, apart from some of the achievements, there are a few challenges during implementation since the adoption of RAT. An element that needs more attention is strengthening dialogue with citizens, building community structures and providing public services.

To introduce in more detail the information manual, Mrs. Marbona Cuka spoke about the innovations and problems of reform, with emphasis on the recommendations directed at the local, central, and citizens themselves. The legal expert highlighted some important elements: i) The law on reform brings innovation in public administration. There is also an increase in the number of services provided and the transfer of these services from the public to the private sector. Ii) The conditional transfer, which is the fund that passes from the central government to the local government, will be a fixed percentage, defined in the Law on Local Government Finance. (Iii) The Social Fund is established, a monetary support for all citizens who have initiatives or ideas in their service and community. iv) The law also provides the transfer of some of the functions from central to local government such as: rural roads (road administration); Pre-school education and non-teaching administration of pre-university education (opening of kindergartens and school maintenance); Management and management of forests (creation of relevant structures) etc. Regarding the recommendations, during her speech Mrs. Cuka emphasized: i) Municipalities should adopt regulations for the good functioning of community structures as soon as possible. Ii) Trainings should be conducted to have the best public servicesiii) Municipalities should increase funds to increase the quality of pre-school service. iv) Citizens should exercise their every right, raise community councils and be more demanding than local government.

Mrs. Ines Stasa, Director of the State Social Service in Vlora, spoke more specifically about the changes that have been reflected by RAT on the social insurance scheme and economic assistance. Mrs. Ines stated that the first important step of reform is the impact of social welfare. The transfer of competences from central to local institutions should be done carefully, because the initial impact affects to make this transfer easier or not. According to her, there will be more concentrated and higher standard services. Also, during her speech, it was stated that non-profit organizations have helped the well-being of organizations during various activities and initiatives.

The activity was moderated by Mr. Gjipali, Executive Director of the European Movement in Albania. There were many questions and discussions from the participants. Administrators of the new Vlora District Units expressed the need for ongoing training for staff, as well as citizens’ information on the delegation of competencies and community involvement. Representatives of local organizations noted the importance of greater participation of vulnerable groups in rural areas.