Odessa (UA), 4 November 2005
About 200 presidents and political representatives of regions from all over Europe are today meeting in Odessa, under the auspices of the AER, to discuss the importance of regions for stability and economic growth.
Experts at the conference, including Professor Charles Ricq of Geneva University, Prof Reinhard Mussgnug of Heidelberg University and Guenther Krug of the Council of Europe, stressed that regions need to be provided with adequate competences and financial resources in order to be able to provide services for the citizens.
The discussion made it clear that the issue of financial resources is at the heart of successful regional democracy. ‘Regions may be given all competences they wish, but without adequate financial resources, they will be unable to successfully carry out their duties and cannot make a useful contribution to the governance of their countries’ pointed out Lars-Gerhard Westberg, Vice-President of the AER Committee on Institutional Affairs and Member of the Executive Board of Vaestra Goetaland (Sweden).
Participants discussed the different models of regional governance existing in Europe, as well as drew lessons from the recent developments in regional democracy in European countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany. Special emphasis was placed upon the situation of regions in Ukraine and Russia, both well represented by Governors and political representatives of the Oblasts and Autonomous States (regions) of their countries.
Vasyl Tsushko, Governor of the Region of Odessa stressed the importance of institutional reforms in Ukraine. Cooperation with leading regions from other European countries for the purpose of exchanging experiences and implementing programmes for development is important for regions in Ukraine, in order to achieve this aim. As a first step, Odessa will receive a delegation of economic development experts from other regions in spring 2006, who will evaluate the current activities of Odessa Oblast in the field of economic development.
Governor Tsushko made it clear that, in order to achieve progress, the engagement and support of citizens would be needed and he underlined the importance of regions in ensuring the inclusion of citizens in the political process. Regions in Ukraine have a key role to play in building a strong democratic base for the country. Tsushko said in a press conference: ‘Theoretically we know a lot about regionalism but we have now to learn how to operate on a practical level. This is why exchange of experience with other regions is so valuable to us when we are considering how regional democracy should best work in Ukraine. The aim for Odessa region is to see how other leading regions operate and to develop new solutions for ourselves’.
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