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18 Sep 2019

New EU program to target regional development, local initiatives in Belarus

New EU program to target regional development, local initiatives in Belarus

MINSK, 18 September (BelTA) – The European Union is preparing a new program for Belarus in the sphere of regional development and support for local initiatives, BelTA learned from Head of Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to Belarus Berend de Groot. The European diplomat met with Chairman of the Regional Policy and Local Self-Government Commission of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus Aleksandr Popkov.

According to the press service of the upper chamber of the Belarusian parliament, work on the new program proceeds together with the Belarusian Economy Ministry. The document is designed to facilitate comprehensive development of the regions through reliance on their competitive advantages. It includes three main components – the education of local government agencies and self-government authorities about new economic development practices, including the formation of regional development strategies, search for growth points in the regions, and the financing of projects to develop them. The program is supposed to be launched in Gomel Oblast, Mogilev Oblast, and Vitebsk Oblast in 2020. The volume of finance is expected to exceed €18 million.

Berend de Groot stressed that the European Union’s cooperation with Belarus advances along many avenues – power engineering and energy effectiveness, environmental protection, education, healthcare, and other ones. “On the whole, cooperation is deemed effective from the point of view of the tasks set within the framework of the programs. But I would like to emphasize – and we are discussing it with the Belarusian Economy Ministry – that it is now time to reach a higher level of interaction in the sphere of economic development. It is in this context that we are developing the new program,” he stated.

In turn, Aleksandr Popkov noted that Belarus counts on joint efforts, which would produce practical results and help resolve many regional problems. “People are in the center of our regional policy. This is why when we talk about the sustainable development of territories, we are talking about ecology, the resolution of social issues, economy. We are talking about people’s earnings, healthcare standards and quality, education, and so on,” he said.

The senator suggested coordinating actions in the course of preparing European Union programs in order to make sure the grants are spent effectively. “The tasks to be set have to be understandable, clear, tried and tested. We should determine areas of effort, growth points for concrete territories,” he stressed. “We may have to do that on the basis of one district in order to set an example of how economic potential should be restored.” Aleksandr Popkov added that close attention should be paid to the development of entrepreneurship.

Aleksandr Popkov went on saying that a concept of development of local self-government is being prepared upon instructions of the head of state. “It is based on the European Charter of Local Self-Government and takes into account our peculiarities. With this in mind we are now looking into practices in France, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland,” he said. Cooperation on these matters also advances with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

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