Learning more on local self-government and local democracy

The second RAD seminar took place in Opatija, Croatia, from 16 to 19 April 2015. We approached the topic of local democracy “hands-on”, with a study visit to nearby Rijeka, where our participants had the chance to meet Mr. Vojko Obersnel, the city mayor and his team of associates, who presented an example of effective local governance in practice.

The seminar started with the opening remarks by our dean, Mr. Pierre Mirel, who reflected on the main challenges of good governance in the region, namely transparency, accountability and inclusion, and emphasized the role of non-state actors as the key figures in the process of monitoring the decision-making process. During the opening, Mr. Domagoj Račić, the president of the Academy for Political Development and Erik Fabijanić, the President of the County Assembly of Gorski Kotar spoke of the issues of local democracies, how they often seem as stepping stones to politicians who wish to advance their careers, how local politics often become misinterpreted as “non-ideological”,  and how because of centralization, the quality of human resources in towns and cities, as well as funding often ends up lacking.

On the other hand, it was explicited that with the passage of time, and the development of the EU accession process, opportunities for citizen and non-state actor participation are opening, which allows for a better communication between the local government and the public, as well as attracting talent for working on the local level.

Except for the study visit to Rijeka, our participants were part of a workshop and lecture by Maja Hranilović, a Senior Consultant and Managing Director of ECORYS, Croatia, who spoke of strategic planning, and Bernard Zeneli, our long time partner from Albania, who conducted a case study workshop, where our participants had the chance of tackling difficult examples of local management, and presented and discussed their findings afterwards.

The next RAD seminar is to take place from 2-5 July 2015 in Macedonia, with the topic of Media Freedoms in the region of the Western Balkans.